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MATHIEU LEWIS-ROLLAND

Portland City Council voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to ratify a new contract with the Portland Police Association (PPA), the union representing rank-and-file officers. All commissioners appeared relieved to move past the years-long negotiations, yet acknowledged that the end result didn't accomplish everything they had hoped.

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"Yes, it's not perfect," said Mayor Ted Wheeler before casting his vote. "It's definitely a step in the right direction.... But there's much more work to do."

The $56 million agreement is the end result of more than two years of bargaining between the city and PPA management. In past contract negotiations with PPA, the police commissioner—who, in this case, is Wheeler, is the only member of city council involved in bargaining sessions. In this process, representatives from all city commissioners' offices were involved in the process from the beginning.

"This has been a long ride to get to today," said City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty at the Thursday meeting. "I can tell you we are in a much better place today because the mayor was willing to work in collaboration from the beginning."

Hardesty said she is dedicated to work on policing issues that remain unresolved in the contract, like the policies surrounding a yet-to-be-convened police oversight board. The contract is also missing an agreement on body worn cameras, a tool that both the city and PPA have endorsed. However, representatives from the PPA have disagreed with the city's proposed regulations for the body camera program, a disagreement that has forced both parities to hammer out an agreement in a separate arbitration process.

When the contract agreement was first introduced to council last week, the majority of people who participated in public comment expressed disappointment with the proposal.

"The minimal concessions made by the Portland Police Association is not worth the $56 million dollars that this collective bargaining agreement will cost Portland taxpayers," said Sandy Chung, director of the ACLU of Oregon.

Several expressed regret about the limits of community input and participation in the negotiating process. While the city initially allowed members of the public to view their negotiating meetings held with PPA, the PPA—which hosted every other meeting—did not permit public spectators. And the past eight months of mediation, the step taken when two parties can't agree on a contract, have taken place completely behind closed doors.

"We commend many parts of the process," said James Ofsink, a member of Portland Forward. "But there are a number of parts of the contract we feel falls short of community expectations and, had the community been able to be engaged in the process when the most contentions and important issues were being dealt with, we believe this could have improve the city's position and met an important public need."

In the past, council decisions on PPA contracts have sparked protest and public outrage. In 2016, city officials shuttered City Hall over protests against the PPA contract that led to arrests and violence from police officers.

On Thursday, City Commissioner Dan Ryan noted that the contract meets the definition of "bargaining," since "neither side got everything they wanted."

PPA members voted to ratify the contract last week, meaning the agreement is now final.

In a media statement, PPA President Aaron Schmautz said, “We are thrilled that we landed on a contract our members overwhelmingly support."

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