“Our business has historically been in trying to build the best bike network possible, but our work is meaningless if public space is not safe for everyone.”
— Bike Loud PDX co-chairs
A storm of daily protests inspired by the murder of George Floyd have ratcheted up pressure for major changes at the Portland Police Bureau. And some local transportation reform advocates refuse to sit on the sidelines.
From fare enforcement on TriMet to enforcing traffic laws (or not), police officers have a vast impact on how people get around — especially people of color. Put simply: Transportation reform cannot happen without police reform and the dismantling of racist law enforcement.
“As advocates for safer streets we would be remiss to ignore the violence caused not just by drivers, but at the hands of police,” wrote Bike Loud co-chairs Catie Gould and RJ Sheperd in a letter to Mayor Ted Wheeler and city commissioners today. “For all Portland residents to enjoy the fruits of a better transportation system, Black Portlanders need to be able to freely exist in and enjoy public spaces without fear of being harassed, criminalized, or physically harmed by law enforcement.”
“Our business has historically been in trying to build the best bike network possible, but our work is meaningless if public space is not safe for everyone,” they continued.
Bike Loud wants City Council to vote to re-allocate General Fund dollars away from the PPB and toward other priorities. The PPB budget sucks up about 33% of Portland’s total General Fund allocation ($236 million out of $719 million) while a host of vital community needs are perennially underfunded.
Oregon Walks, whose leader Jess Thompson made strong statements last week about the need to tear down white supremacy, said her group is also in full support of calls to “defund police” which has become a rallying cry for a host of sweeping changes that would re-imagine how community safety and service is delivered. “Oregon Walks remains committed to leaning in to our racial equity learning and practice — including how to see and disrupt anti-blackness,” the organization said in an email yesterday.
This Wednesday June 10th Portland City Council is slated to hear testimony on the 2020-2021 budget. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is expected to propose an amendment that would eliminate funding for three PPB special units that have a legacy of unfair policing against people of color: School Resource Officers, the Gun Violence Reduction Task Force, and Transit Police. Hardesty has Commissioner Chloe Eudaly firmly in her corner and with just four members of council they only need one more vote to wipe these units and their $14.4 million from the books.
Some change is already happening: Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero announced last week he’d pull nine school resource officers out of schools. This morning Mayor Wheeler announced that Jamie Resch would voluntarily step down so that Chuck Lovell, an African-American with deep roots in north and northeast Portland, could become the new chief.
PAALF’s long list of demands would go way beyond shuffling leadership and cutting a few small units. They want, “democratic community control over safety and justice systems rooted in restoration and healing.” Among their asks are a $50 million reduction in the PPB budget, a reduction in the size of the force, an end to “militarized” protest response, and more.
If you want to make your voice heard about these issues, please email or call the mayor and council members: Mayor Ted Wheeler, firstname.lastname@example.org, 503-823-4120; Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Amanda@portlandoregon.gov, 503 823-3008; Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, email@example.com, 503-823-4682; and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, firstname.lastname@example.org, 503-823-4151.
You can register for the June 10th council session via Zoom here.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.