Portland Bans Investment in Corporations, Risks Millions
City council will divest $539 million from portfolio over fear of supporting non-liberal causes
The city council of left-wing Portland, Oregon voted earlier this month to divest municipal investments from corporations — all of them.
Corporate bonds and securities currently account for roughly a third of the city’s $1.7 billion investment portfolio.
“It’s not divestment that changes a company’s behavior. It’s the bottom line.”
The move is the result of a campaign launched last year by the volunteer “Socially Responsible Investments Committee” to add nine companies, including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Caterpillar, to the city’s “Do Not Buy” list.
The Portland City Council was unable to agree on which companies to blacklist from its investment portfolio — so in December 2016 it placed a temporary halt on all corporate investment, a halt made permanent this year by an April 5 vote.
“As their decision stands now, it’s permanent,” said Amanda Aguilar Shank, a member of the radical left-wing group Enlace, which describes itself as an “international multiracial multisector alliance that does capacity-building training and engages in strategic campaigning for the self-determination of the working people.”
“We can rest assured in Portland that our money won’t be funding prisons, pipelines, and the occupation of Palestine,” Shank added.
The decision could have significant consequences for the city’s finances.
Portland has $539 million invested in corporations this year, City Treasurer Jennifer Cooperman told local journalists soon after the vote. Cooperman also said the divestment would cost the city over $4.5 million in 2017 “and even more the following year,” The Oregonian reported.
“This is a win,” Hyung Nam, then a member of the SRIC, told The Oregonian. “The city is actually willing to lose money to their budget because they want to get out of these big corporate nightmares,” Nam said.
“This is a historic vote that makes Portland a national leader in recognizing the interconnectedness of the harm that is done to our communities by corporations in the name of the bottom line,” said Maxine Fookson, a member of the group Jewish Voice for Peace, following the vote.
But it’s certainly not a win for the city’s efforts to help its citizens, nor is it a vote that pays much heed to the harm that will be done to the Portland community in the name of virtue signaling.
Mayor Tad Wheeler — who, though he voted yes in order to support his colleagues and constituents, disagrees personally with the blanket divestment — estimated that the revenue that will be lost in the move could pay for 285 affordable housing units, 85 wheelchair-accessible curb ramps, or over 600 new beds for the city’s homeless shelters.
"When I was elected, what people told me they wanted to do was address affordability, address the homeless crisis, improve the policing structure, and fill the dang potholes," Wheeler told Oregon Public Broadcasting. "For me, I can't overlook that."
Moreover, it's "not divestment that changes a company's behavior. It's the bottom line. Are we still buying the product?" said Wheeler.