Portland Leaders Agree To Spend Millions More For Police, Homelessness And Garbage Collection

Portland City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a $ 44 million spending plan to bolster police and public safety, help people living on the streets, and clean up the garbage and debris generated at campsites across the city.

Mayor Ted Wheeler and city commissioners made the 5-0 decision amid growing frustration over a worsening homelessness crisis, record shootings and homicides and trash that continues to s ‘align with commercial and residential blocks.

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of residents have submitted written and public testimonies to town hall, denouncing what they have described as a rise in disorder and despair.

[Read: Portland to spend $500,000 on benches to stop homeless from camping near parks]

“There are many avenues for improvement,” said Wheeler, “but the unifying feeling throughout these testimonies was an overwhelming need for meaningful and immediate action.”

But even as the massive infusion of cash aims to address some of Portland’s most pervasive and controversial issues, the city’s leaders have recognized its limitations.

“This budget does not solve everything,” said Commissioner Carmen Rubio. “We need to focus on inequalities and systemic issues. There is so much more work to be done. “

Portland officials learned last month that the city expected a windfall of $ 62 million, mostly from a local business tax on large businesses

Elected leaders and their staff spent the following weeks crafting a spending proposal mostly behind closed doors.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who led efforts last year to cut the Portland Police Office by $ 15 million amid the city’s racial justice protests, criticized what she called her ” lack of process, transparency and public engagement “at Wednesday’s board meeting.

Its vote in favor of the final proposal came with deep reservations and choice words for some of its core components.

“I don’t want to deceive the public. Nothing we do today will change conditions on the streets overnight, ”said Hardesty. “Trying to mitigate crime by adding police officers is one of the most expensive, least effective and least urgent responses the council could have taken. “

The spending plan authorizes more than $ 7 million to rehire 25 retired police officers, purchase body cameras and boost recruitment to attract 200 more sworn officers and 100 unarmed public safety specialists over the next three years.

An additional $ 19 million would go to a joint City of Portland and Multnomah County plan to create hundreds of additional shelter beds, increase the number of awareness and behavioral health teams that help people living on the streets and double the size of a municipal program tasked with removing garbage from unauthorized camps and often sweeping its residents.

Meanwhile, the remaining funds would go to dozens of additional municipal projects and programs. They include money to expand Portland Street Response, a program that provides non-police assistance to people who are homeless or in mental health crisis.

“We are doing what we can,” said Commissioner Dan Ryan, who urged Portlanders to show compassion and patience. “Support with us, help us re-establish the connection between head and heart, and together, let us remember what the soul of our city is. “

– Shane Dixon Kavanaugh; 503-294-7632

Email to [email protected]

Follow on Twitter @shanedkavanaugh

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