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The City Budget Office analysis contradicts promises made by Commissioners Hardesty and Eudaly.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Police staffing would need to be reduced if the City Council cuts the budget $18 million this fiscal year.The Portland Police Bureau cannot cut its budget by $18 million in the current fiscal year without laying off staff, according to a newly released analysis by the City Budget Office.

That conclusion contradicts promises by Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty and Chloe Eudaly that the cut they are proposing would not result in any bureau layoffs. The City Council first considered the proposal Wednesday, Oct. 28. The council is scheduled to take it up again Thursday, Nov. 5.

Although the report does not estimate how many staff members might be laid off because of the options available to the bureau, the analysis released Tuesday, Nov. 3, said, "CBO finds it likely that the bureau would need to reduce staff to balance to this level of a reduction at this time. As a few of the driving factors for the bureau's current budget inflexibility may be unique to this year, the ongoing implications of the proposed $18 million reduction could potentially be managed with less significant service level impacts than an immediate midyear reduction."

Hardesty lost her cool Oct. 28 when the council did not immediately vote on the proposal after a five-plus hour hearing. She abruptly broke off from the online meeting after saying she was "disgusted by the lack of courage" from Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Dan Ryan.

The next day, Hardesty endorsed mayoral challenger Sarah Iannarone against Wheeler, becoming the first council member to support an opponent against a sitting mayor since Commissioner Margaret Strachan backed Bud Clark against Frank Ivancie in the 1984 primary election.

But despite the drama, longtime City Hall watchers thought Hardesty had to know there was little chance the council would vote on her proposal during its first hearing. For starters, the council already had cut the police bureau by $27 million in the budget that took effect July 1.

Of that cut, $15 million was proposed by Hardesty and only opposed by Eudaly, who did not think it was enough. The rest was because of declining city revenues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic-related recession.

Hardesty specifically rejected the $50 million cut being demanded by some protesters at the time, but now wants nearly as much, $42 million, in cumulative reductions this fiscal year.

Ryan was not on the council when that first round of cuts was made. He defeated former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith in an Aug. 11 special election. Smith called for cutting the police bureau budget by $50 million during the campaign. Ryan said he thought the budget already had been cut enough for now, and Portland voters chose him.

In addition, even in these days of unprecedented disruptions, Hardesty was taking advantage of an obscure, semiannual minor budget adjustment process to push for a complete overhaul of the most politically sensitive city bureau.

The Fall Budget Monitoring Process — BMP or "bump" for short — historically has only involved small tweaks to city bureau budgets. There is always a one-week delay between the first hearing and the final vote to allow the City Budget Office to answer questions from the council members. The office was expected to release its analysis before the Thursday, Nov. 5, vote after press time.

More than 150 people testified at the Oct. 28 hearing, most of them in support of the proposal. But they might not be representative of all Portlanders. Only 6% of city residents said "law enforcement" was their top priority in a DHM Research poll conducted for Oregon Public Broadcasting in mid-October. No one said "police funding," according to DHM Research political director John Horvick.

The CBO analysis can be found here.

A previous Portland Tribune story on the issue can be found here.


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