The new ordinance—an easy political victory for its author, Dan Saltzman—aims to create Portland's first dedicated, ongoing river of funding for services including shelters, safe houses, medical care, and victims' advocates. The rest of the funding, about a quarter, will be spent by police on enforcement strategies.
Money would be raised by the pinching of cars, cell phones, and computers used by pimps and johns. Same for any money earned from the act of selling sex. The law changes city code so that victims' property could no longer be taken by law enforcement. And to help drive up the amount of prostitution-related property seized by police, the city has hired an outside attorney.
"This sends a powerful message that we will not allow them to continue this atrocity," Saltzman said. "We need to hold pimps and johns accountable."
But, of course, one significant question remains. Chiefly: How much money will it actually raise. Asked if he knew that answer by Amanda Fritz, Saltzman was forced to acknowledge, "We don't, at this point."
Read on to see what advocates and Saltzman's fellow commissioners had to say about the new law.
Saltzman also had to explain, after he was pressed by Nick Fish, that the police bureau would be charged with allocating the funding, and that the council, during its annual budget process, would ultimately have to bless that list.
The ordinance comes at a time of heavy political focus on human trafficking. Also, late in the summer, Senator Ron Wyden's office secured nearly $1 million to fund a shelter for trafficking victims. But that money is for construction costs, not ongoing operations. Wyden's office reportedly is still trying to secure federal grants to fund programs, too.
For the advocates who came to the meeting, that's one reason why hope for a steady stream of money was so appealing—even if no one knows just yet how much might be coming or how it will be allocated. Even the promise of reliable funds can be used to leverage federal, state and private contributions.
"We need more resources," said Esther Nelson, a case manager at the Sexual Assault Resource Center. "I'm so appreciative you're thinking about sustainable funding streams."
Randy Leonard remarked on the shift in the city's approach to prostitution over the years, from heavy-handed tactics like prostitution-free zones that shifted the problem around and created civil liberties nightmares to something that focuses instead on prevention and treats the young women involved in the crime like the victims they very often are.
"To go from that policy approach to this approach today today," he said, "I hope you appreciate how distinct this makes the city of Portland."
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