City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty Defends Her Role in Safety at Dawson Park

Hardesty has argued that Portland’s rampant gunfire can be quelled by means other than police. So why not use such a strategy in the Eliot neighborhood?

BABY SHARKS: Backpacks on display at a table in Dawson Park. (Brian Brose)

As she seeks to retain her seat on the Portland City Council, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is trying to fend off a narrative that she is unresponsive to a spike in violent crime.

Portland’s rising crime stats place Hardesty in a difficult position because she was elected as an outspoken critic of the Portland Police Bureau—and has spent much of her energy in office pursuing greater accountability for violent cops and trying to send someone other than armed officers to the scene of people in distress.

Hardesty has argued that Portland’s rampant gunfire can be quelled by means other than police. For evidence, she points to a pilot project she launched in the Mount Scott-Arleta neighborhood. The Portland Bureau of Transportation, which Hardesty oversees, used traffic-calming devices to slow the flow of vehicles on streets that had seen significant gun violence.

This month, Hardesty visited WW’s office for an endorsement interview and cited that success story. We asked her why she wasn’t replicating the strategy elsewhere.

Specifically, reporter Sophie Peel asked why Hardesty’s office had rebuffed entreaties from residents of the Eliot neighborhood, which had sought to divert traffic away from an open-air drug market near Dawson Park.

WW reported last month that Hardesty’s office played a key role in discussions surrounding the park, which is cherished by Black Portlanders but plagued by nearby drug sales and gun violence. Emails obtained by WW showed that PBOT told neighbors they needed to bring in more Black voices before it would make any changes.

In this clip, Hardesty responds to Peel’s question about whether she took the right approach at Dawson Park.

“That request did not come to my office,” she said. Documents showed it had.

Watch the full exchange here:

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