Council postpones vote on PPB budget cuts
The Portland City Council put off a decision to cut $18 million from the Portland Police Bureau budget after a lengthy and emotional hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 28.
The vote to adjourn until next week without deciding on the cut was 3-1, with Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, a co-sponsor of the proposal, hanging up on the streaming meeting before voting.
The postponement was not unexpected. The proposal presented by and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly was unusually large for the traditional fall budget adjustment process, which traditionally only deals with small realignments in agency spending. The council is scheduled to take the issue up again on Thursday, Nov. 5, which is the normal schedule.
In addition, despite Hardesty repeatedly pressing for a vote, Mayor Ted Wheeler, retiring Commissioner Amanda Fritz and new Commissioner Dan Ryan said they want to gather more information before casting votes.
"We have to put all these pieces together and I don't want to get rushed right now," said new Commissioner Dan Ryan, who appeared to be the swing vote after Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Amanda Fritz questionned such a large cut in the police budget.
"It's clear the proposals on the table have captured the will and the interest of many in our community. It's our job to ensure that any decisions we make result in the change we all want to see. Several members of the City Council, including me, have questions that require answers before we can be assured that will be the case," Wheeler said after the hearing.
Over 150 people testified, most in favor of the cut, although a sizable number of people disagreed. Testimony went on so long that a debate between Mayor Ted Wheeler and challenger Sarah Iannarone scheduled for Wednesday night was postponed so that Wheeler could stay for the proceedings.
Earlier this year, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty joined with Mayor Ted Wheeler to spearhead cuts to the Portland police budget of $15 million. Hardesty tweeted Tuesday night, Oct. 27: "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 budget.
"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 [the] emergency management system," said Alan Fershweiler, 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.
KOIN News 6 is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their story can be found here.
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