Monday, July 25, 2011

Old Town's drug problems continue - not surprising

The Oregonian attempts to picture two environments in Old Town - one safe and one not. I lived there for 6 years and at no time was Old Town safe. It had its moments like when TriMet moved the buses for construction of light rail on 5th and 6th. But after the construction was finished, and some time prior, Old Town reverted back to its drug market roots. I wrote about it in my Old Town Blog. [Interesting Oregonlive has never taken it down.]

Original art by Enrico Mazzanti
The PDC representative quoted in the Oregonian article is playing word games rather than speaking the truth. He has been PDC's representative in Old Town for at least 7 years and he has participated in most every neighborhood meeting. He knows that Old Town is not safe and that it is getting less safe as time progresses. Given the past year's crimes in Old Town - his pants must be on fire.

He is part of the PDC culture that will say anything to get a business location "sale" in Old Town. There is little difference between a PDC representative and the proverbial used car salesman. The PDC rep doesn't live there much like the car salesman doesn't have to drive the car.


PDC has done next to nothing to improve the social economic level in Old Town. It sank over $5 mil in catalytic streets that haven't benefited Old Town. The street enhancements, plaques, trees, sculptures, and the like hasn't nudged one dollar of private investment. PDC "developed" three low income apartment complexes and the Old Town Lofts that all now bears the brunt of the crime in Old Town. These "developments" were completed in early 2000s. Of course, PDC development is funded with tax dollars.

Of course, PDC is nothing more than a tool for city hall that is more interested in developing social services in Old Town in spite of city policies to the contrary. It is those tax increment dollars that has further increased the foot print of social services that continues to attract undesirables to Old Town. And, the TriMet platform at Union Station adds to that attraction.

While PDC can't be blamed for the drug dealing and other crimes in Old Town, but they can be faulted for their failure to acknowledge it. The PDC representative is knowingly failing to tell the truth. And that willingness to look the other way is symptomatic of the city's failure to address Old Town's ongoing crime.

But, I love too the way the police sidestep their responsibility in the lack of response to the neighborhood. "Central Precinct Capt. Sara Westbrook said she spoke to Hamburger Mary’s staffers recently and said she believes they don’t understand how the emergency response system works." Huh?

For years the police had been coming to neighborhood meeting telling us that they needed us to call because resources were allocated, at least partially, on the basis of calls. We were told to call 911, but of course that failed because it is not the police department that mans that facility. Calling the non-emergency number gets you nowhere. The result is no one calls until the residents and businesses are at the lynch mob stage.

Never once at the neighborhood meetings were participants satisfied with police response and attitudes. I remember sitting there listening to other residents while the attending police officers were rolling their eyes. Of course there were officers who were the exception - too few though.

But, maybe it has changed, but the businesses were disappointed by police response to business calls. The police just didn't want to deal with Old Town crime. The police will run missions in Old Town and will at times add patrols, even walking patrols. But they are always in response to egregious incidents of shootings. Have a drug dealer or user standing in your doorway - they can't be bothered.

And the biggest joke of all is the Office of Neighborhood Involvement. When I was in Old Town their "involvement" was not worth mentioning. Just another level of bureaucracy trying to justify a paycheck.

I believe Hamburger Mary's Cooke and others are being too kind saying that shelters are not the blame for neighborhood issues, but they are correct in saying  that "the organizations and city have an obligation to make sure the neighborhood is safe." 

I would disagree with Cooke too when ruffling feathers is ruled out as an option. For years the Old Town Neighborhood Association has avoided ruffling feathers and it has gotten them nowhere. The only way to get change is to demand it.

Cooke: "We cannot accept this. We cannot accept the neighborhood the way it is." It is a good start, but I am betting that months from now Old Town will still be the same. Hamburger Mary's will probably be gone. PDC will still be selling their brand of quackery and hokum. 

I wonder how long Pinocchio's nose will get? 


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