Council passes controversial city budget
The City Council approved its next budget late Thursday afternoon after one of the most contentious hearings in recent memory the day before.
The May 23 vote was 4 to 1, with only Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty voting against it. Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said she has repeatedly been frustrated by how hard it is to have serious policy decisions during the budget process, however.
Mayor Ted Wheeler called the budget responsible. He thanked the council, city budget staff and his office employees for their work on the budget.
The budget included cuts to Portland Parks & Recreation programs to help close a $6.3 million funding shortage but preserved the Portland Police Bureau's Gun Violence Reduction Team, which Hardesty tried unsuccessfully to disband.
"I am disappointed we were not willing to vote our values today, Hardesty said.
Parks Commissioner Nick Fish said he was satisfied with the budget because it will transfer the bureau to more stable financing. Although more than 50 parks position will be eliminated, Fish said the city is working to find jobs for those employees who will lose their jobs in other bureaus.
Wheeler clashed with both Hardesty and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly over the Gun Violence Reduction Team on Wednesday, May 22, and ended up apologizing for criticizing them for not remembering its name. It had been known as the Gang Enforcement Team until last October.
The council voted down Hardesty's attempt to disband the team, and also her efforts to defund the body camera program being developed by the police bureau.
Hardesty's justified her efforts as necessary to preserve the approximately 56 parks job threatened by the $6.3 million shortfall in the bureau. Most of the public testimony on Wednesday opposed the parks cuts. The council rejected Hardesty's motions, with only Eudaly joining her on the vote to disband Gun Violence Reduction Team, saying she thought more money should be spent on traffic enforcement.
But Hardesty also revealed her disdain for the police bureau itself, repeatedly accusing it of racial profiling and saying that it refuses to be accountable to the public.
"The police bureau has shown they have no interest in being held accountable by the people they are sworn to protect and serve," Hardesty said.
Hardesty's first attempt to formally raise her budget concerns also fizzled early Wednesday. She moved that the council delay the first hearing of an ordinance to grant a 3.9 percent cost-of-living-adjustment to city employees who are not represented by unions. The percent is the average of what represented employees are scheduled to revieve.
Hardesty wanted to delay the hearing on the ordinance until the council considers the overall budget for the next fiscal year. Hardesty said she could not in good faith vote to give herself a raise at the same time the council is considering cutting some of the lowest-paying jobs in the parks bureau. Wheeler noted the council will not actually vote on the COLA ordinance until next week. Hardesty's motion died when it was not seconded by another other council member, and it was scheduled for a second hearing and vote next week.
Hardesty brought the issue back up Thursday, and it was defeated with every other member voting against it.
The budget takes effect on July 1. Before that, the public can testify on it again at the Tax Supervising and Conversation Committee hearing on June 11, and then again when council formally adopts it on July 12.
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