Should Portland Invest in Coal and Nuclear Weapons?


Major policy change is being voted on by the Portland City Council during the waning days of 2021, when so many people are not paying close attention. Last week, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler introduced an agenda item at a City Council meeting that would once again allow the City of Portland to invest in corporate securities with very few restrictions. As written, the policy would allow investments in such destructive industries as coal, fracked gas, and nuclear weapons. City Council is poised to vote on this new policy tomorrow (Wednesday, December 22nd) without any public comment allowed at the hearing. 

Contact Portland City Commissioners today and tell them: Portland’s corporate investment strategy should match its values.

Background: In 2017, the Portland City Council disbanded its Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Committee, which had been charged with making recommendations about corporate investments to avoid based on a council-approved list of social and values concerns. Council then said they would avoid the issues altogether by not investing in corporate securities. In 2019-2021, the City annually adopted a short list of corporate securities that were the only allowable corporate investments.

The new investment policy, slated to be adopted tomorrow, makes a major shift in this policy by instead relying on a list of prohibited industries to be avoided (see exhibit A, page 10). But the list is woefully incomplete and was arrived at with virtually no public input. For example, the list prohibits investing in oil, but says nothing about other fossil fuels such as coal or fracked gas. It prohibits investments in small arms, but would allow investments in military weapons including nuclear weapons. While the previous SRI committee screened for labor standards and human rights, this new approach says nothing about avoiding corporations that do not uphold these values. 

Mayor Wheeler claims that this is a “work in progress” and insists it must be adopted by the end of 2021. If the City Council is to adopt this policy now, they must set up a process for Portlanders to provide input and ensure that any corporate investments match city values and reinforce adopted policies.

Take Action: Contact the Mayor and City Commissioners today and tell them that Portlanders deserve a say in how city funds are invested. Click each name below to send an email now.

Update (12/22/21): Due to community feedback, we were able to delay the vote by a week, and when the commissioners voted in the new policy today, they talked about their understanding that there will now be periodic check-ins and an opportunity for community input on changes to Portland’s investment policy to make sure that its investments are consistent with its values.

This is a victory for democracy that opens up new possibilities for the City of Portland to walk its talk by divesting from nuclear weapons, all fossil fuels, and other destructive industries. Please keep sharing your feedback with city council and stay tuned for how to impact this policy in 2022!