EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- Eugene's downtown exclusion zone will continue for another year thanks to a tiebreaking vote from Mayor Kitty Piercy, but there are some big changes to the ordinance affecting who police can attempt to exclude.
City Councilors passed a “Mayor’s Revised Plan” of the Downtown Public Safety Zone ordinance extension (commonly referred to as the “exclusion zone”) on Monday, October 8th, 2012. Instead of expiring on November 30th, 2012, the exclusion zone will now last through November 2013.
Under the exclusion ordinance, people can be banned from the downtown Eugene core for 90 days if they’re accused of one of a 39 different crimes.
Each exclusion request must be approved by a municipal court judge’s before it goes into effect. If a person is convicted of a crime, police can request an additional one year exclusion. If acquitted, all exclusions are dropped.
The revised ordinance specifically drops five crimes from the list of things people can do to earn a 90 day exclusion:
--Inhaling toxic vapors (huffing chemicals.)
--Unlawful possession of inhalants.
--Use or possession of less than one ounce of marijuana
--Urinating or defecating in public.
Eugene Police will still cite people who are caught committing these crimes.
Despite the change, police say the ordinance is still effective.
"There are some things that have been eliminated from it, but I don't think you're going to see an impact in the safety, livability, or the viability of downtown. Might mean we have to do things just a little bit differently, but in no way shape or form do I look at this as a tragedy or something we can't overcome,” says Lt. Eric Klinko of the Eugene Police Department.
Lt. Klinko will soon be taking over as the lead police officer for EPD’s downtown team.
“We're going to have to be a little more creative and find alternative methods to continue to make downtown safe and inviting for everybody,” says Lt. Klinko.
Another change with the ordinance is an increase in the amount of advocacy provided to those who have an exclusion order pending in court.
The city will pay for private attorneys for any exclusion recipients who want them. EPD issues about 100 exclusion notices each year. It estimates that attorneys will cost up to $15,000 a year if everyone requests an attorney.
Along with the extension, City Council also authorized the Eugene City Manager’s office to create a committee to transition out of the exclusion ordinance.
Details are slim on the committee right now, but it will address specific goals and plans to address downtown's underlying issues. The committee will likely be staffed by local police, social service representatives, city councilors and more.
While opponents of the exclusion zone would have rather seen the ordinance sunset, they say the changes are positive. As for the committee, exclusion zone opponents say it's important that the city "actually gets something done" from the committee and doesn’t just “talk the issue to death”
"We need an action plan and we need a timeline. I was part of the mayor's taskforce on homelessness, 6 great recommendations came out of that taskforce months ago, nothing has happened with those recommendations. So we've got to have that action is taken by a definite date,’ says Michael Carrigan, a local community organizer for Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC.)
EPD created the exclusion zone in 2008 in response to the lack of beds at the Lane County Jail. Police say the ordinance was never intended to be permanent and the department welcomes the panel as well.