Project Clean Slate is back

Project Clean Slate is back

Oregonian Blog Posted by S. Renee Mitchell – August 19, 2007

Courtesy of The Oregonian

Thousands of people showed up in North Portland for Project Clean Slate in 2005. The program is now being expanded.

Let me start with the long-awaited news:

Enrollment for Project Clean Slate reopens Sept. 1, 2007!

The program has helped thousands of people regain driver’s license privileges, expunge minor criminal convictions and get back on track to gain or upgrade employment, housing and other opportunities.

On Aug. 15, Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed into law House Bill 3054 which provides $275,000, the first official funding for Project Clean Slate. The program is the brainchild of Oregon business entrepreneur, Roy Jay and the African American Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with government and state agencies, social-service organizations and many, many volunteers.

The state funding will help with basic financial stability for the program, which was being handled for two years primarily by volunteers, the African American Chamber of Commerce and Roy Jay’s personal contributions.

Project Clean Slate has garnered awards, including a 2005 Spirit of Portland Award, as well as national recognition. Jay says his staff is planning to develop a template for other cities to adopt.

For more information: or
Roy Jay at 503-244-5794, Ext. 245.

Here’s my original June 22, 2005 column about the project, which led to 2,500 – 3,000 people showing up to swap fines for community service:


Calling all smooth criminals, bad drivers, dads behind on child-support payments and just about anyone who has spent time in a Multnomah County jail.

Want to get your juvenile criminal record expunged? How about getting a suspension fee reduced so you can renew your driver’s license? Are warrants for your arrest making you anxious?

Well, your next best chance to drop off your legal baggage and get your life back on track is coming your way.

“This is about a community that is at risk,” says businessman Roy Jay, president of the African American Chamber of Commerce. “If people don’t step forward now and do something, their whole future is in jeopardy.”

Murders and rapists aside, Project Clean Slate is open to most every county resident of any ethnic group, gender or age. It was an idea that woke Jay from his sleep a few months ago. He wanted to do something more this year than just hold an annual chamber banquet.

So Jay talked to a few key people, such as District Attorney Mike Schrunk and Jim Hennings, director of the county’s public defender’s office. About five years ago, the two public officials had organized a similar Surrender Day for veterans.

But this event is larger. And if all goes well, others will be planned for Northeast, Southeast and downtown. Organizers include Circuit Court judges, private attorneys, parole and probation officers, the police and sheriff’s departments and dozens of community partners.

The goal is to clean up the legal morass that’s preventing otherwise law-abiding folks from getting a job or qualifying for public assistance. “If appropriate, we can handle it right on the spot,” Schrunk says. “You can plead, do community service and close the file.”

Project Clean Slate will also help clear up some of the county’s backlog of unserved warrants, especially for less-serious offenses, such as jaywalking or failure to appear in court on a speeding ticket. And it’s a chance to get those in need signed up for the Oregon Health Plan, food stamps or drug treatment.

“This is long, long overdue,” says Johnnie Gage, a Portland-based organizer for Oregon Action, a statewide social-justice agency. “It allows folks to kind of move on with their lives.”

The July 9 event will be at 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Portland Community College’s Cascade campus off North Killingsworth Avenue. No foul language, weapons or gang-related attire will be allowed.

“It’s just like going to court,” Jay says. “They will be respectful of the process or we will ask them to leave.”

About 500 people are expected, so folks should expect to be there for a while. Safeway has agreed to provide box lunches and snacks. The Albina Ministerial Alliance is offering free child care. And social-service agencies are organizing classes to help you find housing, clear up your credit or teach you how to be a better parent.

Everybody needs to fill out an application beforehand so the public defender’s office can fully research your legal problems. You can pick up and drop off information at Oregon Action, 6601 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (503-282-6588).

Rest assured, Jay says, Project Clean Slate is not a trick to draw criminals out of hiding. In fact, that day, police have agreed to consider the area around the college campus as a No Arrest Zone.

“I don’t know how I pulled that one off,” Jay says. “I just threw that one out and everybody said, ‘That’s fine.’ “

What’s more, police Chief Derrick Foxworth committed to reducing the number of patrols in the area so cops won’t be tempted to stop someone they recognize. And the media will not be allowed to videotape or take any pictures.

Organizers are still welcoming community volunteers and partners, as well as sponsors to bear some of the costs. If you’re interested, the last planning meeting is 8 to 10 a.m. Friday. For more information, call 503-343-5117.

“We just want to be able to help some people,” Jay says. “This is one of those things that when you go home, you will really feel good about doing something.”

Besides, the potential of what Project Clean Slate can accomplish beats eating a rubber chicken dinner any day.

S. Renee Mitchell: 503-221-8142;

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