Bureaucrats fiddle while Portland bleeds out

AP Photo/Ted Warren

Portland, Oregon was one of several U.S. cities reaching a grim milestone in 2021: a record-high number of homicides. The 90 murders in Portland was the most the city has ever seen in a 12-month period, shattering the previous record of 70 that was set back in 1987. The city’s political leadership has edged away from its “Defund the Police” mentality as the body count’s risen in recent months, but even with Mayor Ted Wheeler vowing to reconstitute (in a slightly reconfigured form) the police department’s gun violence prevention team, lengthy delays, bureaucratic snafus, and a lack of interest on the part of many officers has delayed the roll out of the specialized unit for months.

Similarly, while the city council has approved millions of dollars in spending for community violence intervention groups, it could be months before groups officials are ready to sign off on allocating funds.

Certain community organizations in Portland hoping to make an impact on the city’s surging gun violence will wait even longer to get money from the city as the Office of Violence Prevention sorts through 35 applications for just $600,000 in funding.

It’s been nine months since city commissioners approved over $4 million in grants for community organizations in Portland.

Most of that funding has been earmarked, however, $600,000 is left for what the city termed “new and emerging” organizations. The city is aiming to partner with groups that are working in Portland neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence.

… “I got to do it right. I got to make sure we’re giving this to groups that can do the work, and then I want them to be able to sustain this work,” Myers said.

Myers said the goal is to continue funding these community organizations on an ongoing basis, beyond the one-time funding approved in the city council ordinance. So far, roughly $1 million from COVID relief funds have been set aside to address gun violence.

There’s been a lot of talk from Portland city council members about “right sizing” the police force and ensuring public safety over the past few months, but not a lot of action. The Portland Police Bureau is still understaffed, to the point that they’re now trying to recruit unarmed “public safety support specialists” to handle lower priority calls because the city has become so overwhelmed with violent crime at times that the department has been forced to publicly acknowledge they can’t respond to every 911 call.

In fact, in a move that’s pure Portlandia, the city council last month authorized paying $1.3-million in grants to cannabis dispensaries that have been the victims of armed robberies.

“We want Oregon to become the leading cannabis ecosystem in the country, but we have many underlying vulnerabilities that need to be addressed this year for us to succeed,” said Meghan Walstatter, interim executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Association. “Cannabis-related businesses remain one of the few that did not qualify for COVID-related aid nor have the option to file for bankruptcy.”

In March, WW reported extensively on an alarming trend: Data from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission revealed that more than 100 Portland-area dispensaries had been robbed, burglarized or looted in the prior 10 months.

In its announcement on Wednesday, the Office of Community & Civic Life said those numbers have increased: Over 200 establishments have been burglarized, which reflects a 115% increase between 2019 and 2020.

You think the city will come up with a separate fund to pay off the victims of carjackings, home invasions, restaurant or convenience store robberies, or arsons? Yeah, me neither. But I do know that a big part of the left’s response to the out-of-control violence in Portland is going to be an increase in legislation aimed squarely at legal gun owners. As NRA-ILA pointed out recently:

A Portland-based gun control group is now seeking signatures to get two initiatives placed on the November 2022 election ballot. The first, IP 17, would require a police-issued permit for anyone seeking to purchase or acquire a firearm, including private sales and transfers. Besides a fee, photo ID and fingerprints, the applicant would have to provide proof of completion of an approved training course. Once issued, permits would have to be renewed every five years. This initiative would also ban the possession, use, purchase, manufacture, importation, sale or other transfer of so-called “large capacity magazines” (those capable or holding or being readily concerted to hold more than 10 rounds).

The second measure, IP 18, would ban the “future manufacture, import, possession, use, purchase and otherwise transferring of semiautomatic assault firearms” (as defined) and require owners of such guns to register them with police, or turn them in or destroy them.

Portland’s activists seem intent on doing virtually everything but focusing on the most violent and prolific offenders in the community, including further criminalizing the right to keep and bear arms. Because of those misplaced priorities (further exacerbated by bureaucratic incompetence), Portland’s record high homicides in 2021 could easily be surpassed this year.