Portland Budget Debate Looms As Hardesty Challenges Mayor's Spending Plan

By Amelia Templeton (OPB)
Portland, Ore. May 3, 2019 1:20 p.m.
Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty listens to testimony over a proposed ordinance on April 4, 2019.

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty listens to testimony over a proposed ordinance on April 4, 2019.

Kaylee Domzalski / OPB

Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is challenging parts of Mayor Ted Wheeler’s


proposed budget

for the next year (2019-2020).

Wheeler rolled out his spending plan this week and the council will discuss the budget in a work session May 14. But Hardesty says she plans to introduce several amendments to the mayor's proposal.

Her boldest idea: getting rid of the Portland Police Bureau’s Gun Violence Reduction Team. It used to be known as the Gang Enforcement Team. A recent report from the city auditor concluded the group had a record of disproportionately stopping African Americans.

Hardesty has proposed moving the team's officers to patrol, where the bureau has a number of vacancies, a move she says could help free up millions of dollars in the city’s budget.

Related: Parks Cuts And A Water Taxi: What You Should Know About Portland's Proposed Budget

"Our police force is stretched thin; I don't think it's appropriate to continue funding a team that has been shown to racially profile and produce no evidence their tactics were effective in alleviating gang activity," she said.


Hardesty says she’d like to see more funding for staffing at Portland Fire and Rescue, an agency she oversees, and for anti-displacement policies in East Portland, among other priorities.

She also said she'd like to increase one-time funding for Portland Parks and Recreation, a bureau overseen by her colleague, Commissioner Nick Fish. After several years of deepening fiscal problems, the parks department is trying to balance a $6.3 million annual shortfall in its operating budget by cutting staff and scaling back its community center program.

Portland Parks and Recreation requested $2.5 million in transitional funding to keep upcoming summer programs running as planned and to help parks officials develop lease agreements with outside groups that may be able to continue programming at some of the centers that are operating at a loss, such as the Multnomah Arts Center. Wheeler's budget fully funded that request, but Hardesty says she'd like to see more one-time funding going to parks.

"I'm so grateful for Commissioner Fish's hard work on such a complex issue. He's been forced to make some hard choices, and it helps everyone to give council another year to deeply evaluate the bureau's budget while keeping the places community depends on open and staffed," she said.

But Hardesty, who took office in January, will need three votes to get any amendments she introduces to pass. Fish supports the mayor’s budget proposal, which he called a skillful attempt to balance the city’s priorities.

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s chief of staff, Marshall Runkel, said he is still digesting the mayor's budget — but thinks it's close to workable.

Related: Audit: Portland's Recreational Cannabis Tax Revenue Goes Mostly To Police, Transportation

“We just saw Commissioner Hardesty’s proposals this afternoon, and have not had a chance to dig in or have a substantive conversation between Commissioner Eudaly and Commissioner Hardesty about these ideas," he said.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz's office didn't immediately respond to a call.

Wheeler said he's committed to collaborating with all members of the council on the budget.

"Commissioner Hardesty and I are more aligned on our budget process than divided," he said.

The mayor’s previous two budgets have passed with unanimous votes.