Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Does Not Have the Votes Secured for His High-Profile Public Safety Ordinance

The ordinance for which Wheeler has sought national attention is not guaranteed to pass.

Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer protesters geared up in helmets, elbow pads and shin guards to prepare for battle on Portland’s waterfront. (Liz Allan)

Portland Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Chloe Eudaly are opposed to the high-profile ordinance that Mayor Ted Wheeler has filed to block the clashes between dueling protesters in the streets of Portland, say their chiefs of staff.

A third colleague—City Commissioner Nick Fish—hasn't taken a position.

"Commissioner Fish is looking forward to the hearing and a discussion on Thursday and has not taken a position on the proposal," says Fish's chief of staff, Sonia Schmanski.

The opposition of two commissioners means the ordinance can't pass as an emergency measure Nov. 8, as Mayor Ted Wheeler had planned. An emergency ordinance requires a unanimous vote of the council, with at least four members in attendance. Wheeler doesn't have that—which means his proposal won't go into effect on Thursday.

"This is an urgent and necessary tool," says Wheeler in a statement. "I am hopeful the Commissioners will see that the Protest Safety Ordinance not only protects 1st Amendment rights but at the same time creates common sense guidelines that aims to prevent violence and protect the public's safety.

"If we don't have the votes to pass, I would be willing to take off the emergency clause," Wheeler adds. "That would make it a regular ordinance. That means, the hearing would be treated as a first reading and then it would pass to a second reading ('a vote') as early as the following week."

But the larger question is whether the high-profile effort will pass at all. That will require three of five votes. (The fifth vote, City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, has said he supports the ordinance.)

It's an unusual choice for a mayor or commissioner to bring a high-profile resolution to City Council without having at least three votes lined up.

Related: Portland Mayor Goes on NBC News to Tout His Plan to Keep Brawling Protesters Apart

Wheeler has at times engaged in brinksmanship with the rest of City Council, including during the budget negotiations when he did not have the votes for the increases to the police budget he proposed. Ultimately, he succeeded in passing a budget with significant increases. A similar outcome here is possible but not guaranteed.

The ordinance is designed to address the clashes between Patriot Prayer and Antifa that have been repeatedly taken place in Portland streets. It will require groups that have a history of violence to gather in areas designated by police.

The mayor has faced criticism from civil rights groups.

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