The drug-free zone has not been a popular idea with the Northwest District and Goose Hollow neighborhood associations. For years they have complained that the Old Town drug-free zone merely displaced dealers and other social problems westward into their neighborhoods.
Yet Deputy District Attorney Suzanne Hayden approached both associations last month and chalked them up as supporters of expanding the DFZ as far as Northwest 21st Avenue.
Did both groups decide they had been wrong? Or did the concept simply look different from the other side of the fence - when it might be used to keep undesirables out instead of drawing them into their neighborhoods?
Actually, neither. Hayden mischaracterized the Northwest District Association's position in persuading the Goose Hollow Foothills League to go along. A week later representatives of both associations got together and the deal unraveled.
"We did not have the right information," said Sharon Paget, GHFL president. "We felt we were supporting NWDA, by the information she was giving us. We didn't want to do the opposite of what NWDA was supporting."
"I don't like what she did," said Joleen Jensen-Classen, executive director of the inner westside neighborhood coalition. "She pitted one neighborhood against another."
NWDA did pass a resolution endorsing a DFZ, but only if it encompassed the entire Northwest District. NWDA board members knew this was not an option because Hayden explained to them that DFZs require documentation of chronic and widespread drug dealing. Arrest records barely met the minimum threshold in the proposed extension between Northwest 13th, 21st, Burnside and Hoyt.
NWDA's official letter said supporting anything smaller than a district-wide DFZ would be a "disservice to its constituents."
NWDA board member Greg Byrne, who made the motion for a district-wide zone, was openly skeptical of the city's existing DFZs. He suspects the Old Town DFZ has pushed dealers into the Northwest District. If that zone is extended to 21st and Hoyt, as proposed, he said, "That activity is just going to move toward 23rd and Thurman."
Only one board member spoke in favor of the DFZ extension presented by Hayden.
After learning that NWDA considered its stance misquoted, Hayden called NWDA President Frank Bird and confirmed that it did not support her proposal.
"I misunderstood NWDA's position," she admitted to the Examiner.
Althrough in seeking NWDA's backing she had characterized the DFZ as "the only way to deal with the problem," she now says she doesn't care whether neighborhood associations go along with the concept or not.
"If people aren't in support of it," she told the Examiner, "that's no skin off my nose."
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