The two candidates to succeed late City Commissioner Nick Fish, Loretta Smith and Dan Ryan, agree on many things. But this week, Smith, a former two-term Multnomah County commissioner, and Ryan, the former executive director of the educational nonprofit All Hands Raised, diverged on a question that also split the Portland City Council last week: How much to cut the Portland Police Bureau budget.

Last week, commissioners say, they received tens of thousands of emails and heard from hundreds of constituents through public testimony on the police budget. Many of those people wanted a $50 million cut in the PPB budget. When the council voted on amendments June 11, however, a majority supported $15 million in cuts, while Commissioner Chloe Eudaly supported the larger number, $50 million.

Here's the question we asked: "Many citizens asked the council to cut the PPB budget by $50 million, yet the council voted 3-1 to make cuts of about $15 million. If you had voted last week as a member of the council, which level of cuts would you have supported—$15 million or $50 million—and why?"

Dan Ryan: "I would have voted in support of the $15 million in cuts to the Portland Police Bureau. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and many others have been working with community groups on police reform for years, and last week's budget vote came directly from that work. Ending the Gun Violence Reduction Team; barring police from enforcing fares on TriMet, which has led to unnecessary and in some cases unlawful arrests; and terminating the school resource officer program are significant steps that should not be diminished.

"It is important to remember that this was the first vote on the subject of police reforms, but not the last. I look forward to working with my future colleagues and our community to further reform our police force to fundamentally transform our sworn officers into community guardians, not a militarized force at war with community members."

Commissioner Loretta Smith. (Walker Stockly)
Commissioner Loretta Smith. (Walker Stockly)

Loretta Smith: "I believe the redirection of $50 million from the FY 2020-21 Portland Police Bureau Budget is a strong first step towards reimagining our local public safety system. If I were on the Portland City Council right now, we would have the three votes necessary to do just that.

"Having served as a Multnomah County commissioner, I understand what it takes to get three votes to move an amendment, so I understand why Commissioner Hardesty wanted to nail down the reform efforts she knew she had the votes to pass. If we look back to a few weeks ago, the political will was not there to accomplish what she was able to pull off last week. I also understand Commissioner Eudaly's principled vote in protest of the lack of support for broader cuts that black and brown leaders across our city are calling for. With those things in mind, there is still a lot more work to do either way.

"I believe $50 million is a good first step not just because we need to drastically rethink how we keep our community safe, but also because we are in the middle of a global pandemic where social service programs are being slashed and our community is financially burdened in a way unlike anything we've seen since the Great Depression. I would rather be spending our limited resources to ensure that no person or family goes hungry or becomes homeless as a result of COVID-19, not on growing a militarized police force that has historically disproportionately harmed communities of color, especially black and brown men."