Last week, I voted no on the amended budget. Not because I didn’t support the amendments—I voted yes on all of them—but because I agree with the more than 72,000 constituents that had emailed my office, the tens of thousands of protesters in the streets, and hundreds of community members who testified on the budget—we need to do more. I took a principled stand, after being frozen out of the final decision by my colleagues, to give voice to the community, knowing that my no vote would make no functional difference—the budget would pass with or without me and take effect on July 1. And that’s precisely what will happen today.
My primary concern was that although we were cutting specialty units, position authority, and scope of work, because there are over 60 longtime vacancies and an anticipated 40 retirements in August, we were not reducing the overall number of sworn officers employed by the bureau. The community’s demand for $50M in cuts roughly correlates to police budget increases over the past few years. My amendment to cut 50 vacant positions would cut an additional $4.7M from the budget, still nowhere near the $50M target but another step toward it. I’m looking forward to a much more transparent police budget that will allow us to make more precise and well-informed cuts to the bureau.
I want to acknowledge that the work required to coordinate and collaborate with other offices on legislation is challenging under normal circumstances, it’s been especially difficult during the shutdown. Since last Thursday, it’s come to my attention that there were lapses in communication between our offices. I take responsibility and apologize for any shortcomings on the part of myself or my office.
But that’s all in the past. What’s important now is the work to come—these amendments are just the beginning of transforming law enforcement and re-envisioning community safety. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues, community organizations and advocates to ensure we put new safe and equitable systems and supports in their place. I hope to participate in the conversation with TriMet about a community based solution to transit safety. PBOT will be convening a committee to investigate possibilities for equitable traffic enforcement. Civic Life will continue its transformation of the Community Safety program to help foster more connected, safe, and resilient communities.
To the tens of thousands of people who have contacted my office, marched in the streets, or testified at City Council—please do not be discouraged. We couldn’t have done this without you. And what is happening today is big. It is not everything you wanted, but it is not incremental. The amendments from the Mayor, Commissioner Hardesty, and my office total an additional $15M in cuts for a grand total of $27M and we’ve eliminated some of the most problematic units in the bureau. Please take a moment to celebrate this victory, and let it fuel your fire. We’re not done and we still need you to bring pressure to bear on your elected representatives at every level of government and to continue doing this important work in our community.
The next opportunity to revisit the police budget, position authority, and programming is the fall BMP in September. We will be renegotiating the police contract early next year, which believe it or not, is when the next budget process will be underway again. This is a historic moment in our country and in our city. In my 30 years of activism, I have NEVER seen anything like this. Together, we have accomplished more in three weeks than we have in three decades, proving that when we fight we win! So, keep loving, keep fighting and be safe out there!
While I do support these amendments, I vote no in solidarity with the community.