Commissioner Hardesty's Statement on Thursday's FY2020-21 Budget Vote

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A budget is a moral document. This is something I’ve said repeatedly since entering office in 2019. Today’s city council vote has always been about aligning our budget with our values and today, we took a step towards that realignment and towards collectively re-envisioning of what community safety can look like through our budget. That took the form of divesting funds from the Portland Police Bureau budget and reallocating the funds for our communities and police alternatives. This includes:

✅ Defunding the Gun Violence Reduction Team (GVRT)
✅ Defunding the School Resource Officers (SROs)
✅ Defunding the Transit Police unit
✅ Eliminating the 8 new positions in Special Emergency Reaction Team
✅ Stop using Cannabis Tax Funds to fill funding gaps for the Traffic Division
✅ Reallocating $4.8 million from defunding the specialty units to fund Portland Street Response
✅ Reallocating $1 million from PPB funds for Black youth leadership development
✅ Reallocating $1 million for houseless community participatory budgeting

These divestments total to $15 million from the Portland Police Bureau, freeing these funds for police alternatives like Portland Street Response and community investments. In conjunction with the 5.6% across the board cuts directed by the Mayor earlier this year, these proposals total to $27 million in cuts to the bureau. At the end of the day, this budget vote can’t be reduced a simple battle over individual specialty units. Instead, I see it as a direct result of our first round of examinations of the entire system of policing. The work continues as I co-lead a group to conduct a full review of all of PPB’s specialty units and offer recommendations for council action.

In two short weeks we’ve been able to shift public discourse and set in motion some major policy decisions I’ve been working on for decades thanks to all the Portlanders who showed up on the streets, our email inboxes (63,000 emails and counting), and our virtual city council meetings. During the last two days, we heard over 700 community members testify, and what I heard repeatedly was this: There is a desire and demand for us to do something different. This call has filled my heart to the brim.

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.

The road to systemic change neither begins nor ends with this budget. In fact, we have a lot more work to do that has absolutely nothing to do with the budget to address the centuries of systemic racism and the harm it’s inflicted on our BIPOC communities. That doesn’t mean this is the last time we will review the bureau’s budget or invest in our Black community.

I also want to address what happened towards the end of the vote today: While my colleague can take a principled “no” stance on passing this budget, I as a Black woman cannot. I have spent countless hours moving my colleagues to support what I’ve proposed. Last year I proposed only half of what was brought to the table this year, and did not receive one single vote in support, including hers. This included my proposal to defund the Gun Violence Reduction Team and reallocate those funds to save 50+ Parks jobs and support community centers, which was also a demand from the community.

My cannabis amendment for this year’s budget, which she also did not support, would have cut an additional 23 positions in the bureau. That’s why we are only seeing 84 positions rather than 107 positions cut. We keep hearing the need to be bold, yet that boldness did not manifest in this moment, nor did it manifest last year.

I do not want to let this detract from the very real steps taken, but it is an important reminder on what performative allyship looks like. While we are making strides in realigning our budget with our values, this “no” vote does nothing to materially support our BIPOC communities. All this does is delay the much-needed relief for our communities and continues to allow these units to exist for that much longer.

Given that, I am ultimately proud of what we have been able to do with this budget.

Because there is some confusion on what this means, I want to offer a process clarification: Because the budget vote was an "emergency item", it required all four votes to pass. Due to one "no" vote, Council will meet next week on Wednesday to vote and adopt the final budget.

Thank you to the many Portlanders who showed up for this step. Thank you to my colleagues for being willing to take this step with the community. My staff and I are taking Friday off to rest, and then we’re back at it on Monday. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and this has been a heck of a long marathon for me and many others in the Black community.