Portland City Council Approves Unprecedented Cuts to Police Bureau, but Budget Adoption Delayed

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly votes no on the budget, saying the cuts don’t go far enough.

A march against police violence on June 10, 2020. (Mariah Harris)

In a wild ending to what was supposed to be the final hearing on the city's 2020-21 budget today, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly voted against adopting the document.

The budget included an emergency clause, which required a unanimous vote by the Portland City Council for the budget to pass.

Eudaly and all of her colleagues unanimously supported a package of amendments that collectively cut about $15 million from the Portland Police Bureau's budget.

That was an unprecedented blow to a bureau whose budget is normally sacrosanct in good times and bad. But the total cut was far less than dozens of citizens who testified before council today wanted. Over and over again, citizens beseeched the council to cut $50 million.

That testimony came on the day after hundreds of Portlanders testified on the police budget, many of them also pushing for $50 million in police cuts.

Related: Hundreds, Including Portugal the Man Guitarist Erik Howk, Demand City Council Cut Police Budget $50 Million.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty acknowledged advocates' frustration. "Passing the budget is not the end of reform," she said.

After the amendments passed, Eudaly explained why she could not vote to pass the budget.

"While I do support the amendments, these are low-hanging fruit, and I don't believe they go far enough," Eudaly told her colleagues. "This moment demands bold action, and we didn't rise to that challenge. I can't support this budget. I support these amendments but I vote no."

That unexpected move required a procedural maneuver by Mayor Ted Wheeler, who was the last to vote.

Wheeler explained he would also vote no, then ask for another vote next week to pass the budget without unanimity. So the vote on the budget containing the emergency clause failed, and Wheeler immediately asked for a vote for reconsideration. That passed unanimously—which means the budget's adoption will come back for a second reading and final vote next week. Stripped of its emergency clause, the budget can then pass on a majority vote.

The dramatic and confusing ending to the budget vote perhaps obscured the historic shift in City Hall over the past two weeks, after nightly uprisings in the streets of Portland demanded a draining of the police budget.

The Portland Police Bureau's budget is typically the last to suffer cuts. Today, it shrunk by more than 6%—and included the dissolution of the Gun Violence Reduction Team, a unit long criticized for overpolicing black communities.

Yet Eudaly's vote against the budget also signaled that few citizens who demanded change will be satisfied by what city commissioners did today. Activists have called for stripping an additional $35 million from the police budget, using that money as reparations to people of color, and changing how the city bargains with its police union. Council members say they've received more than 60,000 emails about the PPB budget, a remarkable outpouring of community anger.

Related: Demonstrators Demand Portland City Hall Make Far Deeper Cuts to Police Budget

Another march against police violence is expected tonight.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.