On the eve of a vote on the city of Portland's budget, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is again pressing for a way to limit the number of layoffs at Portland Parks and Recreation.
Her latest idea to amend the mayor's budget: a one-time freeze in the wages of employees who are not represented by a union at the bureau, which she says would save nearly $2.4 million and approximately 45 jobs.
She suggests alternatively that funding to save the jobs could come from the Portland Police Bureau—with savings from vacancies as well as eliminating the planned program for police cameras.
Her efforts appear more likely to highlight her principled position on the issue than to result in changes to the budget.
That's in contrast to earlier this year, when Hardesty led a coalition of two other commissioners to pass key policies the mayor opposed: withdrawing the city from the Joint Terrorism Task Force and delaying the city's requirements to disclose when a building is unreinforced masonry. (She also voted with two other commissioners on disciplining a police officer.)
But on this proposal she appears isolated, even as she continues to push forward ideas that show the latitude the city has with a constrained budget.
"Our budget is a moral document, and in no way can I vote yes for a raise at the expense of 56 people's lives," Hardesty says in a statement. "There is a fundamental issue if council votes to increase our own wages, at the same time when 56 people are slated to lose their jobs. Although I know that there are many hard working city employees that deserve this increase, many of these increases live at the higher end of the city's salary scale—while these layoffs live at the bottom."
She also continues to push for getting rid of the Gun Violence Reduction Team (formerly the Gang Enforcement Task Force) within the Police Bureau in favor of sending the officers on patrol.
"From small business owners to community members, many have made clear their concerns in police response time due to the force being stretched thin," Hardesty says in a statement. "If the team is not effective in meeting its stated purpose but exists at the community's expense, I say it's time for it to be defunded and officers move back to patrol, where they're most needed."