More Portland police, homeless services on Nov. 4 agenda

Civic Affairs

FILE – Portland City Hall. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — The Portland City Council will discuss increasing funding for the police, homeless services and other programs on Thursday.

The council has scheduled a work session on spending $31 million in surplus funds for 2 p.m. on Nov. 4. It will also preview the next fiscal year budget that takes effect on July 1, 2022. The session will be streamed on the city’s website.

The council had been scheduled to tap the surplus to adjust the current budget on Oct. 27. Mayor Ted Wheeler pushed the process into November after being asked by Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury to coordinate a portion of the additional funds with the county to increase spending on homelessness.

“Without a moment’s hesitation, we responded with an enthusiastic ‘yes.’ Our housing need is urgent, and we know we can do so much more when we work together. This influx of funds poses a unique opportunity to address the most pressing needs around houselessness in Portland,” Wheeler said at the time.

Portland Tribune and its parent, Pamplin Media Group, are KOIN 6 News partners.

Since then, Wheeler’s office has reportedly said the mayor also will request about $400,000 to hire back 25 recent Portland police retirees to fill some vacancies, plus more than $2 million to buy body-worn cameras for officers. The U.S. Department of Justice has directed the city to equip officers with body cameras and to put a civilian in charge of police training to get back into compliance with a 2014 settlement agreement calling for policing changes to address excessive force complaints.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has previously said she opposes increasing police staffing. But now KOIN News 6 has reported she is willing to consider Wheeler’s rehiring request.

“I reached out to (PPB Chief Chuck) Lovell to find out what the plan looks like. I’m very interested in seeing a plan. I’m open. I think if we’re going to rehire former officers, we need to have some criteria,” KOIN 6 News reported Hardesty saying on Thursday, Oct. 28.

Hardesty has some conditions, however. She wants to make sure “we don’t bring back officers … who were part of the 6,000 use-of-force complaints from last year, that we don’t bring back officers who retired in lieu of being investigated,” Hardesty was reported as saying.

Commissioner Mingus Mapps also said he believes $2 million to $4 million should be spent to increase the bureau’s Behavioral Health Response Teams.

The new requests were not officially released by press time. The final vote has not yet been set.

Under existing city policies, half of the surplus can be spent during the process held every fall and spring. The City Budget Office announced an unexpectedly large $62 million surplus on Monday, Oct. 18, after the Fall Budget Adjustment Process already was underway.

City bureaus had only requested $5.7 million in additional funds by then. The budget office had recommended just over $14 million in increased spending, including $8.5 million for future liabilities.

The council already has agreed to spend a little more than $1 million to expand the Portland Street Response program citywide. It is a non-police alternative to 911 calls that is being tested in the Lents Neighborhood.

Other large recommendations include:

  • $1.9 million to upgrade the Portland Metro Levee System.
  • $500,000 for the creation of a Citywide Legal Priorities Reserve .
  • $490,684 in the Office of Management & Finance Bureau of Human Resources for 5.0 limited-term recruiting positions.
  • $204,767 in the Office of Management & Finance Bureau of Revenue and Financial Services for a General Fund “true-up” for the Integrated Tax System.
  • $300,000 to help support partnerships with Community-Based Organizations with technical assistance navigating the city’s grant and procurement processes.
  • $260,000 in Portland Fire & Rescue for fire station security, $1,081,080 from policy set aside to increase Portland Street Response service availability, and $300,509 for limited term inspectors.

The discussions with Chair Kafoury are happening as homelessness is reaching crisis proportions in the region. A newly formed advocacy group called People for Portland has released a poll that shows 84% of voters disapprove of how city and county officials are handling homelessness. Four nonprofit organizations based in Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown sent a letter to city and county officials on Oct. 6, expressing alarm about the “rapidly deteriorating conditions” in their neighborhood.

The letter was sent from Lan Su Chinese Garden, the Japanese Museum of Oregon, the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education and the Portland Chinatown Museum. The letter said it is past time to address vandalism, violence and mental instability in the area.

Doctors in the Gateway area also testified before the council on Wednesday, Oct. 20, that increasing homeless camps and aggressive behavior on sidewalks around their East Portland clinics are preventing clients from reaching them.

More information can be found on the budget office’s website at www.portlandoregon.gov/cbo

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