Summer has not been kind to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.
Known for lush green spaces and “keep Portland Wear” signs, the city became the center of fierce protests over police brutality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. For more than 100 days, progressive and conservative protesters have descended on downtown Portland, calling for the elimination of some police departments and others showing support for law enforcement.
At the center of the ongoing unrest is Wheeler, a Democrat running for reelection in November, despite continued calls for his resignation by people on both sides of the political spectrum.
Patrons claim they have not done enough to protect the city from protesters, who have gathered every night for more than three months, occasionally lighting fires and resisting police. Progressives say that they have not done enough to protect residents from police officers who crowd out tear gas and other projectiles.
President Donald Trump Wheeler is called “Fool” Not to return to the protesters, while advocates for Black Lives Matters said Wheeler mistook the unrest, which shows no signs of slowing down.
During the July performance, demonstrator Alasia Lauer said, “I am ashamed of him.” “It is about time Ted Wheeler realizes that people are demanding real changes to the system. Zero [change] Causing nocturnal violence. “
Although Wheeler condemned the presence of federal officials in Portland, he gave local police permission to use tear gas against protesters from May to this week. He has expressed support for protesters demanding racial equality but has warned against using violence during the march.
“The middle ground is very elusive right now,” Wheeler said. “When it comes to solutions, compromise is seen as a dirty word.”
The protesters went to the door of Wheeler’s home last month when they staged a sit-in in the lobby of their condominium building. A few days later, on his 58th birthday, protesters marched into the building again, demanding his resignation and demanding that the police budget be halved.
The Oregonian reported that the protests quickly turned ugly as crowds set fire to the street, smashed windows and smashed into a grassroots dental office.
The newspaper reported that a few days later Wheeler sent an email to his neighbors stating that he was sincerely apologizing for the damage done to our house and out of fear that you might be experiencing my situation. The mayor said he would get a new home as a result of the protests.
Wheeler, a wealthy Oregon Wood family and former state treasurer’s quarrel from 2010 to 2017, continues to face pressure on several fronts: the coronovirus epidemic, ongoing protests over racial disparities, an upcoming by-election in November and now heavy smoke piles near City from the forest of.
“He’s just a man,” said Rev. Ed Mondene, president of the Portland NAACP. “I think it’s important that we have two-term mayors and we don’t see that they are courageous in pushing us forward.”
Wheeler’s three predecessors were all one-term mayors, and the city’s unique power structure, sometimes called the “weak mayor” system, makes governance difficult, he acknowledged.
Portland is the only major US city to retain the commission, which includes all five members of the city council, including mayoral, legislative, administrative, and quasi-judicial duties. The commissioners manage and oversee individual city bureaus, and the ordinances are passed by a simple majority.
The mayor has the authority to appoint commissioners to the city bureau and make Portland budgets, but otherwise the power is shared among the commissioners.
If reconsidered, Wheeler hoped to change that structure, he said.
“You have five different mayors overseeing different city services, so it creates a huge amount of confusion about which issue is in charge,” he said. “It is a fundamentally inefficient form of government.”
One of the bureaus that comes under Wheeler’s jurisdiction is the Police Department. In Portland, the Mayor doubles up as Commissioner of Police until they hand over the Bureau to another Commissioner. The system became a glare in summer this year after local law enforcement used tear gas and other silence against protesters.
Portland commissioner Jo Ann Hardness, a black woman who once served in the US Navy and Oregon state legislature, criticized the strategy and repeatedly asked Wheeler to allow her to take command of the police department. Wheeler declined the request in July, but has said he is open to reconsider the issue if reconsidered.
He said, “I told Commissioner Hardik that as January comes, all the bureaus are ready for discussion.”
On Thursday, Wheeler announced that he was preventing Portland police from using CS gas, a powder, when an aerosol in tear gas mixed with the solvent was formed, for crowd control.
Oregon law enforcement agencies called the move “careless and short-sighted.” Union president Darryl Turner, who represents the Portland police, said the ban would be “a blow to the mayor’s face.”
“What he doesn’t understand is that the CS ban will force officers to use more physical force to disperse the crowd,” Turner said in an email statement. “Their decisions impact community safety and officials affect safety.”
Wheeler’s challenge, progressive candidate Sarah Iannarone, said the ban should have come too soon.
“It’s too late,” she said. “My neighbors are kept in their house, mothers are parked on the street. In my opinion, this is what Portlanders will remember that November will come. “
Mondene says both the mayor and the police department appear “desperate” to pacify the violence that inevitably follows the night’s protests.
“What I’m hearing is frustration,” Mondenay said. “[Wheeler] They have done everything in their power to know how others will handle this issue. I believe he is honest in his efforts. “
In a phone interview on Friday, Wheeler defended the ban and its timing. He said it was “a good show of faith” for residents who want to see tangible police reform and a way to pacify some of the city’s chaos that has been eradicated.
“I’m doing what needs to be done in difficult situations,” he said. “Portlanders are sick and tired of nighttime violence – they want to go back to being Portland again.”
In a poll released this week by The Oregonian, nearly two in three Portlanders said they view the mayor negatively just two months before the election. But even some of his most vocal critics, including Hardik, said Portland does not need another term mayor.
“It is difficult to take your colleagues and your community in the same direction,” he said. “This year we have four major crises that any mayor and any elected leader will try.”
Both supporters and opponents have praised how Wheeler has handled the coronovirus epidemic. Portland was one of the first cities to issue orders to remain in the city, and Wheeler pressured Kate Brown, among dozens of mayors in Oregon, to take those orders under pressure from the government.
In late March, the Portland City Council approved $ 3 million in emergency funds for its COVID-19 response. The money was used for small business and housing relief. Some of the earliest funds went to Asian-owned businesses, which were discriminated against due to coronaviruses.
“That was leadership,” Hardness said. “We understood that if we don’t get control of COVID-19, our community is going to have serious consequences.”
Iannarone also praised Wheeler’s response to the epidemic, saying he would probably be a “shoe” for re-election if Portland’s crisis had stopped with coronoviruses. But Wheeler collapsed with the police department and, more importantly, with people calling for police reform, she said.
“He is entitled and detached from the everyday lives of Portlanders,” Innarone said. “This is a place where there are community rules. Everything is about the community, and he is not listening to the community. “
Due to Wheeler’s audacity, he is now finding it difficult to connect with the community. In July, as the protests entered their 60th day, Wheeler attempted to address protesters outside the federal building. His “listening” session, billed as an opportunity to meet with protesters and voice their concerns, dissolved into chaos. He was drowned by taunts and jeers when people shouted at him and asked him to leave or resign.
Hours later, Wheeler was standing outside the federal building, when Homeland Security officials deployed tear gas to push protesters away from the perimeter. Wheeler, one of dozens of people standing in the front row, indulged in irritable temperament.
Later, as he attempts to retreat from his offices, a mob chases him, throwing water and paint as he enters.
“He excelled in responding to COVID-19, he excelled in responding to economic catastrophe, after which he recovered when Trump sent his forces, but he failed to hold the police accountable,” Hardness said. said.
Wheeler said he is unfazed by the challenges facing Portland. Instead of “capitulating”, she is “energetic”.
“It’s time for strong leadership,” he said. “It’s time to bring our communities together and face everything.”