The end of June, 2021 held record-breaking heat, record deaths, and a mayor who chose to not do anything about it.
Mayor Wheeler made no emergency declaration (though there was one for the Chauvin verdict) and many had to scrap support together. Mutual aid organizations rose to the occasion and put themselves at risk while the city, under Ted Wheeler’s leadership, seemed to do the bare minimum.
Every arm of our local and state government failed us in some form or another. However, Mayor Wheeler’s inaction took disregard to new heights.
First, you have seen the image of Ted sitting next to a cow.
This is not an exaggeration or photoshopped hit piece. Mayor Wheeler himself sent the picture to a constituent when they asked what he had done during the heatwave.
Here is the email:
While 70+ community members died, many alone, this is what the Mayor provided as his whereabouts. No meeting with emergency management, no call to duty with PPB to provide rides or service, no visits to cooling shelters. A date (at a place he doesn’t even spell correctly, Casa Colima) and a morning at an exclusive club.
You may say, “That doesn’t mean he didn’t delegate or have some Zoom calls or texts threads”. We wondered that also, so we requested the texts and pertinent records.
You can browse all texts sent to and from Mayor Wheeler during that weekend here. The only text from Mayor Wheeler that we have been able to locate related to the heatwave, is here on June 27th.
A declaration of “increment weather [sic]” was extended and Mayor Wheeler responded, “Ok thx.” That is it.
The 28th shows a message about breakfast with John Russell (likely the Russell who donated to Wheeler’s campaign, chair of the Oregon Investment Council, and is discussed in this article). Wheeler also texted with Dan Ryan about an unknown issue,
The 29th shows no texts about heatwave, nothing from city personnel about cooling shelters, no info on deaths or ways to support. He did text about meeting with Adidas and Daimler Benz leadership and theen complained about being harassed while picking up dinner.
That is the weekend for Ted.
His official calendar shows he did attend some meetings Monday the 28th and some on Zoom. A review of the calendar shows no meetings with health officials, the state, emergency management, or any specific meetings regarding the disaster Portland had just experienced. We reached out to Mayor Wheeler’s office for a comment or to provide information about his work around the heatwave, they have not responded.
It appears to be business as usual. His first press conference? Promoting downtown business.
Portland Police Bureau, with a roster of ~800 officers, followed Ted’s lead and also checked out. An email to their PIO shows they passed out some water and maybe, gave some rides. For an organization whose purpose is said to be about protecting and serving, they seem to have done the least amount of both.
So when we ask, what did Ted do that weekend? The answer is, as little as possible. His departments followed suit. It appears to have been a weekend off for the Mayor and the days that followed appear to be normal days. Sadly, for the 70+ who died and the city reeling, we cannot look away from the harsh and burning reality.