The head of the union representing most Portland Police Bureau employees criticized the City Council for considering cutting its funding hours before the scheduled vote on next year's budget.
In an email press release, Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner blamed the surge in shootings and killings that began last year on the council's elimination of the bureau's Gun Violence Reduction Team during social justice protests. The team had been accused of disproportionately focusing on the Black community.
"Right now, our community has a sense of hopelessness. They have resigned themselves to the fact that things will get worse, not better. Residents are moving out of the city, businesses are being forced to relocate and good, hard-working police officers are leaving the Bureau to work for other agencies. To change course, City Council should fully fund and fully staff the Police Bureau and bring back the specialty units that protect and serve our communities," Turner said in an email released shortly before the council was scheduled to approve some form of Mayor Ted Wheeler's proposed budget on Thursday, May 13.
The statement was issued after eight shootings in Portland in 24 hours, including one killing and another where two people were critically wounded. They followed over 350 shootings so far this year, compared to nearly 900 shootings in all of last year.
"City Council prides itself on prioritizing social justice and racial equity. Yet, just this year, over 65% of the victims of gun violence are BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color]. Where is justice and equity for the victims and their families?" Turner wrote.
The council hearing on the budget was scheduled to start at 2 p.m. on May 13. The next budget starts on July 1.
The biggest controversy to emerge to date is how fast to expand the Portland Street Response pilot program that began serving Lents in February. Wheeler is proposing an additional $1 million to fully fund the program. It would not expand citywide until the pilot has been evaluated.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty wants to expand the program citywide in the budget that takes effect July 1. Commissioners Mingus Mapps and Dan Ryan reportedly support Wheeler's approach, while Commissioner Carmen Rubio supports Hardesty.
Wheeler proposed a $5.7 billion budget April 29. That is $156 million less than the current revised budget.
But the general fund portion of the budget is actually larger. Those are the dollars the council has the most control over. That portion would increase from $591 million to $594 million, thanks to $29 million in one-time federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act passed after Joe Biden became president.
"For the Portland City Council, the opportunity of 2021 is to work collaboratively to make investments that will help us continue to recover from the pandemic," Wheeler said when he released his proposed budget. "The budget I propose reflects my commitment to change and my optimism about Portland's future."
In fact, just about the only budget Wheeler is now proposing to cut is that of the Portland Police Bureau. It would be reduced by $3 million, despite his push to reconstitute a unit to investigate shootings and killings that have surged since the middle of last year.
The only other proposed cut is a $70,000 reduction in the Bureau of Emergency Management. All other bureaus would see their net budgets grow. The increases range from $30,191 for the City Attorney's Office to nearly $12 million for Portland Parks & Recreation, thanks to an operating levy approved by voters at the November 2020 general election.
Other major spending increases include:
• $6.3 million to fully fund the Joint Office of Homelessness Services.
• $5.7 million for citywide cleanup, graffiti removal and a program to provide cleanup jobs for homeless people.
• $5.4 million for a community-directed budgeting process led by Reimagine Oregon.
• $2.4 million for hygiene stations citywide.
• $2 million for new shelter development.
• $1.4 million to create a Community Safety Transition program.
Wheeler's announcement with specific spending proposals can be found here.
The proposed budget can be found here.
More information about Wheeler's proposed budget and the approval process can be found on the City Budget Office website here.
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