PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Portland city commissioners on Wednesday voted to spend an unexpected budget surplus on police and getting people living on the streets into shelter beds, among other priorities.
The $62 million surplus comes largely from tax revenues collected from big corporations that did well during the earlier stages of the pandemic.
Homeless issues and a drastic and devastating increase in gun violence has plagued the city in the last couple of years.
Commissioners unanimously voted to spend more than $7 million on putting more officers back on the streets, body cameras for police accountability and new training and hiring programs.
Three of the four commissioners and Mayor Ted Wheeler were enthusiastic in their “yes” votes, while Commissioner Joann Hardesty expressed her reluctance to approve of the spending proposal.
Hardesty, a vocal critic of the police bureau and a proponent of alternative public safety strategies, like the Portland Street Response Team that she spearheaded, said in the meeting that she doesn’t think that hiring more police officers will keep the city safer.
Neighbors in Mt. Scott, however, told Fox 12 that they want to see the city’s police force bolstered, citing an explosion of shootings in their neighborhood over the last two years.
Brian Belefant said he would hear an average of three shootings a week over the summer and earlier this fall.
Belefant said he felt safer living in Los Angeles and New York City than he does now.
“I never experienced what I’m experiencing now, with people driving on my street, in front of my house, shooting,” Belefant said.
Several neighbors in Mt Scott told Fox 12 that they want faster response times for police during emergencies and more officers present in the area to help prevent crime and violence.
Belefant said he supports more funding for the Portland Police Bureau.
One organization that doesn’t want to further fund police is the Portland chapter of the NAACP.
The organization put out a statement saying it would rather see the city invest in, “holistic community solutions that make us safer.”
“They wanted to see money going toward eviction prevention,” said Donovan Smith, the 2nd Vice-President of Portland’s NAACP. “They wanted to see fines waived for black homeowners. They want to see a focus on our youth and funding going toward things that keep them safe.”
Another big portion of the spending package is aimed at helping people experiencing homelessness. The more than $18 million will go toward new shelter beds and housing assistance, among other programs.
The funding will also expand the Portland Street Response Team.