PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Will the Portland City Council cut millions more dollars from the Portland Police Bureau budget? That’s the question still looming over the City Council during their fall budget monitoring process.
Earlier this year, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty joined with Mayor Ted Wheeler to spearhead cuts to the Portland police budget of $15 million. Now Hardesty and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly are pushing for another $18 million in cuts. The proposal was discussed at a Wednesday afternoon council meeting.
“If we can agree we can’t arrest our way out of this problem, we need to begin to look at funding programs and alternatives that prevent conflict and violence and how to move money from a bureau that has not delivered,” Hardesty said Wednesday.
More than 150 people spoke passionately for and against eliminating more officers from Portland’s streets, including mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone.
“This vote needs to happen today so that Portland can see their leaders standing up for Black lives. Budgets are moral documents,” Iannarone said. “Vote today to stop wasting money on militarized police…People of this city demand it.”
In fact, a debate between Iannarone and Wheeler scheduled for Wednesday night was postponed for another night so that testimony could continue into the evening — and Wheeler could stay for the proceedings.
“We agreed to postpone the debate so that Mayor Wheeler can stay as long as it takes,” she said.
Because so many people offered public testimony, City Council adjourned for the night without holding a vote. Retiring Commissioner Amanda Fritz or new Commissioner Dan Ryan made it clear early in Wednesday’s meeting there would be no vote on proposed amendments until they had heard all the public testimony. Wheeler, Fritz and Ryan said they also want to gather more information before casting votes.
The discussion has been tabled for now and won’t be revisited until the next City Council meeting on Nov. 5.
The outcome of any vote on the plan is not clear. It’s likely Hardesty and Eudaly will vote for the cuts. But it’s unclear whether retiring Commissioner Amanda Fritz or new Commissioner Dan Ryan will support the idea. Earlier in the week, Wheeler refused to endorse these proposed cuts.
Hardesty tweeted Tuesday night, “My budget proposals this Wednesday that were developed with Chloe Eudaly will reinvest PPB money to keep people in their homes, keep people fed, and to invest in non-police first response options like the Portland Street Response.”
The Oregon Association Chiefs of Police issued a statement Wednesday opposing any further cuts to the PPB budge.
“The safety and economic livelihood of all Oregonians is at risk due to proposals being considered by Portland’s elected leaders to drastically reduce an already anemic Portland Police Bureau budget. OACP is gravely concerned about reductions to policing services in the City of Portland, and we need Oregonians to join us in raising voices of concern,” they said in a release.
Another issue up for discussion is a new city position that would be funded by money taken from other emergency services. The community safety director job would work to increase efficiency among public safety bureaus.
“The city is looking at implementing a community safety director position which would oversee the police bureau, the fire bureau, 911 and emergency management system,” said Alan Fershweiler, the president of the Portland Firefighters Association. “They are trying to take $300,000 in money and create one position right now during this current budget.”
The Portland Firefighters Union is against the proposal and believes those funds can be better spent on other resources.
Fershweiler said firefighters already gave up $4.7 million in their contract back in May to help with the city budget amid the pandemic and to prevent layoffs within the fire bureau.
“We can’t sit by and watch management grow and watch frontline services shrink for the citizens of Portland,” Fershweiler said.