Commissioner Hardesty Year 3 Recap (2021 - 2022)

go by bike
A summary of major accomplishments and notable moments during Commissioner Hardesty's third year in office: 2021 - 2022. During this time Commissioner Hardesty was assigned to oversee Portland Fire & Rescue, Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), and the Office of Community & Civic Life.

Portland Street Response Pilot Launched, Expanded, & Evaluated 

Picture of 4 members of the Portland Street Response team posing with their hands together on the day the pilot program launched.

In February, the long anticipated launch of the initial Portland Street Response (PSR) pilot team occurred as they began taking calls dispatched from 911 to offer an unarmed response for people suffering from a mental or behavioral health crisis. 

For the first two months of the pilot, the team responded to calls solely in the Lents neighborhood during limited hours. This first shift was composed of a firefighter paramedic, a licensed clinical social worker and two community health workers. 

Portland Street Response team member offering aid in a homeless encampment.

After 2 months the pilot boundaries were expanded to cover eight Portland Police Bureau (PPB) districts in the greater Lents area.  

In April, the PSR team also started responding to additional call types: for a person either outside or inside of a publicly accessible space such as a business, store, public lobby, etc. 

The team also started co-responding with Portland Fire & Rescue on certain public burning calls (such as outside warming and cooking fires) to offer wrap-around service assistance. 

Portland State University, the outside evaluator hired by the City to determine if PSR is meeting its goals, released its six-month report and presented the results to City Council. 

Dr. Greg Townley, director of research at PSU’s Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative and the lead evaluator, reported that the investigators believe Portland Street Response was well on its way to becoming a citywide solution to responding to 911 and non-emergency calls involving unhoused people and people experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis.  

Graphic from PSU Homeless Research & Action Collaborative that highlights a statistic from a 6 month evaluation of PSR. The graphic reads "4.6% reduction in calls traditionally dispatched to police in the Portland Street Response service area and service times
Image from Portland State University Homeless Research & Action Collaborative.

Key findings included: 
● A 4.6% reduction in total calls traditionally responded to by police.  
● A 22.5% reduction in police response on non-emergency welfare checks as well as dispatches coded as “unwanted persons” and “suspicious persons” calls.  
● A 11.6% reduction in fire department activity on behavioral health calls and illegal burn calls.  
● Clients rated PSR 5 on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the best. 

In November, PSR embarked on its next expansion with the launch of its night shift and additional team members including a Firefighter/EMT, a Mental Health Crisis Responder, and two Peer Support Specialists.  

This increased the boundary from 13 square miles to 36 square miles.  

Collage showing Portland Street Response employees on the job, performing community outreach, training, and more.

In November, Portland City Council voted to release $2 million in funding to PSR as part of the Fall Budget Monitoring Process, paving the way for citywide expansion. 

Portland Fire & Rescue Vaccination Effort 

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is sitting down wearing a Portland Fire & Rescue Coat. To her left, a Portland Firefighter in a blue t-shirt is administering the 1st shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Portland Fire & Rescue teamed up with Multnomah County health officials to administer tens of thousands of vaccinations across clinics throughout Portland that were primarily focused on targeted outreach to BIPOC and harder to reach communities. 

To promote vaccination efforts knowing that Black communities have a valid historical distrust of government vaccines – Commissioner Hardesty received her vaccination from Portland Fire & Rescue on video.

Her office also worked with the county to promote a webpage including details about the diversity in COVID-19 vaccine studies to help alleviate concerns. 

Mount Scott-Arleta Violence Intervention Pilot

Mount Scott Tour

Following the destabilizing effects of the pandemic, gun violence skyrocketed nationwide, and Portland was no exception. The Portland City Council made a historic investment in community-based organizations that interrupt violence and address upstream solutions - but more urgent action was lacking.   

Community members in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood observed a correlation between gun violence and high-speed traffic and proposed an intervention. Commissioner Hardesty's staff worked with PBOT experts and residents to explore options for how the deployment of temporary traffic control devices could help discourage or mitigate the effects of gun violence. 

Commissioner Hardesty’s office and PBOT were not alone, as the intervention became a collaborative effort involving PBOT, Parks & Recreation, OMF Division of Community Safety, Portland Police Bureau, and local community residents.    

The all-hands-on deck, holistic response:

  • PBOT placed 18 traffic calming barrels as requested by neighbors   

  • Parks & Recreation increased Park Ranger patrol and repaired lighting in Mt. Scott Park   

  • Portland Police Bureau increased patrols to area, enhanced collaboration with Park Rangers   

  • Commissioner Hardesty’s office surveyed residents in area to capture their concerns and ideas   

  • City staff spoke with local businesses, encouraged installation of security cameras   

  • Built upon partnership with Multnomah County Youth Violence Prevention Office 

Police Accountability Commission Recruitment & Appointment 

Rethink Portland logo

The Portland City Council came together during the summer of 2020 to unanimously send a ballot measure to voters to create a new system of independent police oversight. An important piece of building trust in our police bureau will be a system of oversight and accountability with a structure that centers the community the police are sworn to protect and serve. The ballot measure stipulated the next step in the process would be recruiting and appointing a group of community members that would have 18 months to create a framework and structure for the final police oversight board approved by 82% of Portland voters.  

After reviewing applicants, The Police Accountability Commission was appointed unanimously by Council. The Commission is composed of individuals from community justice organizations, small businesses impacted by community safety issues, and people from overpoliced communities, such as Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), immigrants, refugees, people living with low-income, experiencing houselessness, and/or mental health or substance use. 

Interim Director Michael Montoya Appointed to Stabilize Office of Community & Civic Life

Office of Community & Civic Life Director Michael Montoya

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty appointed Michael Montoya as the interim director for the Office of Community & Civic Life. Montoya formally served as Civic Life’s strategy, innovation & performance manager. 

Commissioner Hardesty knew the Office of Community and Civic Life needed a year of transformation and healing and believed Montoya was the leader for the moment to foster a stronger, more resilient, more responsive bureau. 

Under Montoya's leadership, the Office of Community & Civic life moved on from past  controversies and proceeded with important work - including the nationally renown Cannabis program and efforts to support our immigrant and refugee communities.

Year 3 Annual Budget Process

The Portland City Council includes, from top left, Commissioner Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, Mayor Ted Wheeler, Commissioner Carmen Rubio, Commissioner Mingus Mapps and Commissioner Dan Ryan.


Commissioner Hardesty expressed process concerns that the community and council was not involved enough in the deliberation of her third annual budget. 

One of the most contentious debates during this budget was whether to fully fund the expansion of Portland Street Response citywide. By a 3-2 vote, Council voted down an amendment for PSR expansion. Later during the Fall Budget Monitoring Process, Commissioner Hardesty was able to secure Council support for expansion

Despite disappointment that her PSR amendment was voted down, the budget had been significantly improved by other proposed amendments. 

Commissioner Hardesty ultimately voted yes on a budget that included: 

  • Funding for staff support for the voter approved police oversight board. 

  • Funding support for alternative shelter program to allow safe sleeping options for those currently sleeping on our streets. 

  • Funding to support a Truth and Reconciliation process between the Portland Police Bureau and community members of the City of Portland. 

  • Increased resources to the City African American Network. 

  • Increased funding for the Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services. 

  • Directed PBOT to develop new revenue sources that reflect Portland’s climate goals and addresses the bureaus structural deficit 

  • Continued to fund the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Healthy Businesses program, allowing the creative use of space to provide outdoor dining, drinking, and more. This provided a lifeline to small businesses operating during the pandemic. 

  • Increased money to Neighborhood District Coalitions and reinstated the small grant program to Neighborhood Associations. 

  • Funded a citywide anti-white supremacy training for city staff. 

  • Avoided cuts to the budget of Portland Fire & Rescue.

Transfer of 82nd Avenue from State to City Control with $180 Million Investment

State and local elected leaders, community advocates and organizations, and representatives of PBOT and ODOT stand near a busy intersection with a Vision Zero banner that reads "Saving lives with safe streets" during a press event celebrating the transfer of 82nd Avenue to the City of Portland.

A long-held priority for East Portland residents, the City of Portland and the State of Oregon agreed to transfer 82nd Ave from State to City Control following decades of organizing. Commissioner Hardesty was part of the coalition of elected leaders and community advocates who successfully advocated for, negotiated, and secured the transfer with substantial funding.

The transfer included $80 million in state funding on top of an additional $70 million pledged by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), plus $35 million committed from PBOT for a total of over $180 million. The historic transfer and investment will make possible the transformative changes community has been calling for on 82nd Avenue for decades.

This would not have been possible without community advocates calling attention to the long record of traffic violence on this high-crash corridor. This was a truly collaborative effort that highlighted the importance of diversity in representation for East Portland. which includes many of the most diverse neighborhoods in Portland.

Rapid Street Safety Improvements 

Commissioner Hardesty walks across a crosswalk with PBOT Director Chris Warner and Community Advocates in East Portland. The Commissioner is waving to a pedestrian.

Responding to a record rise in traffic-related fatalities, Commissioner Hardesty introduced and passed an emergency budget amendment during the summer that allocated $450,000 for rapid street safety improvements on high-crash corridors.

These high-crash streets are disproportionately in East Portland. They generally are in areas with higher rates of people living on low incomes and people who are Black, Indigenous or People of Color. 

The High-Crash Corridor safety interventions included:

  • Speed safety cameras

  • Increased safety and visibility at intersections

  • Turn-calming infrastructure like rubber bumps

  • Center turn lane delineation

  • Speed limit reductions

  • High-crash intersection warning signs

Safe Routes to School

Commissioner Hardesty Visits Bike Bus

2021 saw many children return to school in person for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made it vital to enhance investments in PBOT’s Safe Routes to School program. Commissioner Hardesty secured that funding boost from Council.  

These dollars funded safety infrastructure on primary school routes such as crossing, sidewalks, and traffic calming. 

PBOT Healthy Business Permit Extension

Picture of Pride Plaza in downtown Portland. Road closed signs can be seen at the entrance. Street painting and a bike lane cover the ground of the plaza.
Photo by PBOT

Commissioner Hardesty championed and secured council support for an extension of PBOT’s Healthy Businesses permit program by allocating $3.5 million from federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to continue the program while waiving all permit fees through 2021.

The Healthy Businesses program was created in the first months of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Providing much needed sidewalk and street space, it allowed Portland businesses and their customers to continue operating in a safe and healthy way during the pandemic. PBOT agreed to waive all fees to support business resiliency in the face of unprecedented economic challenges.

Restaurants, bars, and other small businesses represent many of the pillars of the Portland economy. By providing businesses, especially restaurants, with more outdoor space, the Healthy Businesses program directly helped pull many back from the brink of disaster. As one participating business said, “Without those outdoor seats, we’d be closed and there wouldn’t have been a penny for anyone, or jobs for the 50 people we’ve got working now.”

Portland Public Plaza Expansion

An artist at work at the Dream Street Plaza on NE Sumner Street.

A priority during the summer of 2021, PBOT rolled out numerous new public plazas around the city in partnership with local organizations, businesses, and neighborhoods. These included the Northeast Dream Street Plaza, “A Black-centered space for community and microenterprise in historic Albina.” It also included the downtown Pride Plaza, “a new LGBTQ+ friendly neighborhood gathering space with street art, public seating, community activities, and expanded space for businesses into the street.”

Ankeny Food Carts

Commissioner Hardesty talks to 2 community members after the ribbon cutting for the Ankeny Food Carts. Food carts and customers can be seen in the background.

Upon becoming Transportation Commissioner in 2021, Commissioner Hardesty asked her staff to bring together PBOT, Prosper Portland, Parks, and council colleagues to rejuvenate the process of finding a home for many of the food carts displaced by the construction of a Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel downtown. Permitting solutions were found and the city was finally able to get food carts placed and operational in a beautiful new space.

Additionally, Commissioner Hardesty successfully advocated for a funding package to revitalize O’Bryant Square across from the Ankeny Food Carts as part of the connecting vision of the Green Loop downtown.

Increasing Waterfront Access to the Willamette River

Commissioner Hardesty is talking to an individual near Duckworth Dock on the Willamette River. In the background, Duckworth Dock can be see being utilized by Portlanders. The Steel Bridge can also be seen in the background.

In collaboration with the Human Access Project, Commissioner Hardesty directed PBOT to help make Duckworth Dock a safer and more accessible place for Portlanders to cool down and hang out in the Willamette River during Portland's increasingly hot summers. This included providing eight new ladders from the dock to the river, slow no-wake buoys for safety from river traffic, a bike rack, a life ring, and opportunities for live music.

Also related to waterfront access, Commissioner Hardesty worked with Human Access Project and Commissioner Mapps, who introduced an amendment to conduct a feasibility study that could contribute to a vision for increased public access to Portland's beautiful but underutilized waterfront.

New Green Revenue Sources

Commissioner Hardesty is posing for a picture with PBOT Director Chris Warner in front of the Flanders Crossing pedestrian and bike bridge downtown.

There is no debate – climate change is here and its effects on Portland have been catastrophic. This was clear during the tragic heatwave we experienced during the summer of 2020.

PBOT is in a position to lead our transition to a sustainable green Portland that is less reliant on cars, with increased access to healthier, safer options for travel: from public transit to biking to scooters and more.

Today revenue sources for PBOT have an inherent contradiction toward meeting Portland’s climate mitigation goals, because so much of their revenue derives from fossil fuel infrastructure such as parking fees.

During the budget process of 2021, PBOT was formally directed to explore new revenue sources that can adequately fund Portland's transportation needs without relying on fossil fuel infrastructure.

Division Transit Project

Person using mobility device waits for signal to change at a new protected intersection on SE Division Street at 148th in September 2022
Photo by PBOT

SE Division Street is a high-crash corridor that is most dangerous in Outer East Portland. The Division Transit project included critical safety improvements like crosswalks with signals, new crosswalks near bus stops, better lighting, protected bike lanes, and medians for pedestrians crossing the street.

TriMet also unveiled their new “FX – Frequent Express” transit service to provide faster, more frequent, and more sustainable service to SE Division Street from Gresham to downtown Portland.

The City of Portland heard from the community that people wanted this to be more than just a transit project. They also wanted safety, jobs, and housing for the people in our community. That’s what was delivered. This project also hired Raimore Construction, awarding the largest construction contract for a minority contractor in Oregon history.