A push to cut $18 million from the Portland police failed Thursday, with a majority of the City Council rejecting the proposal on the grounds that it would undermine public safety and destabilize the bureau.
The vote came as part of the city’s fall budget monitoring process, typically a time for the Council to make minor mid-year adjustments to the spending plan they approved in June. With calls to cut police funding persisting through the fall, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty pushed a meatier and more controversial proposal than what the Council typically sees during the time: an amendment that would cut $18 million from the police bureau’s $229.5 million budget and move the money primarily toward the city’s pandemic response.
That amendment failed 3-2 Thursday. Commissioner Dan Ryan, who was considered the swing vote, joined Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Amanda Fritz in voting it down. Commissioners Chloe Eudaly and Hardesty voted in favor.
Before her vote, Hardesty expressed disappointment in the three members who voted no for sticking to the status quo and for declining to back her and Portlanders who had been in the streets nightly for months demanding the city rethink its approach to public safety.
“The people have spoken,” she said. “And I’m pretty sure they’re just as disappointed as I am with the lack of courage in this historic moment where, just for a second, Black lives mattered in Portland.”
Ryan, the newest member of the Council, had seemed a possible yes vote. Last week, that led a crowd of protesters to march to his home, where they chanted, “Dan Ryan don’t be a villain, defund PPB by $18 million,” and tried to convince him to support the cuts.
During his campaign, Ryan had said the city needed to “find ways to follow up on the $15 million cuts to the Portland Police budget with even more substantial cuts.”
Hardesty couldn’t get him on board with her vision. He called her plan “a threat to our current public safety.”
“Cutting an additional $18 million at a time when we have no viable alternative to fill the service gap left behind is not my idea of police reform,” said Ryan, who won his seat this summer in a special election to replace Commissioner Nick Fish, who died in January.
The vote on Hardesty’s proposal was originally scheduled to take place last week, but was pushed after the three council members who ultimately voted no said they needed more time to consider it following several hours of public testimony. This delay was over the vehement objections of Hardesty, who wanted a decision before Tuesday’s election.
That didn’t happen, and the political dynamics at Portland City Hall have since shifted. Voters chose to reelect Wheeler and unseat Eudaly in favor of Mingus Mapps, who has favored a more incremental approach to police oversight changes than Eudaly. Hardesty and Wheeler were unlikely allies until this summer, when she began demanding the mayor give her control of the police bureau. Their relationship frayed more last week when Hardesty gave a last-minute endorsement to the mayor’s opponent Sarah Iannarone.
Before voting no, Wheeler called out Hardesty for not sharing her proposal with the city’s budget office.
“Without their input we were not able to nail down even the most basic facts about the proposal,” he said. “For example, last week we heard from the proponents that this would not require layoffs. It turns out that is completely wrong.”
At last week’s council meeting, Eudaly said the cuts she and Hardesty wanted could be achieved, in part, by getting rid of positions that were already vacant and no layoffs would be necessary. The mayor, who is also the police commissioner, had seemed doubtful and asked budget director Jessica Kinard to look into it. She delivered her answer in a memo this week that stated that making cuts of this magnitude halfway through the fiscal year would lead to layoffs.
“CBO finds it likely that the bureau would need to reduce staff to balance to this level of a reduction at this time,” the memo states.
Commissioner Amanda Fritz sided with Wheeler and Ryan, framing the cuts as a hasty proposal that would lead to unforeseen consequences and certain layoffs.
“I can’t support cutting the police budget further before there is an inclusive community process, a plan to make changes via attrition rather than layoffs and adequate public safety services in place to help Portlanders in need,” she said.
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This is the second time since racial justice protests began in Portland that the City Council has considered pulling funding from the police. In June, the Council united behind cutting $15 million from the police’s budget.
Thursday’s outcome was markedly different.
The Council is expected to take a final vote on the budget next week.