Dozens of red-shirt clad Democratic Socialists of America packed into Portland City Hall on Thursday evening at the city's final budget forum to protest Mayor Ted Wheeler's spending proposal.
Since the beginning of April, the group has been showing up at forums in attempts to influence discussions with their Tax the Rich plan—a tiered tax on the incomes of Portland's wealthiest residents.
The plan starts at a 2 percent tax on incomes above $250,000, and goes up to an 8 percent tax on individual incomes that exceed $1 million.
Portland DSA—which has grown from five members in 2016 to 800 today—played a part in the historic unionization of a Burgerville restaurant, and is aiming for bigger policy victories.
At the May 10 forum, DSA members also objected Wheeler's proposal to use city funds to increase the Portland police force. (On May 9, Wheeler reduced the proposal for new police force hires from 58 to 49 while carving out additional Parks & Recreation funding.)
"We insist on a budget that actually takes into consideration the hundreds of people who attended the city budget forums," Abigail Lopez-Gay, the chair of Portland State University's Young Democratic Socialists of America group said at the forum.
Portland DSA member Keith Guthrie added, "We demand a local income tax on the wealthiest residents of the city. Corporations will pay as much as we the people demand they pay."
The Tax the Rich plan does not have the support of the Mayor, or any other city commissioners.
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly—who at an April 17 forum noted, "we may be precluded from establishing a city tax at the state level"— tried to appease to the young, socialist-heavy crowd by underscoring her support of the Portland Clean Energy Fund, a tax that could appear on the November ballot.
PCEF is a gross receipts tax on large corporations, like Walmart and Starbucks, that do business in Portland which would go toward funding renewable energy projects.
"I'm absolutely committed to fighting for everyone to pay their fair share," Eudaly said. "We certainly know that large corporations and many wealthy people in our community aren't. That is why I support the Portland Clean Energy Fund, despite threats from big business that they are going to mobilize against me at my next election.
"I'm definitely interested in the tax that you are suggesting," she added, "so set up a meeting with my office and let's start talking."
Currently, DSA is preparing mobilize its roughly 370 active volunteers to gather signatures for PCEF—which needs 34,156 voter signatures to make it on the November ballot.