Mayor Potter did the right thing when he let Portland’s exclusion zones lapse on September 30. I didn’t blog about it right then, but I did jet off a quick letter to the editor that got printed (I just got the Google alert). Since the Oregonian archive will soon conceal my letter from view (unless you access the Oregonian archive using Multnomah County’s online access), here is what I said:
I applaud Mayor Tom Potter’s decision to end the drug-free “exclusion zones” that have been targeting black people based on race (Sept. 27, Sept. 29 articles).
I have lived in the Boise neighborhood since 1992, before it was an exclusion zone. My neighborhood association had many concerns about the exclusion zones when they were renewed last year.
Among our concerns were that the laws would be applied unevenly based on race (now undeniable), that the practice merely pushes people addicted to drugs around the neighborhood (clear to anyone who lives here), and concerns that arresting people is the least effective (and most expensive) way to deal with drug addiction.
My neighborhood will continue to have to live with the problems of drug addiction until we have more resources to support treatment and recovery from addiction right here where it’s needed.
I hope that the city decides to fund recovery outreach and addiction treatment aggressively, in neighborhoods that need it, such as Boise.
KATHLEEN PEQUENO Northeast Portland
One thing I left out of my letter: I find that the Oregonian coverage has often glossed over the opposition to the “drug-free” exclusion zones that has come from neighborhoods. They generally cite “civil rights advocates” as the ones concerned about civil rights, when plenty of us who live in the zones have concerns about a law that lets the cops stop you and ticket you in a process in which you are “guilty until proven innocent.” The Boise neighborhood sent a thorough letter to the city council explaining our concerns about the “drug-free” exclusion zones back in late 2005/early 2006 when we had a series of meetings about the renewal.
But even without getting into the patent unfairness of the exclusion zones, here’s the bottom line: if people are causing problems because they’re addicted to drugs, we can either treat the problem they have, or we can shove them around from place to place, spin them through the jail’s revolving door, and see if then they get all better. Which one is more likely to work? Which one are you willing to spend money on?