Commissioner Hardesty is sworn in as the First Black Woman Ever Elected to the Portland City Council
After emerging as the winner of a historic grassroots campaign for Portland City Council with 62% of the vote, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was officially sworn in on January 2nd, 2019 – becoming the first Black woman to serve as a City Commissioner in the history of Portland.
Commissioner Hardesty was sworn in by Justice Adrienne Nelson – the first African American to ever serve on the Oregon Supreme Court.
Portland City Council chambers were packed with a diverse crowd of Portlanders who came to celebrate the historic occasion.
Remarks were offered by Mayor Wheeler, Commissioner Eudaly, and Commissioner Fritz and a celebration followed.
Withdrawal from Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF)
Commissioner Hardesty made it a priority to fulfill a campaign promise to withdraw the City of Portland from the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) soon after entering office.
The JTTF is a controversial agreement between the FBI, ICE, and local law enforcement agencies that was lacking transparency, leading to excess surveillance, and targeting immigrants, political activists, and racial & religious minorities – concerns that were all heightened under the Presidency of 45. Portland had previously left the JTTF under former Police Chief and Mayor Tom Potter in 2005 over similar concerns.
This action was about ensuring that all communities in Portland felt safe, including those often-lacking representation in elected office.
In January, Commissioner Hardesty hosted a public information session co-hosted by Unite Oregon and the ACLU of Oregon.
Cesar Chavez Day Proclamation
Commissioner Hardesty brought forward the first ever City of Portland proclamation recognizing the great labor and immigrant rights organizer Cesar Chavez in collaboration with PCUN, Voz Workers' Rights Education Project, and former City Hall staffer, now State Representative Andrea Valderrama.
Year 1 Annual Budget Process - the Fight for Parks Workers & Community Centers, Against Racial Profiling in Policing
In preparation for Commissioner Hardesty's first annual budget process, her office hosted "The People's Budget Meeting" in East Portland to provide Portlanders an opportunity to learn how the city budget process works. This included community members providing feedback through interactive exercises regarding what the city should prioritize as difficult budget decisions are made.
As the budget process moved along, it became dominated by a debate over a structural deficit for Parks & Recreation and a council proposal to address the budget gap by eliminating community centers, services, and firing over 50 workers.
Commissioner Hardesty heard the overwhelming call from the majority that this was not what Portlanders wanted. She instead offered an alternative proposal that would fully fund parks for another year, eliminate the racially profiling, ineffective Gang Enforcement Team that had just been rebranded as the Gun Violence Prevent Team (GVRT), and fund anti-displacement and anti-gentrification efforts in East Portland to ensure BIPOC, immigrant, and low income communities could keep living in their neighborhoods.
Powerful testimony from a long-term educator working with current and former gang members made it clear Portland had a moral choice to make in this budget, which Commissioner Hardesty repeatedly called a moral document.
"I'm going to present our elected officials with a very simple equation and it is this. You can educate, or you can incarcerate, but you can not have it both ways. You want to start taking away programs from these kids...their art classes, their football classes, their dance classes, and their weight rooms - you want to take away their community? They’re going to get community, and they are going to get it another way."
The proposed budget amendments that prioritized community investment over incarceration unfortunately did not pass, and Commissioner Hardesty voted no on the overall budget package that included substantial cuts and layoffs to Parks & Recreation.
Some of Commissioner Hardesty's ideas were accepted into the final budget, including $250,000 for community outreach in preparation for the 2020 Census and $270,000 for anti-displacement work in East Portland.
Development of Portland Street Response
Shortly after being elected to the Portland City Council, Commissioner Hardesty got to work exploring her campaign idea to develop an unarmed, alternative first response option to ensure we are sending the right first responders to the right 911 call. Our first response system hadn't seen a major update in over 100 years and needed a more effective, compassionate response for those experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis.
Commissioner Hardesty was assigned Portland Fire & Rescue, where as Fire Commissioner she learned about innovative programs within the bureau that were already trying to address some of the unmet needs within our first response system. This led her to believe Portland Fire & Rescue was the best place for this new first response option to be housed under.
Meanwhile, Street Roots wrote extensively about the need for a better first response for those experiencing houselessness, as well as those experiencing a mental or behavior health crisis. That led to Street Roots developing a blueprint called "Portland Street Response" and launching an advocacy campaign behind the concept.
Commissioner Hardesty endorsed the Street Roots campaign and along with Portland Fire & Rescue, began working with them and additional community partners to build off the idea.
Early outreach and development included:
- Listening sessions with community members experiencing houselessness
- Surveying our neighbors living on the streets
- Surveying business owners
- Learning from experts in the field, including visits & a consultation contract with the inspiring CAHOOTS program in Eugene.
- Logo design contest
Much of the outreach work with Portland's houseless community was summarized in the report "Believe Our Stories & Listen," which was a collaborative effort that included the Portland Street Response Community Outreach Workgroup, Portland State University Homeless Research & Action Collaborative, Street Roots, Mapping Action Collective, Street Books, Yellow Brick Road, Right 2 Survive, and Sisters of the Road.
Commissioner Hardesty was provided an opportunity to do a Ted Talk about the concept and development of Portland Street Response.
To develop Portland Street Response, the offices of Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Hardesty formed a work group that also included representatives from Portland Fire & Rescue, Portland Police Bureau, Office of Management & Finance, Multnomah County, PSU Homeless Research Collaborative, service providers, houseless advocates and more.
Sara Boone Hired as Chief of Portland Fire & Rescue
Fire Commissioner Hardesty selected Division Chief Sara Boone as Fire Chief for Portland Fire & Rescue during her first year in office. Chief Boone had been with Portland Fire & Rescue for 24 years, rising through the ranks from entry-level firefighter. Chief Boone had spent the majority of her career in emergency operations before transitioning into assignments as the Bureau’s Safety Chief, Logistics Deputy Chief, and currently, the Division Chief of Medical Services and Training. In 1995, Chief Boone became the first African-American female firefighter to enter the ranks of Portland Fire & Rescue since its inception in 1883 and became the first African-American Fire Chief for the City of Portland.
Commissioner Hardesty said at the time: "Chief Boone impressed our interview panels with her commitment to community, her technical knowledge, her passion for the fire service, and her leadership style. She is well-respected throughout the bureau and we have a great collaborative relationship. I know that she has the vision and experience to lead the bureau as it takes on new challenges. I am confident that she will make sure our city is safe and cared for under her watch.”
Stop Abortion Bans Resolution
Following unprecedented attacks on abortion care throughout the country, Commissioner Hardesty worked with local reproductive health organizations including Pro-Choice Oregon, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, and Forward Together to unanimously pass a resolution that declared the right to safe and legal abortion and affirmed the City of Portland’s commitment to act in support of that right by authorizing the City Attorney to participate as an amicus in federal lawsuits challenging abortion bans around the country.
Portland Police Training Contract with ICE Cancelled
After organizations advocating for Portland's immigrant community brought forward concerns about a contract between PPB allowing ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to use their training facility, Commissioner Hardesty pressured the City internally to cancel the contract. Commissioner Hardesty argued that the contract was contrary to Portland's status as a sanctuary city, which "prohibits the use of city funds, personnel or equipment to enforce federal immigration law."
Mike Myers Hired as Director of Portland Bureau of Emergency Management
Commissioner Hardesty announced that former Portland Fire & Rescue Chief Mike Myers would serve as the Director of the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM).
Impressed with his vision and values when they met before taking office, Commissioner Hardesty reached out to Mike Myers to see if he would consider coming back to Portland to work with her in this new capacity. She was overjoyed when he said yes. Myers now serves as the Director of the Community Safety Division.
Climate Justice Leadership
During her first year in office, Commissioner Hardesty showed her leadership on environmental issues, starting with the implementation of the voter approved Portland Clean Energy Fund (PCEF) that she helped create and champion. That included the hiring of a program manager and approving the inaugural PCEF committee members - who's job would be to help disburse funds to support living wage jobs, sustainable agriculture, green infrastructure, and residential/commercial renewable and efficiency projects throughout Portland.
Commissioner Hardesty showed up in support and spoke at many youth led rallies demanding climate justice be at the forefront of all government policy, and that as elected leaders we walk our talk in fighting for our planet. These included the Youth v Gov rally in Director's Park and as the only elected official invited to speak at the Youth Climate Strike, where thousands of Portland students walked on City Hall. She also took a pledge to take no fossil fuel donations while serving as a City Commissioner.
Commissioner Hardesty quickly responded to concerns about the Zenith Oil Facility and made it clear she does not support crude oil production and transport in Portland. She sought creative ways to approach the situation at the City and advocated for state law changes to address the situation and respond to community concern.
Consulting Experts and Community on Portland Police Association Contract Negotiations
As the City prepared to enter negotiations over the next collective bargaining agreement between the City of Portland and the Portland Police Association (PPA), Commissioner Hardesty hosted a public work session to consult national experts with Campaign Zero regarding best practices in police union contracts.
The offices of Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty then hosted two community conversation events about the City’s contract negotiations with PPA. The goal of the events was to educate the public about the collective bargaining process, to listen to thoughts and concerns, and to gather input to help ensure the contract best served the interests and welfare of the public. City attorneys were present to share guidelines and offer background on the current contract that was set to expire in June 2020. The events provided language interpretation and childcare.
A summary of the feedback collected during these two packed meetings was compiled into a report by the Bureau of Human Resources that was made available to the public online.
Community Meetings Throughout Portland
Completing another campaign promise, the office of Commissioner Hardesty held four community conversations throughout Portland during her first year in office.
Over 250 attendees joined to speak with each other in facilitated conversations that provided feedback to inform Commissioner Hardesty's policy priorities. These events included translation, space for children, and accessible locations.
Commissioner Hardesty hosted and participated in numerous additional events during her first year in office to ensure she was hearing directly from Portlanders about their lived experiences and the changes they wanted to see.