My remarks regarding the Council's decision to extend the collective bargaining agreement between the City of Portland and the Portland Police Association for one year to allow public participation in the bargaining process:
Thank you Commissioner Hardesty for your leadership and for explaining very clearly why we are making this decision together. Thank you for acknowledging the difference between being a community advocate and a City commissioner. I feel so blessed to have a community advocate and city commissioner who is able to lead this work with such dignity and thoughtful, careful evaluation and quite frankly cred. You’ve got the cred.
Thank you Mayor Wheeler for you partnership, and Cathy Bless and the City Attorney’s office for your work on it, and everyone who has been calling and emailing our offices. I have linked Commissioner Hardesty’s rational for the collective decision we took today to extend the PPA contract – I want people to really listen to what Commissioner Hardesty is saying. To me, what she is saying and proposing makes a lot of sense.
And to those who are saying that we can fix everything by going to the ballot to pass something to change the Charter: It doesn’t work that way. This is the epitome of systemic racism, institutional racism, the way the law is set up. We changed the Charter in 2012 to acknowledge that there are 52 weeks in a year, and therefor 26 paychecks rather than 27 in some years. It was overwhelmingly accepted voters. The Police union, the Police Officers Union and the Firefighters Unions all appealed it, and it was overturned in arbitration. That just shows the preeminence of contract law and property law - and those who’ve owned this country and controlled the legal agenda for centuries – when we want to make radical changes to a legal foundation that was never meant to serve the masses and the vulnerable. And so we are not going to be able to change that by a ballot measure, and we might not be able to change that by force either, not by violence on the streets.
What we are going to have to do, with the leadership of Commissioner Hardesty and Mayor Wheeler, is change hearts and minds. And negotiate changes that are in the interest of the public and inherently in the interest of police officers. They must realize that changes need to happen to rebuild trust with the community and heal the relationships with those they serve. The contract at this point is not doing Police any favors. Some of the elements in there, such as not being able to embarrass officers by saying who has been responsible for various things that have been found wrong…that’s not how it works for people who are having their mug shot posted and that’s not how it works for people who are found to have done wrong in the criminal justice system.
We have four people on the Council committed to this process right now and we have a community that is paying attention that is wanting to see changes. We have to be really careful in how we go about making those changes so that they stick. The last thing we want to do is to get something that we think is going to solve the problem and then it doesn’t. That means you take the time.
As we’ve learned from the Indigenous peoples, it’s worth taking the time. We also learned this from the Youth last night during the Climate Emergency Declaration – it’s worth taking the time, doing things carefully and with community participation. That’s why we’re extending this contract and not letting it expire because then we would lose so many of the values we want to pursue.