Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was the lone vote against the city's $5.6 billion budget this year. After public drama, Mayor Ted Wheeler's third budget passed easily, though without the unanimous vote of the past two years.
Hardesty, elected last November, didn't play by the traditional rules at City Hall during budget season, which involve compromise and quiet negotiation.
But unlike earlier in her tenure, when she wrested a majority of votes from the mayor, this time she failed to garner the three votes necessary to pass an amendment to preserve jobs at Portland Parks and Recreation. Roughly 50 positions at the parks bureau are slated to be cut as part of the budget.
In the first few months of her tenure at City Hall, Hardesty tackled two high-profile issues—the city's policy on unreinforced masonry buildings and withdrawal from the Joint Terrorism Task Force—and demonstrated that she could put together the votes necessary to beat the mayor. This time she took a more hard-line, uncompromising and losing position.
In part, that's because Hardesty is coming late to a longer-term discussion of the budget gap at parks, which the other commissioners believed could no longer be addressed simply by finding one-time funding to patch over, as has been done in years past.
It may also be an indication that the majority of City Council is more conservative than Hardesty, and unwilling to de-fund police—or make policy changes at police bureau—even in the face of criticisms that the Gun Violence Reduction Team may still be disproportionately targeting people of color.
To be sure, Hardesty succeeded in championing some potentially dramatic changes to the city's response to homelessness, including funding for a consultant to the Bureau of Emergency Communications to prepare for having a nurse on-hand to address less-critical calls to 911, as well as an effort to develop a street response team to homeless people, as championed by the newspaper Street Roots.
But in the end, the mayoral meltdown on Wednesday in which Wheeler insulted his colleagues had no immediate impact on their votes.
Hardesty's fellow commissioners on Thursday were careful and complimentary while voting down her amendments to fund parks with a cut and a transfer of funds from police or, alternatively, a freeze in wages to parks employees making $80,000 or more and not represented by a union.
(Commissioner Chloe Eudaly did vote for Hardesty's effort to disband the gun violence reduction team, as "protest" vote, though it failed 3-to-2.)
Hardesty pulled no punches in the midst of the discussion: "There are not two sides to this," she said. "There is justice; there is fairness."
After the passage of the budget, she released a statement continuing to press her point:
"I'm incredibly disappointed council did not vote to save dozens of Parks jobs despite community-wide outcry over the cuts. Cutting jobs of the dedicated frontline workers and closing community centers is not how we support our people. Continuing to fund a police team that disproportionately targets people of color is not how we support our people."