In a virtual press conference this afternoon, Mayor Ted Wheeler struck a contrite tone as he discussed his recent performance leading the city.
"I have been trying to do too much and I've been trying to do it alone," Wheeler said. "I have not been focused enough."
Wheeler said he will meet with members of the Portland Police Bureau tonight and with leaders of the business community tomorrow to push forward on what he defined as his two immediate goals: "ending the nightly violence and getting the community back on its feet; and economic recovery in this city."
"I take personal responsibility for not finding ways to address these issues," he said.
Although Wheeler repeatedly emphasized his support for peaceful protest and for the Black Lives Matter movement, he expressed frustration with what he termed the "violent acts of a few dozen."
"Enough is enough," Wheeler said.
There are at least two subtexts to today's comments by Wheeler, who is running for reelection.
First, his opponent on the November ballot, Sarah Iannarone, who is running to Wheeler's left, appeared on KGW's Straight Talk on Aug. 7. In an interview with host Laural Porter, Iannarone said, "Peaceful protests, in my opinion, might not necessarily be moving the conversation forward." She later walked that back, saying in a subsequent statement to KGW, "Criminal activity is illegal and, of course, I don't condone it."
Wheeler's reelection campaign is sputtering, and Iannarone has pounded him on social media, so his remarks today offered a chance to draw a contrast between himself and her.
Second, Wheeler's pledge to throw his energy into cleaning up downtown and restarting the economy comes after a blistering letter last week from Greg Goodman, a major downtown property owner, expressing frustration with City Hall's failure to help downtown businesses. Others echoed Goodman's frustrations in a follow-up story in The Oregonian today.
In addition to ending destructive protests, Wheeler said he wants to find ways to hold the Police Bureau accountable in real time. He noted that once citizens lodge complaints against officers with Independent Police Review, he as police commissioner may ultimately have to decide on discipline for incidents that he may no longer be briefed on or be allowed to comment about.
The mayor also addressed widespread concerns that police stood by on Saturday as one or more right-wing protesters brandished guns during confrontations with left-wing demonstrators.
Alan swinney pulls a gun on the crowd. No shots fired. pic.twitter.com/f0jKX6nmNv— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) August 22, 2020
"Nobody can look at those videos and say it doesn't raise a whole bunch of questions," Wheeler said. "There is no circumstance under which that is acceptable or appropriate."
He said the videos raised questions about whether police are being given appropriate direction or adequate resources.
Wheeler pledged to announce specific actions in coming days that he and the City Council will take to help downtown businesses get back on their feet as well as help renters facing eviction.
But as to whether he supports large cuts to the Police Bureau budget that might satisfy some protesters or pay for other services, Wheeler said he remains unconvinced that deep cuts to the bureau are a good idea without carefully constructed alternatives.
"A lot of people don't trust the police. We have to own it and do better," Wheeler said. "[But] I don't support just completely getting rid of the Police Bureau until you tell me what we replace it with. Nobody has made a good case that abolition of funding for policing will allow a person who calls 911 at 3 am to get a response."