PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Lawmakers are reacting to a memo that states President Donald Trump has ordered the review of funding to Democratic cities that have seen protests against racial injustice this summer, including Portland.
The Wednesday memo was directed to U.S. Attorney Barr and Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought and names the cities of Portland, Seattle, Washington D.C. and New York: cities that have seen protests turn violent.
“Unfortunately, anarchy has has recently beset some of our States and cities,” the memo read.
Lawmakers from the cities named in the memo have since reacted to the memo. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released a joint statement on Thursday morning, in which they say it’s time for Trump to “wake up.”
“Our cities, and the millions of American citizens who we represent, are not President Trump’s political pawns. We are confronting unprecedented challenges — fighting back a pandemic and economic devastation without another stimulus,” the memo read. “Now, instead of leadership from the White House, we are faced with new attacks that are unlawful, unconstitutional and will be undoubtedly defeated in court. President Trump needs to wake up to the reality facing our cities — and our entire country — and realize he is not above the law.”
In a thread of tweets, Seattle Mayor Durken further responded to the memo by saying, in part, “This is the latest attempt to distract from the fact that COVID-19 has infected over 6 million Americans, killed 185,000 people, and destroyed the American economy. The only anarchy zone in America, where the rule of law is disregarded, is at the White House.”
Also on Twitter, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler stated, “Trump threatens to withdraw federal funds, possibly including health, education, and safety net dollars Americans are relying on to get through this pandemic and economic crisis.”
Washington Governor Jay Inslee called it “illegal” and “a sham” in his response.
“It is just the latest baseless, petty and divisive move by President Trump to distract from his abject failure to protect Americans from COVID-19. With more than 185,000 lives lost on his watch, we won’t forget,” Inslee said. “The president cannot and will not defund us. He is not a dictator and laws still apply to him. While we’re calling our lawyers, he should call his public health experts. This will not stand.”
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal took to Twitter to voice her criticism, saying the memo is “Not just unlawful but also a prime example of Trump’s failed leadership and desperation. Amidst COVID, people in Seattle & across America need more federal funding—not less. Yet he would prefer to turn your attention away from these real crises by fearmongering & fanning racism.”
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden decried the memo on the social media platform as well, saying, “This order is plainly illegal. Portland is not a toy in Trump’s authoritarian playset.”
As these reactions were coming in, Acting Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told KOIN 6 News the federal government isn’t obligated to give money to “irresponsible” subsidiary levels of government.
Cuccinelli said it’s time for Brown to call on the National Guard to help stop the chaos — chaos that turned deadly Saturday when 39-year-old Aaron J. Danielson was shot and killed.
“The goal of overwhelming presence is to not use force — it is to not need to use force, it is to deter violence before it occurs and Governor Brown and Mayor Wheeler between them have the ability to accomplish that and yet they refuse to use the tools at hand to do that,” Cuccinelli said. “She has over 7,800 guardsmen who even Mayor Wheeler asked for in early June and Gov. Brown refused to use them.”
Oregon Governor Kate Brown has not yet released a statement concerning the memo.
What cutting funding would mean for Portland
In Portland’s case, there are millions of federal dollars that funnel into the city every year. It’s important to know which governmental entities in the city are receiving federal money and how much — because those are the ones who could be on the chopping block if the president goes through with this.
Here’s the total according to Forbes: the overall federal money coming into Portland is $252.5 million, with the City of Portland receiving $34 million and $37,000 of that going to the police. Meanwhile, Portland Public Schools receives just under $5 million. The Portland Housing Authority gets $26.4 million.
Other government entities getting aid include the Port of Portland, which receives 33.5 million, as well as higher education, with $143.9 million divided between community colleges and Portland State University.
From the city, to the housing authority, to higher education — cuts to funding would likely hit hard, especially in times of COVID-19.