On April 11 over 400 people packed the third public Portland Budget Hearing, which was organized by the City of Portland and which left many spilling out beyond the room where the hearing took place. More importantly, for the City Council there was an unexpected critical outpouring from the vast majority who attended. For the first time, the City Council and Mayor Charlie Hales began to lose control over their attempts to sell austerity.
This was in sharp contrast to business as usual. Portland budget hearings are generally tightly controlled, polite affairs. What are the reasons for this movement towards a more charged polarized event? [...]
Those attending the public hearing on April 11 included representatives from the Metropolitan Youth Commission, Laborers International Local 483, Portland Community College, Portland Safety Net, SUN Schools, Eastside Action Plan, Elders in Action, AFSCME Local 189, and numerous others. They came with prepared testimonial statements, t-shirts and signs defending the programs they need.
Also attending were members of Jobs with Justice, the People's Budget Project, and the Solidarity Against Austerity Committee (SAAC). These groups saw the hearing as an opportunity to begin building unity among Portland's working class communities to oppose all cuts.
Pulling this off required that attendees knew the moment they walked in that the hearing was not going to be business as usual, and that a collective approach towards defending all the programs facing cuts was to be encouraged. A colorful banner over the doors to the hearing room read, "Communities United To Stop Cuts!" [..]