OPINION: Goals accomplished, others yet to be fulfilled
As 2020 comes to an end, it's undeniable this has been an exceedingly difficult year for many Portlanders. From a global pandemic that's taken millions of lives, a racial justice movement re-catalyzed with the killing of George Floyd, the economic downturn that has plagued small businesses and our communities — this has been a year of crisis upon crisis.
I want to take this moment to acknowledge how hard it's been for so many and to offer Portlanders my unwavering commitment to step up and work with my colleagues and community to address our challenges. This year has shown that it takes all of us coming together to move forward, agreements, disagreements, compromises and all.
This year presented opportunities for City Council to be bold in the face of multiple crises and calls for change, and there were ways we delivered.
At the onset of COVID-19, the city took action, working to prioritize our most vulnerable. We got additional shelters up, distributed lifesaving hygiene stations throughout the city and determined how to equitably distribute CARES Act dollars.
In June, Council voted to reallocate $15 million from Portland Police Bureau to begin building a new model of community safety and reinvestments, cutting three of PPB's most racist specialty units, funding the non-police response alternative Portland Street Response, developing a Black Youth Leadership Development Fund and a houseless participatory budget fund.
Shortly after, Council voted unanimously to refer a ballot measure to voters to add a new police oversight system into the city charter. Voters overwhelmingly supported this effort.
In September, Council voted unanimously to approve a public and private sector ban on facial recognition technology, protecting Portlanders' privacy and civil rights.
We delivered on important work from previous years: approving the Residential Infill Project to address Portland's housing shortage and soliciting inaugural Portland Clean Energy Fund grant applications to address our city's climate and equity goals.
There were also moments we stumbled. We did not agree on the Fall budget vote and how to invest in our communities. There have also been open disagreements over police conduct in response to protests since May.
The coming year brings a new council and the opportunity to work collaboratively on key issues. For me that includes rolling out the first Portland Street Response pilot program team, setting in motion the police oversight measure voted in by Portlanders, resuming negotiations with the Portland Police Association and providing more support for our houseless neighbors.
I hear the call for a unified City Council. Yes, unity in leadership is important, but it does not mean complete agreement all the time, especially at the expense of values. The truth is, there will be disagreements on Council — we are five individuals with different lived experiences and skills, but that doesn't mean we're not working together towards a better city. Whether we move forward with unanimous votes or not, I continue to operate with the principle that the best policies are created when everyone has their say.
I'm entering my third year as City Commissioner, serving as the second most senior member of Council, and I don't take that lightly. Thank you, Portland, for this immense privilege. I look forward to working more closely with my colleagues to build a better and more resilient city that works with and for all Portlanders.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty sits on the Portland City Council.
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