According to police spokesman Brian Schmautz, President Bush's August 21 visit to Portland will cost the city an estimated $200,000. Anticipating protests, the police department will beef up its protection, don riot gear and roll out its armored vehicles. Somewhat ironically, it's a bill footed by the city's taxpayers--many vehemently opposed to Bush using the city as a staging ground for his own fundraiser.
However, in a sense, that money is already budgeted, explains Tommy Brooks, the mayor's spokesperson. The mayor allocates funds for unforeseen events, but Brooks admits, "If the money gets spent quicker, then it's not there for other things."
The issue about who should pay for police protection for private functions like fundraisers came to the surface last year when Bush attended a multi-million dollar fundraiser for Senator Gordon Smith. At that time, many activists complained about the blatant inconsistency between a politician raising millions and stiffing the city with an unpaid bill.
Last year, both Smith and Democratic leader Bill Bradbury held major fundraisers in Portland. Combined, the events cost the city over $40,000 for additional police protection. Under pressure from activists, Mayor Katz sent the bill to both Smith's and Bradbury's campaign. Bradbury paid; Smith never responded. The attempt to collect from Smith and Bradbury was a first for Portland.
Activists have also complained the costs for these fundraisers extend far beyond extra expenditures on policing. When Bush came to Portland in January 2002, for example (at the comparatively slight price of $107,000), he attended a dinner where 350 well-heeled supporters paid $25,000 per plate. Another publicity stop on this trip was to the Youth Opportunity Center (YO), which provides job-training curricula. Despite his encouraging speech at the center, a week later, he line-vetoed YO from the federal budget.
Then there are the costs to civil liberties. During Bush's visit last August, police subdued peaceful protesters with rubber bullets and pepper spray, injuring many, including a 10-month-old baby.
According to Brooks, it's up to the public to decide about costs and benefits. "Anytime the president comes it's an honor," says Brooks. "For [Bush] to come to Portland is a big deal, and it allows the folks in Portland to participate in all kinds of debate." One debate should be if the folks in Portland should pay for the president's fundraising. ERIN ERGENBRIGHT