After much debate, Portland's Drug- and Prostitution-Free Zones (DFZs) got a six-month reprieve last week—the extension was needed because someone forgot to glance at the calendar and notice they expired last weekend. Whoops!
Since it was an "emergency" vote, it needed unanimous support in order to go into effect immediately. That put Commissioner Erik Sten in the hot seat—he doesn't support the zones as they're currently configured, but voting "no" would only have made the zones unenforceable for about a month.
So he did what anybody in his situation would do: He voted no. And then he voted yes.
In a weird twist of parliamentary procedure, Sten was able to get a no vote on record, then called for a "courtesy vote" and changed his vote.
"Explaining that I don't support it, but still voting yes, is the kind of thing that loses John Kerry the election," he admitted. He later explained that keeping his no vote would only have led to confusion on the streets and in the neighborhoods where the law is enforced.
Still, even though the extension—introduced by Mayor Tom Potter—passed, and the DFZs will remain in effect for the next six months, Potter's colleagues on council used the hearing to rip into the process.
Commish Randy Leonard said he's "less concerned about the effectiveness of the zones than I am about balancing constitutional protections." And Commissioner Sam Adams pointed out that the mayor broke his promise to create an oversight committee a year ago—putting it together only two months ago.
"As you know, my vote to renew this last year was predicated on this committee being up and running, and it's frustrating that this committee was so long in coming," Adams said.
He then left the council chambers before the vote took place to meet with Congressman David Wu.
In slightly less cynical news—know how Potter's always asking how "the children" are doing? Starting in September, the children are going to tell him exactly how they're doing—and what city council needs to do to look after their interests. The Multnomah Youth Commission (MYC) is set to become an official advisory board to city council, much like it currently is with the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.
But the MYC needs some new members. It's looking for young people aged 13-21 to serve on the board, proving that it's never too young to learn that no matter how loudly you petition your government, they'll still probably ignore you. Interested kids should hit up ourcommission.org/apply.