[pjw] OPEN LETTER: Reconside G4S Security Contract, Fix Council Process

Peace and Justice Works pjw at pjw.info
Tue May 28 15:14:54 EDT 2019

PJW / Iraq AG and PCW supporters:

We sent this letter out signed by PJW, the Iraq Affinity Group and 
Portland Copwatch today as the issues of who does security in City Hall 
and how Council decides to open Agenda items for public testimony affects 
us all.

Feel free to forward to others, send in support for our letter, and/or 
write your own letters to Coucnil.
--dan handelman
peace and justice works / pjw iraq affinity group / portland copwatch
PS Sorry for any duplication

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 28 May 2019 12:12:05
From: Peace and Justice Works <pjw at pjw.info>
To: Portland City Council -- Commissioner Amanda Fritz
     <amanda at portlandoregon.gov>,
     Commissioner Chloe Eudaly <chloe at portlandoregon.gov>,
     Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty <joann at portlandoregon.gov>,
     Commissioner Nick Fish <Nick at portlandoregon.gov>,
     Mayor Ted Wheeler <MayorWheeler at portlandoregon.gov>,
     "Reeve, Tracy" <Tracy.Reeve at portlandoregon.gov>
Cc: Portland Copwatch <copwatch at portlandcopwatch.org>,
     News Media <newsmedia at pjw.info>
Subject: OPEN LETTER: Reconside G4S Security Contract, Fix Council Process

To Mayor Wheeler and Commissioners Eudaly, Fish, Fritz and Hardesty, and City
Attorney Reeve:

First we would like to thank Commissioner Eudaly for her principled stand 
on rejecting the contract with G4S Security on Wednesday. Various other 
members of Council vaguely referenced "international issues" (which we 
address below) but only Commissioner Eudaly noted that G4S' work directly 
contrasts with the City's stated policies on being a sanctuary city. G4S 
transports immigrants and asylum seekers for detention by various 
Department of Homeland Security agencies. Council members talked about the 
individual G4S employees that work in City Hall, saying they are "good 
people." It's certainly a possibility that many people working for the 
worst corporations and the most abusive governments on the planet are also 
"good people," but that doesn't mean City Council should be spending 
taxpayer dollars to buttress those human rights abusers. It was noted that 
the idea of Council creating their own unionized security force had been 
discussed but no response or further action was taken on that concept.

G4S also contracts with the Israeli police, who participate in the 
explicit racial segregation of Palestinian citizens of Israel. This is not 
just a vague "international issue," but rather a simmering question that 
has been pushed out of the public discourse for many years by accusations 
of anti-Semitism against the United Nations (when the US regularly vetoes 
resolutions aimed at stopping Israeli violations of international law) and 
at home (as we have seen with the backlash against Congresspeople who dare 
to question Israeli policy). The Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity 
Group has taken a strong stance against the unlawful occupation of the 
West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights in Syria, in line with international law 
and norms. The Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians should not 
be supported by supporting G4S any more than Council should be supporting 
their work detaining undocumented immigrants.

In addition to our concerns about the substance of the vote, we are 
troubled that Council took somewhere around 20 minutes of time to shut 
down disruptions and then to clear Council chambers when community members 
objected to the G4S Contract Report being adopted. Mayor Wheeler 
established a policy when he took office that rather than choose certain 
Reports which might benefit from input and allow public testimony on those 
Reports, there is a blanket ban on testimony for reports.

During the following agenda item, which was a discussion on whether the 
City could post for bids a contract for people who "clean up" houseless 
camps, Commissioner Hardesty stated that the Mayor's office told her there 
would be testimony on the contract when it came back for approval. But 
during the hearing, the Mayor made that testimony contingent on changes 
being proposed to the contracting process, an item that was pulled from 
Wednesday's agenda and postponed until this coming Wednesday. If the 
Mayor's summary of that change is accurate, it means that various City 
agencies can put out contracts to bid with no City Council oversight and 
no public input until after the finalists are brought back for affirmation 
by Council.

Here is what we think needs to happen.

1) If the Mayor does not willingly change his policy, the four other City
    Council members should vote to insist that public testimony can be
    taken on Reports at the request of either any single member of Council
    or a majority. At the very least, the elected official who puts the
    item on the agenda should be able to decide.
    The City Attorney attending Wednesday's session
    indicated four members can vote to suspend "the rules," but in this
    case not taking testimony on a Report is not a rule, it is the whim of
    the Mayor. City Code 3.02.040 (5) (a) allows the presiding officer
    (usually the Mayor) to determine whether to take testimony on a Report.
    That section of code was intended to let the presiding officer
    determine the rule on a case by case basis. Peace and Justice Works'
    project group Portland Copwatch has been complaining about the Mayor's
    policy for over two years now. It is time to fix this problem.

2. If indeed the City Code being proposed around contracts says that
    Bureaus do not have to bring contracts to Council before sending them
    out (which is hard to determine from the 20+ pages of code being
    that should be changed. "Streamlining the process" should not lead to the
    ability of unelected officials sending out contracts worth millions of
    dollars with no public input. If there is indeed a provision that
    the contracts have to come back as ordinances, that should stay.

3. Our reading of the existing code seems to indicate that anything worth
    over $1 million has to be approved by a Council ordinance, meaning the
    "cleanup" contract and the G4S contract both should have public
    testimony taken. Thus, those who voted on the contract should vote to
    reverse their positions, allow testimony, and then vote again even if
    the outcome will not be different. In any case, the right of the public
    to testify on the "cleanup" contract should be guaranteed regardless of
    the outcome on the contract process vote.

On that note, it is likely that even with a packed agenda, Council could have
allowed people to testify for two minutes apiece and it might have taken about
the same amount of time as the Council's own interruptions. Council should have
learned this lesson during the showdown over the Portland Police Association
contract in 2016: Even if it's just to blow off steam, it will gain more public
trust to allow testimony than to shut out an angry public.

Thank you for your consideration on these matters

Dan Handelman, Elizabeth Sheppard, Jocelyn McAuley, and other members of
Peace and Justice Works, the Iraq Affinity Group, and Portland Copwatch

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