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Commissioner Hardesty Year 2 Recap (2020 - 2021)

Hardesty speaking to racial justice protest
A summary of major accomplishments and notable moments during Commissioner Hardesty's second year in office: 2020 - 2021. During this time Commissioner Hardesty was assigned to oversee Portland Fire & Rescue, Bureau of Emergency Communication (BOEC), and the Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM).

The Passing of Commissioner Nick Fish 

City Council Meeting. Commissioner Hardesty is seated next to Commissioner Fish

On just the second day of 2020, tragic news was released that Commissioner Nick Fish passed away after battling cancer. 

This was a very sad moment for Portland. I knew Nick for decades, and while our time as colleagues on Council was briefer than expected, I always respected his deep commitment and tenacity as a public servant - even as he managed his illness. 

COVID-19 Pandemic Response

2020 was an exceptionally difficult year of crisis upon crisis, starting with the overarching COVID-19 global pandemic that has claimed millions of lives worldwide. 

The pandemic exasperated the many inequalities that were already present in our society. The City prioritized the most vulnerable populations during these uncertain times – including BIPOC communities, seniors, houseless, food insecure, and more. 

Commissioner Hardesty with a Thank You sign

It is difficult to encapsulate all that Commissioner Hardesty and her team worked on during these long, hard hours alongside so many City employees and essential workers to help coordinate an effective and equitable response during unprecedented times.  

This included:  

  • Sharing accurate and accessible public information as part of a City & Multnomah County coordinated effort, which required close alignment to share important health updates, policy changes, vaccination opportunities, program and service changes, and so much more. 

  • Establishing the Small Business Relief Fund.  

  • Coordinating volunteer efforts and donation needs in coordination with Multnomah County. 

  • Aiding those suffering from food insecurity. 

  • Creating emergency Hygiene Stations & Services throughout Portland. 

  • Conducting Council meetings virtually and allowing remote public testimony. 

  • Distributing Federal CARES Act dollars equitably. 

  • Instituting an eviction moratorium, providing direct cash assistance for rent, food, medication and other urgent household needs, and establishing the Emergency Housing Stabilization Fund. 

  • Securing PPE for hospitals, clinics, first responders, healthcare workers, and vulnerable populations. Portland Fire & Rescue stations were used as donation drop off locations. 

  • Allowing outdoor seating for restaurants to promote safer social and business opportunities

  • Establishing the first shelter expansion following the onset of the pandemic in 3 C3PO villages, while supporting shelter expansion of public buildings and purchase of hotels and other shelter options.  

  • Portland Fire & Rescue conducting vaccination clinics prioritizing vulnerable communities and delivering prescription medication to vulnerable adults through a new MEDS on WHEELS outreach program. 

Public & Private Sector Ban of Facial Recognition Technology

The Office of Commissioner Hardesty began working closely with a coalition of privacy and racial justice advocates and the City of Portland’s Smart Cities PDX team to explore a ban on the controversial use of facial recognition technology. This included City Council holding two public work sessions and holding community engagement events. 

This action was taken because Facial Recognition Technology is an intrusion on Portlanders' privacy and is shown to have gender and racial bias and inaccuracies. No one should have something as private as their face photographed, stored, and sold to third parties for a profit. No one should be thrust into the criminal justice system because the tech algorithm misidentified an innocent person. 

Council voted unanimously to support a ban on facial recognition technology. Portland’s public sector ban is among the most stringent compared to other city bans, and the private sector ban is the first of its kind in the nation. 

Residential Infill Project (RIP)

Residential Infill Project Supporters in City Hall

A five-year effort, the Residential Infill Project (RIP) aimed to allow more opportunities for “middle housing” by allowing more housing units in parts of the city to meet the city’s growing population needs.  

Commissioner Hardesty's team worked closely with advocates and city staff to include anti-displacement efforts in the  final proposal.

Commissioner Hardesty voted to pass the Residential Infill Project (RIP) and expressed appreciation to an idea that was conceived by the community, refined by community, and championed by the community. 

Racial Justice Uprising & Police Reform Efforts

A photograph of three people looking protest murals and illustrations on a boarded up business in downtown Portland, Oregon.
Photo by City of Portland

After the horrific murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, a worldwide racial justice reckoning was sparked and Portlanders protested for over 100 days straight of mostly peaceful action - an effort that received praise from George Floyd's own brother.

Commissioner Hardesty advocated for non-violent protest to keep up the pressure on Portland City Council to transform our public safety system. As the annual budget process approached, Portlanders sent tens of thousands of emails and almost 800 people testified at Council advocating to rethink community safety during the pivotal historical moment.

Commissioner Hardesty led the council budget response to re-allocate $15 million from vacant police positions and police units that multiple audits found to engage in racial profiling while not demonstrating a positive impact on crime and reducing violence. The money was re-invested in expanding community safety by increasing the Portland Street Response budget and efforts to address racial inequality. 

Hardesty speaking to racial justice protest

For too long we’ve invested so many resources to a law and order approach that has been unjust, unfair, and violent particularly towards communities of color, especially the Black community. We simply cannot police our way out of inequities. Today, we disrupt that pattern. Today, we begin to collectively reimagine and build towards community safety and police alternatives.

Throughout the summer, Commissioner Hardesty spoke out repeatedly against the constant police brutality that both Portland protesters and federal agents were deploying on those exercising their constitutional rights.

During the height of protests, the office of Commissioner Hardesty continued to push forward, working closely with community advocates to write and pass a ballot referral to voters to change the city charter to establish a truly independent, empowered civilian police review board that can provide real police accountability. Portland voters went out to pass the ballot measure by a resounding 82%, and a community commission is currently developing recommendations for the final independent police accountability board. 

This new system would review at the minimum four types of cases: Excessive use of force, deaths in custody, civil liberties violations, and acts of police towards a protected class.

The new system would be different from the city’s current system in several critical ways:

• The new body would have final say within the city on discipline;

• It would be able to directly impact PPB policies and directives;

• It would be removed from all bureaus and elected offices;

• It would mandate adequate funding for this critical work; and

• It would have expanded investigatory powers including better access to evidence and ability to compel testimony.

As the summer went on, tensions and trust rapidly eroded between community members and PPB, Commissioner Hardesty  wrote an open letter to PPB Chief Lovell expressing these concerns, asking a number of questions and making reform proposals.

Commissioner Hardesty

Other notable actions included:

  • Asking for control of the Portland Police Bureau
  • Preventing collaboration between PPB and federal occupiers
  • Joining the DPSST task force to influence police training policy at the state level
  • Leading a candlelight vigil that partnered with Hip Hop Stands Up, while joining protesters in the streets to hear directly from those on the ground of the racial justice movemement
  • Advocated for a tear gas ban that was eventually implemented by Mayor Wheeler
  • Brought new transparency requirements to PPB weapon and munition purchases

Connecting with Community - In Person & Virtually

Commissioner Hardesty continued to be a regular presense at community events throughout Portland until the COVID-19 pandemic forced a temporary end to most in person events. To stay engaged, Commissioner Hardesty held a series of events centered around rethinking community safety.