This year’s Budget has been one of the most challenging and most moving processes I have been a part of during my 12 years on Council. Thank you, Jessica Kinard and your team in the City Budget Office for your nimble response to assist the Council in navigating the budget changes associated with two public health crises: the acute one of COVID-19 and the ongoing chronic one of systemic racism.
I vote today in support of Commissioner Hardesty’s amendments which are informed by her decades of advocacy work and are responsive to the concerns the community has shared regarding policing – specifically, our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities. I appreciate Mayor Wheeler’s affirmation of the amendments and his courage in continuing to lead us despite the personal tragedy in his family this week. I vote today to recognize and elevate the Portland African American Leadership Forum’s and Unite Oregon’s recommendations. I listened to your helpful input in our meeting yesterday, and now I am voting to begin implementing your action plan. Thank you for your leadership in our community, and your guidance to me.
Yesterday’s hearing and today’s votes center on new approaches to public safety – so that the term will mean safety for the most vulnerable and historically oppressed communities in Portland as well as for those of us with white privilege. I support our new Police Chief Lovell in leading the process of redefining what community safety looks like. For the remainder of my term, I am committed to continuing to uplift the voices and needs of Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities, the LGBTQ+ community, people experiencing mental illness and people with disabilities. I will work alongside you toward a local government that is inclusive of your needs and experiences.
The time is now to rethink how we keep our community safe.
The time is now to put our money where our mouth is and dedicate more resources to supporting the health, safety, and economic prosperity of our Black and Indigenous communities.
The time is now to begin dismantling the systems and structures that are in our way as we move towards achieving a more equitable and just society.
After this budget vote, we must forge ahead with the same determination we’ve seen over the past two weeks. As we begin work to implement the changes adopted today, my colleagues and I will be engaged in additional efforts to be responsive to demonstrators and advocates. Specifically, in the police contract bargaining and in advocacy at the State Capitol to support legislation that is necessary to make statewide and local police accountability possible. As the law stands today, the City of Portland doesn’t have the authority to change practices we agree are abhorrent. The People of Color caucus, nine legislators of color, will be leading the push at the state level. Even if you know your Representative and Senator are on board with the necessary changes, please contact your legislators to encourage bold, swift action.
Guiding the Council through these efforts and everything we do is the shared responsibility to ask, over and over again, how our decisions address the root cause of the problem, and whether the communities we aim to lift up are better off because of our decisions.
I appreciate my colleagues’ support for my amendments today directing additional resources for the Tribal Liaison program and the Office of Equity and Human Rights program on Civil Rights Title 6, and I am grateful the Mayor and Council supported funding for the new accountability and reporting position in the Office of Equity in previous votes. Dr. Markisha Smith has demonstrated her strong, insightful leadership and will continue to guide all City staff, including me.
My staff and I will continue to elevate the work of our City bureaus and the efforts of City employees who are centering their programs and practices on racial equity and social justice outcomes. We know that policing is but a single piece of a much larger system of oppression, felt most acutely by the Black community, Indigenous community, and communities of color in Portland and across our country. Change starts from within. My staff and I are committed to acting on policy that fosters belonging for those who have been intentionally left out and oppressed for centuries.
Some Portlanders are struggling to understand why we are making reductions in the Police Bureau. Some of the 65,000 emails and hundreds of phone calls to our offices are from people opposing cuts in the Police Bureau budget. To those folks, I ask you to hear and consider that interactions with police officers have caused individual and collective harm and trauma, as so many people in our community have testified. We also know that policing is experienced differently in some neighborhoods and in some communities. I invite you to consider and keep an open mind to what a new public safety model could offer not only to Black Portlanders, but to all Portlanders.
I acknowledge that, as a white person and City leader, my experience, my burdens and grief are not the same as that of my Black colleagues and Black Portlanders. Yet my response, in policy and in supporting justice and community healing, joins a collective one. I stand with Black community members here in Portland and nationwide and proudly join my colleagues on Council, Mayor Wheeler, Commissioner Hardesty, and Commissioner Eudaly in saying: I see you, I hear you, and the time is now to take the important steps directed by this Budget.