Could it be that, after years of unabashed Giuliani-ism, Portland's lawmakers are finally set to embark on a public safety policy that actually makes some sense?
Hold off on jerking your knee just yet, liberal, but there's a strong chance that the city's Drug-Free Zones (DFZ) will be on their way to extinction by September's end ["Twilight Zones," News, August 30]. After years of upholding the policy—despite any solid evidence that it works, and plenty of evidence that it targets minority communities—a majority of commissioners may now be ready to move on and try something else.
And that something else? Why, it just might be a program that's already proven to work, addresses the roots of drug and prostitution problems, and displays at least a modicum of compassion: Project 57.
Under the Project 57 program, the city rents 57 jail beds from Multnomah County to keep reserved for repeat offenders, who'd otherwise be returned to the streets due to a lack of jail space and resources. Commissioner Randy Leonard wants to expand that program, and give drug offenders a choice—stay in jail and be processed through the justice system, or go to rehab.
The project has already reportedly proven successful at reducing recidivism rates since it—duh!—attempts to reduce demand by helping (okay, forcing) addicts to kick their habits.
Compare the logical simplicity of a program like that to the DFZs, in which offenders are simply banned from being in certain neighborhoods. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what happens under that kind of policy.
"If you exclude a prostitute or drug offender from Park Rose, you can't tell me that they're going to stop being a prostitute or a drug offender," says Leonard. "They're simply going to move to another neighborhood."
But here's a funny rhetorical question: Why do meaningful reforms to public safety laws have to come from three commissioners, and not the mayor's office, which is responsible for law enforcement?
Clarification: In last week's story "The Waiting Game," I quoted transportation activist (and potential city council candidate) Chris Smith as saying of Mayor Tom Potter, "He's not fit for this form of government."
Unfortunately, one key letter was missing from that last sentence. It should have read, "He's not a fit for this form of government."
As in "he's mismatched for the commissioner government," not "he's unfit to serve in office."
"I think Mayor Potter is fit as a fiddle," Smith adds, "even if we disagree about Portland's form of government."