Hardesty checks in for a makeover

Jo Ann "With the Bullhorn" Hardesty is running for re-election to the Portland City Council – with the taxpayers bankrolling her campaign, of course – and somebody must have shown her a poll showing she's going to lose. And so now she's trying to rehabilitate her broken-down image with tall tales about what she has and hasn't done in her three years in office. Mostly she's put down her megaphone and is painting herself as a moderate, and a successful one at that.

As far as I can see, this started a few weeks ago when she suddenly started praising the one-sided police union contract, which gains nothing for the public on any important issue but hands out big raises and bonuses to a police force that by most measures is not getting its job done. You'd think she'd focus on the contract's many shortcomings – that's what she would have done a year or two ago – but no. Today it's all fine, and by the way, it's thanks to her.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who has championed the Portland Street Response program, praised the citywide expansion and also said the contract creates a “clear, fair discipline guide to provide accountability for police misconduct.”

“I made a promise to Portlanders we were going to do this contract differently. Over the last 3 years, we took in significant community input, provided as much transparency as labor law allowed, hired outside legal counsel with expertise in police union contracts, and now we have real change,” she said in a statement. “While no single contract negotiation will bring about all the changes I personally would like to see, I’m proud that my office’s deep engagement led to a better process and outcomes.” 

Hardesty followed this up the other day with some tweets that attempted to rewrite her history as the most anti-police city commissioner Portland has ever seen. 

All through the long, hot summer of 2020 and for quite a while thereafter, she denounced the police force as racist and brutal, which is largely true of course, and she led the charge to defund various police units in favor of lunacy like two dozen new park rangers. But the new Hardesty suggestion is that her budget cuts weren't really all that significant, so let's forget them.

What actually happened was:

During [2020]’s protests, Portlanders called for $50 million to be cut from the department budget, with the money going to community-driven initiatives.

The City Council responded by cutting $15 million. An additional $12 million was cut due to pandemic-caused economic shortfalls. As a result, school resource officers, transit police and a gun violence reduction team — which was found to disproportionately target Black Portland residents during traffic stops, according to an audit in March 2018 — were disbanded.

Here was Hardesty's posture in the June of 2020, when the riots were just getting going:

Most of the council has been outspoken about the changes they plan on introducing. Early in the week, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said she wanted to defund school resource officers and the gun violence reduction team, eliminate eight positions on the SERT, stop the flow of cannabis tax funds to the police, and redirect nearly $5 million from the police bureau’s budget toward the Portland Street Response.

On Wednesday, Hardesty also said she wanted to introduce an amendment that would set aside $1 million for a Black leadership development program run by Black youth.

Hardesty remarked that in her three decades as an activist, in which she’s worked with 14 police chiefs and eight police commissioners, this feels like the first time the city appeared on the precipice of fundamental change.

“I can assure you the culture within the Portland Police Bureau has not changed one iota,” she said. “The changes that are going to be proposed by my colleagues, by Commissioner Eudaly by our incredible police commissioner Ted Wheeler will start the process of reimagining what community safety looks like.”

Hardesty said she was grateful to the mayor for the work he’d put in over the last two weeks to enact police reforms. The mayor has already announced he will pull armed guards from schools, defund the gun violence reduction team, and end the Police Bureau’s transit division — all changes long sought by Hardesty. Wheeler has also asked that $7 million from the police bureau’s budget and $5 million from city funds be redirected toward communities of color.

When they passed the resolution cutting out the police programs, the mayor and his then-colleague, Nurse Amanda Fritz, went out of their way to give Hardesty the credit. Fritz even cried a little.

Here was Hardesty last summer on the national news:

Last week, 50 police officers who volunteered for the city’s specialized crowd control unit resigned en masse from the rapid response team, citing a lack of support from city leaders. The move to disband the unit came one day after Portland Officer Cody Budworth was indicted and accused of striking a protester in the head last summer with a baton. It marked the first time a city police officer faced prosecution over striking or firing at someone during a protest, the Oregonian reported...

But Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who oversees the city’s fire and rescue operations, said she opposes volunteer units and would prefer to recruit the best trained officers for specialized assignments.

“I’m not interested in adding people from what I consider is a very dysfunctional culture,” she said. “Why are we recruiting sharpshooters instead of people who grew up in the neighborhoods?”

For weeks, she urged the mayor to hand the police department over to her to run. At one point she lectured us all that it wasn't the police's job to prevent crime – no, we should pass out money to the nonprofit industrial complex and let them handle that. But now Hardesty's setting the record straight: She never really wanted to decrease the number of police officers.

Uh huh.

Yesterday things got more bizarre, as Hardesty doubled down on her patently absurd claim that putting up her beloved traffic-calming orange barrels is somehow helping to curb gun violence. 

In the three months after PBOT installed 18 traffic barrels in a six-by-six block radius, there were four shootings in the area. That is compared to 11 shootings in the same area in the three months before the barrels were installed. Hardesty touted the 64% decrease.

Dear Lord. The three months before the barrels were installed were late summer and early fall. The three months after the barrels were installed were late fall and early winter, including the holidays. Even the gang bangers do Christmas.

And besides, what really made the difference in the southeast Portland neighborhood in question was visible cops, good old-fashioned cops, and plenty of them. In other words, the exact opposite of "reimagining what community safety looks like.” 

A bureau spokesperson told KGW officers saturated the area around Mt. Scott Park in late 2021 and it led to a 76% decrease in shootings. 

"It's a combination of everything," Hardesty said. "Everybody has a role in reducing gun violence and police have a specific role as well."

Hardesty 2020 would not have been playing nice-nicey with the police. But Hardesty 2022 is a different person. Let's hope that the 2023 version is speaking to us from the private sector.


  1. Pretty obvious that she traded her vote (and some praise) on the police contract for Hunzeker's termination from the force

  2. I'm cheering her on. Go Jo Ann, Go: far, far away...

  3. Don't go away mad. Just go away.


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