With time running out on the city's notorious Drug Free Zones (DFZ), the city attorney is scrambling to keep them alive. Over the past few years, the DFZ have been in and out of court for constitutional challenges. Under the rules, police officers can banish a suspected drug user or pusher for 90 days from large areas of Old Town and North Portland. Officers do not even need any hard evidence, just the belief that the person is engaging in illicit behavior.
Civil rights attorneys have repeatedly squawked that these rules are used unfairly to chase away "undesirables"—like panhandlers, street kids, and African Americans. Originally, the city council was scheduled to vote whether or not to reauthorize the DFZ on Wednesday, October 19. (The rules are set to expire soon.) But then the matter was yanked from the council's agenda and rescheduled as a curious item labeled, "Extend expiration of DFZ until February 2, 2006."
The city attorney did not wish to offer any comment about the change. But the mayor's office explained that Tom Potter would like an opportunity for community input before voting on whether to continue the DFZ.
"He would like to up the bar," explained the mayor's spokesperson John Doussard, referring to the necessary evidence that police need to exclude a person from the DFZ. While that change would allow DFZ to remain in operation, it would also increase the probability that innocent people will no longer be swept up in the DFZ exclusion rules. Stay tuned for information about upcoming community meetings. PB
SUN OCT 23—In keeping with the times, it's the first ever NW Biofuels Car Show! Not your homeboy's auto show. Expo Center, Exhibit Hall A, 11 am–6 pm, free (with TriMet ticket)
TUES OCT 25—Amid controversy, earlier this year the Portland Development Commission (PDC) announced that it would contract with Opus Development to develop the Burnside Bridgehead, the five blocks adjacent to the bridge's eastside. Now, they are unveiling initial plans. Come peek at the future and see whether PDC made the right choice. Studio Ten-Fifty, 50 SE Yamhill, 7–8:30 pm