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Commissioner Hardesty Year 4 Recap (2022 - 2023)

Commissioner Hardesty ribbon cutting
A summary of major accomplishments and notable moments during Commissioner Hardesty's fourth year in office: 2022 - 2023. During this time Commissioner Hardesty was assigned to oversee Portland Fire & Rescue, Portland Bureau of Transportation, and the Office of Community & Civic Life.

Successful Advocacy to Change State Law to Expand Speed Safety Camera Deployment Through Civilian Enforcement

Speed reader board displays speed of 34 MPH beneath a 40 MPH speed limit sign. A small sign below reads TRAFFIC LAWS PHOTO ENFORCED.
Photo by PBOT

Commissioner Hardesty advocated for removing a provision in state law that required sworn police officers to review all photo camera citations through the City legislative agenda and then testified for this change to the Oregon State Legislature.  

The bill was passed and signed into law, allowing Portland and other local cities to operate traffic-camera systems more effectively by allowing a “traffic enforcement agent” to review and issue tickets. This relieves police officers of some time-consuming administrative work, enabling them to spend more time on patrols in the community and responses to emergency calls from the public. 

Ban on Use & Sale of Fireworks 

A group of firefighters are standing next to each other listening to a firefighter in front of them. Behind them is a cement building.

Portland City Council unanimously passed a ban on the personal use and sale of fireworks brought forward by Fire Commissioner Hardesty. The driving factor for developing and passing the policy was the safety of Portlanders. 

During the summer of 2021, we witnessed climate catastrophe as extreme heat and draught brought devastating wildfires to Portland and throughout Oregon. In response, Portland issued a temporary ban on the personal use and sale of fireworks and the results spoke for themselves: In 2021 Portland reduced firework caused fires by 66% during the fire season and 83% on the Fourth of July compared to 2020 when no ban was in place. 

Portland Street Response Expanded Citywide, Received Glowing Report  

Commissioner Hardesty speaking at PSR citywide expansion press conference

In March of 2022, Portland Street Response expanded citywide, just over 1 year from when the pilot first began as a single team operating in the Lents neighborhood. 

A press conference was held at Fire Station 1 in Old Town to commemorate the historic occasion and inform the public about this expanded service area and new hours.   

Soon after citywide expansion,  Council was provided an extensive one-year evaluation report from Dr. Greg Townley from the PSU Homeless Research & Action Collaborative. 

What the report showed is that Portland Street Response has been a resounding success after completing its initial pilot year, making significant progress on every intended outcome set for the pilot. For example, during the pilot’s operating hours in the PSR pilot service area: 

A Portland Street Response van
  • The PSR call load represented a 4% reduction in total calls that police would have traditionally responded to. 

  • PSR activity represented a 27% reduction in PPB response on non-emergency welfare checks and unwanted persons calls.   

  • PSR activity represented a reduction of 12.4% in PF&R activity on behavioral health calls and illegal burn calls. 

  • 89% of PSR calls involved no co-response with another first responder entity. PSR only requested a PPB co-response 18 times throughout their first year. 

  • PSR was able to resolve the vast majority of its calls in the field, with only 29 clients (3.2% of all calls) transported to the hospital for additional care. 

  • PSR staff engaged over 2,500 community members in outreach and engagement activities during the first year of the program. These included de-escalation trainings, door-to-door canvassing at businesses and residences to raise awareness about PSR, efforts to keep unhoused people and other community members safe during the record heatwaves of summer 2021, and community health clinics. 

  • PSR clients rated PSR 5 on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the best. 

Agreement Reached on new contract between City of Portland and Portland Police Association

City of Portland seal next to Portland Police Association Logo

In early 2022, the City of Portland and the Portland Police Association settled a four-year contract through mediation, after negotiations first began in February of 2020. Commissioner Hardesty made a promise to Portlanders the City was going to do this PPA contract differently. Over 3 years, the City took community input, provided as much transparency as labor law allowed, hired outside legal counsel with expertise in police union contracts, and brought about real change.

This included the ability to continue expanding Portland Street Response and creating a clear, fair discipline guide to provide accountability for police misconduct.

Responding to high community interest and advocacy around this contract, Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Hardesty teamed up to bring national experts to Portland for a work session on best practices in police contracts in October of 2019. In November of 2019, Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Hardesty co-hosted two “PPA Contract Community Listening Sessions” and that feedback was incorporated into a summary report by the Bureau of Human Resources.  

Negotiations for the current contract officially began in February of 2020 and the City immediately prioritized community feedback that requested a transparent bargaining process. Ground rules were negotiated that allowed all City of Portland hosted bargaining sessions to be observable to the public. The first few City hosted sessions were observable in person until the COVID-19 pandemic began. For the City to keep their commitment to transparency, a one-year extension of the contract was made while we learned more about the extent of the pandemic and developed a virtual negotiation setting. The one-year extension also allowed Portland Street Response to operate with up to 6 vans during PSR’s initial pilot phase.  

Contract negotiations resumed on January 13, 2021, with City-hosted sessions observable virtually on Zoom. A website was created to keep the public up-to-date on the latest tentative agreements, joint City-PPA statements, and additional information. On June 14th, 2021, PPA filed for mediation under a law that allows either side to file for mediation after 150 days of bargaining. 

Highlights for the new contract included a new discipline guide, allowing the continued expansion of Portland Street Response and creation of a workgroup to define issues such as call types and co-response. 

Soon after an agreement was reached, Commissioner Hardesty's staff helped host a virtual education session about the agreement with lead negotiator Steven Schuback and Chief Deputy City Attorney Heidi Brown. 

Violence Intervention Pilot Data Released, New Public Plaza Created

Commissioner Hardesty walking with a group in a park

Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Carmen Rubio, and Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association Chair Matchu Williams held a walking tour and press conference to discuss the results of the first 3 months of a multi-bureau, collaborative pilot project aiming to reduce gun violence and related vehicle speeding in the area. The pilot evaluation ranged 3 months from October – December of 2021.   

Commissioner Hardesty’s office and PBOT began the intervention, which became a collaborative effort involving PBOT, Parks & Recreation, OMF Division of Community Safety, Portland Police Bureau, and local community residents.    

Traffic Barriers
Park Ranger speaking

The evaluation results included:

  • 64% decrease in verified shootings during first 3 months of pilot project following intervention that began in October of 2021, compared to the 3 months prior to pilot project intervention   

  • Following the intervention, gun violence went down in the neighborhood compared to the city as a whole. This decrease occurred while rest of city shooting numbers remained consistent.    

  • Early design of Arleta Triangle Square
    Photo by Portland Bureau of Transportation

    72% of those responding to our survey were seeking solutions other than traditional enforcement, such as youth violence prevention outreach and creating an active, positive community space   

  • Twice as many survey respondents believed the traffic intervention reduced traffic from people escaping a shooting compared to those that didn’t perceive a difference.   

Later that evening, Commissioner Hardesty held a virtual forum to discuss the gun violence epidemic and the violence intervention pilot.

An independent investigation conducted by the Community Safety Division also concluded the pilot project showed promise, and funding was eventually secured to continue these type of interventions through the Community Crossroads Initiative.

Commissioner Hardesty at Mount Scott Arleta Triangle

During the summer of 2022, what was once a dangerous slip lane and an intersection plagued by vehicle and gun violence had been transformed into an active, positive community space - the new Arleta Triangle Square. Commissioner Hardesty was invited to join the celebration as the new plaza officially opened.

Healthy Business Outdoor Seating & Plazas Made Permanent   

Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty
Photo by PBOT

Commissioner Hardesty joined the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to announce the extension of two popular programs that were created during the COVID-19 pandemic: Healthy Business Outdoor Seating & Public Plazas. These were created to help the community continue to use street space for restaurants and community gatherings. 

Pride Plaza

Hundreds of small businesses told the City of Portland that operating outdoors was essential to their survival during the pandemic. We had seen many communities come together using our streets to create plazas as well. At the press conference, Commissioner Hardesty directed PBOT to extend these two programs and work to make them permanent. She encouraged community members to contact City Hall to show their support, and during the annual budget project funding was approved. 

Black Youth Leadership Fund Established

Responding to Black Lives Matter protests for racial justice and police accountability, Commissioner Hardesty developed a fund that invested in the leadership development of Portland’s Black youth. These community investments aimed to help close the racial inequality gap locally by providing youth opportunities for leadership and prosperity.   

Year 4 Annual Budget

Commissioner Hardesty at Council Meeting

Commissioner Hardesty’s 4th annual budget process was the least contentious throughout her term, and she gave credit to Mayor Wheeler for collaborating with Council in development.  

Some of the proposals Commissioner Hardesty was thrilled to see included in the budget were:  

  • Expanding Portland Street Response 24/7 citywide  

  • Funding to make Portland’s outdoor seating program, aka “Healthy Businesses” permanent in City Code   

  • Funding PBOT Transportation Safety Improvements   

Commissioner Hardesty’s office brought forward additional amendments that passed with Council support:  

  1. $250,000 allocated to the Sellwood Moreland Improvement League (SMILE) for SMILE Station Building Rehabilitation, which will be used to eliminate black mold and provide a new roof for this vital family resource in Southeast Portland.   

  1. Directs study on allocation of TIF district dollars to better understand the impact of these investments to ensure we are preventing displacement and gentrification.  

  2. Directs Portland Police Bureau to return to Council in 6 months with policy updates in response to recommendations from a troubling recent Audit showing PPB continues to engage in unconstitutional policing of protests  

Portland Rejoins I-5 Rose Quarter Project

Commissioner Hardesty

Commissioner Hardesty formally rejoined the City of Portland in ODOT’s I-5 Rose Quarter project, reversing the city‘s unprecedented decision to pull out of the project in 2020.  

Commissioner Hardesty, working with regional and community partners, negotiated directly with Governor Kate Brown to create the option known as Hybrid 3. The option provides 8 acres of buildable land to reconnect the Albina neighborhood and ensures variable rate pricing will limit congestion and pollution. 

  • These acres provide the kind of city street grid that other Portland neighborhoods take for granted. They reconnect North Flint Street and North Hancock Street -- two neighborhood streets that were amputated by the original construction of I-5. 

  • These acres provide a platform where we can create buildings and community spaces that bring back the neighborhood.  

With this compromise, Portland has accountability. If ODOT breaks their promises as they have in the past, this agreement makes it clear that Portland will walk away again. 

Abortion Access Increased Locally following Texas Abortion Ban

Commissioner Hardesty speaks at a rally for abortion rights

Following the draconian Texas abortion ban that could increase demand on Oregon's local providers, Commissioner Hardesty championed an effort led by Pro-Choice Oregon, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, and Northwest Abortion Access Fund to allocate funds to assist local providers, which was supported by four out of five members of Council.

In June when the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, ending the federal right to an abortion, Commissioner Hardesty called for more action and spoke at a massive downtown rally.

Local Elected Officials from Across the Country Visit Portland Street Response 

Commissioner Hardesty touring PSR van

In October, more than two dozen local elected officials, government staffers, and community leaders met with the Portland Street Response to learn from the program and identify best practices that can be adapted in their localities.

A map of recent cities that sent elected leaders to Portland to visit and learn about Portland Street Response

Participants included local elected officials from Antioch (CA), Austin, Chicago, Detroit, Durham, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Oak Park (IL), Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Rochester (NY) – each who is interested in creating or scaling a community responder program.  

Portland Street Response is one of only two citywide programs that is housed within a local government department – which experts and advocates say better promotes the creation of high-quality jobs and pay equity.  

The learning experience was hosted by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and organized by Local Progress and the Local Progress Impact Lab, which bring together local leaders, partners, and issue experts to build the knowledge, skills, and leadership needed to advance racial and economic justice at the local level. 

A large group of elected leaders and staff are sitting around tables listening and talking note to a panel discussion on the development of Portland Street Response. Commissioner Hardesty is sitting in a chair as the host of the panel. To her right is PPB Deputy Chief Frome, to her left is BOEC 911 Director Cozzie

Shortly after the visit, Portland Street Response reached additional milestones, including:

  • Portland Street Response employees unionized with PROTEC17 and membership was voluntarily recognized by Commissioner Hardesty.
  • New PSR Vans arrived.
  • A PSR Public Awareness Campaign Began
  • Movement towards Future Medicaid Reimbursement from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Which Could Save Portland Millions of Dollars.
  • Portland Street Response Year 2 Mid-Point Evaluation Report released.

Emergency Ordinance Established New School Zones, Made Safety Improvements on Southeast Powell & Beyond

PBOT staff install a new school zone
Photo by Portland Bureau of Transportation

A fatal crash on Tuesday, October 4 at SE 26th Avenue and Powell Blvd shook Portland, leading to widespread community outcry and calls for safety improvements - including jurisdictional transfer of Powell Boulevard from the state to the City of Portland. Commissioner Hardesty echoed this call in her own initial response to the tragedy. 

The crash killed Sarah Pliner, a well-respected local chef, adjacent to Cleveland High School. It happened at an intersection where PBOT and ODOT had a history of public disagreements about traffic safety. The situation led ODOT Director Kris Strickler to issue a statement on October 10, saying, "this road cannot, and should not, function as a traditional highway anymore.”

Commissioner Hardesty responded that she was optimistic PBOT and ODOT could work together as partners to make the streets around all Portland schools safer, but action could not wait.

Commissioner Hardesty introduced a resolution that was unanimously passed by Council, which:

  • Directed PBOT to install a school zone on SE 26th Avenue and requested ODOT create a school zone on SE Powell Blvd in both areas adjacent to Cleveland High School.
  • Asked ODOT to install school zones at all schools on state-owned highways in Portland.
  • Directed PBOT to pursue school zone installation at any street adjacent to a high school where the speed limit is higher than 20 mph, whether it’s a city street or state-owned highway.
  • Directed PBOT to propose additional safety improvements on other parts of SE 26th Avenue, Inner Powell and other busy state-owned streets. The bureau would use safety improvements called for in ODOT's Blueprint for Urban Design, which the state agency does not apply consistently in the Portland area.
  • Directed PBOT to study the city's freight routes and street classifications that may be leading large trucks to use SE 26th Avenue instead of streets that are wider and more appropriate.
  • Directed PBOT to work with ODOT to develop a thorough cost estimate for the improvements needed to bring Powell up to city standards for safety and maintenance, from SE 9th Avenue to I-205. Without an understanding of the true cost of transfer and a commitment to fund the full cost, a transfer will not make the road safer.
  • With a realistic cost estimate and adequate funding, these improvements could lead to a transfer of Powell to city control, using the recent transfer of 82nd Avenue as a model.

Portland Fire & Rescue Receives $2.07 million in Federal Funds to Hire New Firefighters, Fully Staff Station 23

Picture of Commissoiner Hardesty smiling in her City hall office. Next to her is a Portland Fire & Rescue radio and a hard hat labeled "Hardesty."

Persistent efforts applying for federal aid to support Portland Fire & Rescue came through in 2022. Together with Portland Fire & Rescue, City of Portland Office of Government Relations, Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Ron Wyden, Portland brought home $2.07 million in federal funds to hire 6 firefighters & fully staff station 23 in SE Portland for the 1st time in over a decade. As part of the grant agreement, Council can not cut Fire's budget for the next 3 years.

Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden once again delivered for our city, providing a needed funding boost for the Fire bureau. 

Protected bike lanes, safety & maintenance improvements coming to Cully Neighborhood on NE Killingsworth

NE Killingsworth Proposed Changes

Following extensive community outreach, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty announced that a variety of safety improvements are coming to NE Killingsworth St, from NE 53rd Avenue to Cully Boulevard - including parking protected bike lanes. 

Commissioner Hardesty requested PBOT perform more community engagement that examined additional design options following a joint letter from the advocacy organization Andando en Bicicletas y Caminando (ABC) and the Community Cycling Center. That increased engagement led to the final design.

Agreement to Begin Revitalization of O’Bryant Square

Picture of a sign that reads "O'Bryant Square"


Commissioner Hardesty signed off on an emergency procurement letter to move forward with the first step towards reopening O’Bryant Square – demolition of the current unsafe structure. The plan to proceed with the demolition follows years of collaboration between Council offices and multiple bureaus.  

For the last 2 years, Commissioner Hardesty's staff and PBOT's team have been working tirelessly in collaboration with Council offices and multiple bureaus to bring this agreement across the finish line.

With an agreement now in place, demolition is expected to start in early 2023 with hopes towards completion during the summer of 2023. This will include the removal of all hardscape and structures, filling the structure with dirt, and then covering the surface with a new layer of grass. 

Portland Parks and Recreation will begin work in early 2023 to program the new space in the near term, while designing a permanent new park long term.  

"Exit Interviews"

A cake from PBOT to Commissioner Hardesty that reads "Thank you for daring to dare"

As Commissioner Hardesty's historic term came to an end, she sat down for a number of interviews with local media to reflect on her 4 years in office. This included joining OPB's Think Out Loud, the Portland Mercury, and the Oregonian