Dear Abby, It's about my new job.

Poor Dan Ryan. He's been on the Portland City Council for only about two months, and already he's feeling some serious heat.

Yesterday the council held a budget meeting, at which Ryan's militant colleague, Jo Ann Hardesty, proposed chopping $18 million out of the police bureau budget, with that money to be re-routed to friendlier community programs. Hardesty had Commissioner Chloe Eudaly on her side, but not Mayor F. Ted Wheeler or Commissioner Amanda Fritz. That made Ryan the swing vote.

The meeting, on Zoom of course, was heavily attended. Dozens of people spoke, most of them in support of Hardesty's resolution but some against defunding the police. The hearing went on for six hours, so long that an evening debate in the mayoral race was cancelled.

It wasn't as though Ryan could be well rested for the ordeal. A couple of dozen protesters had shown up at his house at 11:30 the night before, demanding that he stand out on his lawn for an hour in the dark, listening to their gripes about the cops.

I'm sure Ryan wished there was some sort of compromise that could be reached and the matter resolved by consensus, but that's not a thing with this council. Hardesty and Eudaly are nothing if not strident, and Wheeler and Fritz don't seem all that eager to play along with them. Ryan, the new guy in the club, is hardly in a position to bring the factions together. Complicating matters, Fritz is a lame duck with no further favor to curry with anyone, and Wheeler is on pins and needles, wondering if he is on his way out, too.

After many impassioned speeches, the council voted, 3 to 2, to put off voting on the budget for another week. Hardesty called her colleagues cowards. The lefties on Twitter ranted about recalling Ryan at the next opportunity. One of them tweeted to him: "Your political career is over." Sheesh, it just started.

If you wonder why normal people don't run for the Portland City Council, yesterday's scene supplied your answer. Poor Dan Ryan. He wanted to be on the City Council, he got it.

Interestingly, the candidate he defeated, Loretta Smith, also participated in yesterday's meeting. She's all for the defunding, apparently. It sounds like her 2022 campaign has begun.

* * * * *

The week's delay gives everyone a chance to see what happens in the election. Reform of police discipline is on the ballot in Portland, and it should pass quite handily (although the ballot measure's fate in the ensuing court action is dubious). If it doesn't succeed at the polls, that would be a signal for Ryan to go easy on the cops. But a big margin in favor of the measure might strengthen the case for Hardesty's resolution.

More important is how the mayor and council races will turn out. Will Wheeler be re-elected, or will Sarah Iannarone, who was also on hand yesterday, take his place? And will Eudaly be re-elected, or will she be ousted by Mingus Mapps? Given the fluidity in personnel, the council might decide to leave the current budget in place until the new lineup is seated in January.

Iannarone supports Hardesty's defunding plan, but Mapps, who has the support of the police union, may be expected to side with Wheeler (who is also the police commissioner) on the matter. Those anticipated positions lead to some interesting dynamics.

First, the easy scenario: If Iannarone and Eudaly both win, there are three votes in favor of defunding, at least starting in January, and it no longer matters much what Ryan thinks. But any other combination of results in the two races keeps Ryan in the spotlight. 

And another wild card to keep in mind is the fifth member of the council, Carmen Rubio, who takes over for Fritz on January 1. Rubio was formerly on the staff of the late Commissioner Nick Fish, and he was as middle-of-the-road as a politician could get. If Rubio's like her old boss, she and Ryan will want to see a compromise. But if a deal can't be worked out, Rubio and Ryan will be on twin hot seats (again, unless Iannarone and Eudaly both win, in which case, it doesn't matter what Rubio thinks, either).

For example, a lineup of Wheeler-Hardesty-Mapps would be 2 for milder reforms, 1 for defunding. A lineup of Iannarone-Hardesty-Mapps would be 2 for defunding, 1 for milder reforms. And a lineup of Wheeler-Hardesty-Eudaly would also be 2 for defunding, 1 for milder reforms. And so Ryan and Rubio could be making the final call.

I hope Rubio's neighbors have earplugs.


  1. Here's my analogy for defunding the police. Minneapolis voted to shut down its police department and they've been walking it back ever since. Some of the explanations are quite weak like when they say people didn't understand what the word "abolish" really meant. Anyway here goes:
    People need certain things to live. We can do them ourselves or we can assign a subset of society to take care of them especially if we want to live together in what is optimistically called civilization. Food to eat is one of these things. We have farmers and fishermen and factories and grocery stores to take care of it for us, and yes, they fuck up every now and then very badly. People die of food-borne illness and there are regular stories on the news saying if you bought the hot dogs with the batch number 13348462 to 13579592 then before cooking them, take the package out to the back yard and hit it 10 times with a baseball bat.
    Now if we shut down the grocery stores and the farmers, etc,...we cold eliminate these incidents where people die brutally from E coli outbreaks or whatever. However we would then have to provide food for ourselves individually because no matter what path we take, we'll need food. And we'll still have individuals dying from food mishaps. It won't completely go away. Plus it'll be a huge hassle and take a lot of time to tend to the fields or go hunting in the morning before work. It's so much more efficient to have a sector of the economy addressing it. You don't think the pioneers would have appreciated a nice restaurant?
    Okay, we also need security and protection. We have to have it. Something specific might happen like someone breaking into your house. Dealing with that threat is quite a job so eventually you'd form a little neighborhood group to patrol around to deal with the security problems that come up. That is what the police do and as with food-borne illness every now and then they fuck up badly - way too frequently for sure. By defunding them we can eliminate these incidents but we'd have to take over for the necessary things they do. We'd have to carry weapons and take down psycho killers and the like. Oh, and we'd still have shootings that seem unjustified but it'd be citizens doing them, rather than the cops. (See the case of Trayvon Martin) Not only would it be dangerous but it would take a lot of our time and remember we're also hunting and growing crops individually every day. And the same is true for healthcare or fire departments. We can eliminate the bad things these institutions do but we'd have to do them ourselves because they have to be done. We have to eat. Just look at it from an efficiency standpoint. Farming out all these tasks allows us time to do what we want. The police and the farmers both take care of basic needs and I would want no part in covering for them on these essential tasks. So my conclusion is defunding the police would be like shutting down the gorcery stores. It's a bad move. The key is to go into where these E coli outbreaks happen and try to fix the system, Accountability is the answer. Getting rid of all restaurants would be idiotic. If there is a bad one you shut it down. If cops do a brutally bad thing, you prosecute them. I'd start there. The Minneapolis city council made a big splash after they voted to abolish the police force. It turns out they hired a private security firm to provide the council with security and to handle criminal threats. Some things need to be done and there's no getting around it.


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