Wheeler’s urgent problem: Dealing wtih protesters

Ted Wheeler became Portland's mayor as 2017 began

With Teresa Raiford on her right, this woman let loose with expletives directed at Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler in a City Council meeting, March 22, 2017 (Screen grab from City YouTube video)
With Teresa Raiford on her right, this woman let loose with expletives directed at Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler in a City Council meeting, March 22, 2017 (Screen grab from City YouTube video)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Ted Wheeler has been Portland’s mayor for less than 3 months but he’s already had to tackle some sticky situations. Friday, Wheeler gave his first State of the City Address, and the full text is at the bottom of this story.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, March 24, 2017 (KOIN)
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, March 24, 2017 (KOIN)

In January, a winter storm put the city’s planning and road crews to the test. That led to the current pothole situation on city streets.

Skyrocketing housing and rental prices are also hot-button issues that Wheeler needs to handle going forward.

And the ongoing issues of protesters disrupting City Council meetings led to the council passing a new, stronger ordinance that allows protesters to be removed from City Hall if they don’t stop the disruption. But the ACLU is readying a challenge to that ordinance.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, March 24, 2017 (KOIN)
Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, March 24, 2017 (KOIN)

The immediate problem facing Mayor Wheeler right now is dealing with protesters. Sometimes they gather outside his home and then continue to interrupt city business.

Wednesday, the R-rated language inside City Council chambers escalated the issue, prompting many to say something must be done.

“I’m all for people exercising their First Amendment rights,” Commissioner Nick Fish said. “But we crossed the line on Wednesday.”

Fish added, “There were things said about the mayor’s mother that should never be said in any public forum.”

This edited video is just a short excerpt of many examples that happened inside City Council chambers on March 22, 2017:

Woman: “I also wanted to tell you, Ted, f— you, suck a d— and kiss my ass.”
Masked man: “Go f— youself, you f—— pig.”

“Obviously what we saw last week, we need to change the game,” Wheeler said.

Commissioner Fish has since directed his office staff to keep away from the City Council sessions, citing safety as a reason.

Wheeler told KOIN 6 News law enforcement experts say trying to remove protesters who resist arrest from a confined space — like City Council — is too dangerous. Still, Wheeler plans to have an answer to the problem by next week’s meeting.

“I’m in conversations with commissioners and city employees to see how we can get a more appropriate response to what we’re seeing in council chambers,” the mayor said.

The chaos in council chambers has now flowed to the mayor’s house, where police stand watch after recent disruptions from protesters.

“I think it’s outrageous,” Fish said. “I’ve served with 4 mayors. No mayor has had a more challenging first 3 months in office. But I’m a big fan of his leadership and he will have my full support.”

The text of Mayor Ted Wheeler’s State of the City address, March 24, 2017

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler delivers his State of the City address, March 24, 2017 (KOIN)
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler delivers his State of the City address, March 24, 2017 (KOIN)