After promising action, Portland mayor meets with business leaders, issues open letter to Trump

By Rebecca Ellis (OPB)
Aug. 28, 2020 11:54 p.m. Updated: Aug. 29, 2020 1:48 a.m.

Ted Wheeler, who is up for reelection, has seen a public clamoring for action from all sides

Earlier this week, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he planned to offer solutions in the coming days to two issues he framed as the city’s most pressing: ongoing protests against police violence and the city’s economic recovery. By the week’s end, the mayor’s office had issued public statements about two actions: a meeting with business leaders and an open letter to the Trump administration.

Wheeler, who is up for reelection, has seen a public clamoring for action from all sides. Businesses say they need help. The police force says it’s stretched thin. And each night, protesters take to the streets, demanding the city bring about fundamental police reform and restrain its police, who are widely viewed as having responded to nightly protests with disproportionate force.


In a Thursday evening release, the mayor’s office said he indeed had the business meeting he announced on Wednesday, checking in “with a broad range of business owners” to hear their concerns. The statement said the mayor was working to remove graffiti, clean up parks and increase trash pickup.

His office also followed up on a meeting the mayor announced he was having with police. Wheeler had said he wanted to use the meeting to ask if police needed more resources to bring protests to “a peaceful conclusion” and see what ideas the bureau had to hold officers accountable “in real time.”


Tim Becker, the interim director of communications for the mayor’s office, said Wheeler met with Chief Chuck Lovell, Deputy Chief Chris Davis and Captain Tim Robinson at the demonstration incident command post at 9 p.m. Wednesday. The office said they told them they needed elected officials to denounce criminal activity and prosecute those who are charged. They also asked for help getting other law enforcement agencies to work with them.

It was not clear whether the mayor made any headway on his ask for a way to hold officers accountable quickly.

“The PPB discussed working to better communicate with the public about processes that are in place to address any conduct violations by police,” Becker wrote. “The goal of the Police Bureau is to ensure that the community perceives their oversight actions as immediate and transparent, and to share what the Bureau is doing to improve.”

Earlier Friday, Wheeler issued a rebuke to President Donald Trump, who had said in his speech at the Republican National Convention the previous night that a Biden administration would make “every city look like Democrat-run Portland, Oregon.” The Trump administration has routinely vilified Portland’s protesters and bashed local leaders for failing to calm the protests.

“We know you’ve reached the conclusion that images of violence or vandalism are your only ticket to reelection,” Wheeler wrote in an open letter that his office said was emailed to Trump. “We don’t need your politics of division and demagoguery. Portlanders are onto you. We have already seen your reckless disregard for human life in your bumbling response to the COVID pandemic.”

In the letter, the mayor said he was supportive of the Portlanders protesting systemic racism each night, but said the city would not tolerate looting, arson or vandalism — and anyone committing criminal acts would be apprehended and prosecuted. He said he did not want Trump’s help doing so.

“Stay away, please,” Wheeler concluded.