Some of U.S.' Most Liberal Mayors Are Turning on Their Progressive Allies

Some liberal mayors in U.S. cities which are usually associated with progressive values have adopted more conservative stances in recent months, as they deal with issues like rising crime rates.

Major cities across the country reported spikes in violent crimes during the pandemic, including a few that have seen drastic increases already in 2022. During this trend, several big-city mayors who once supported calls to "defund the police" have increased police budgets.

Since taking office in 2017, Portland, Oregon Mayor Ted Wheeler has tried to contend with a number of issues that challenged the progressive message of his campaign. Recently, he's taken on Portland's homelessness crisis by enacting a ban on camping along busy roads.

Portland has also been beset by a rapid rise in homicides and drug overdose deaths, resulting in Wheeler requesting millions of dollars more for Portland's police force in November after he cut the department's budget in 2020 during a time when protesters were demanding that the police be defunded.

In 2020, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot significantly decreased the amount of tax dollars going to the city's police department, though she denied she was meeting the call to "defund the police." Following many well-publicized waves of violence in the city, Lightfoot's 2022 budget increased police spending to $1.9 billion from 2021's $1.7 billion.

In 2020, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also sided with protesters who demanded less money be spent on law enforcement. However, after a rise of shootings in the city, the mayor increased spending for the LAPD by 3 percent a year later.

But there are still cities often referred to as liberal whose mayors refused to bow to calls for defunding the police, including Minneapolis, Detroit, Austin and Denver. In Washington D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser increased police funding during and after Black Lives Matter protests took place there.

Anti Asian Hate Crime San Francisco
San Francisco Mayor London Breed is one of several liberal mayors who have adopted less-than-progressive policies. In this photo, Breed speaks during a news conference at the future site of a Transitional Age Youth Navigation Center on Jan. 15, 2020 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Following a weekend last month that saw six homicides, seven non-fatal shootings and 25 robberies in Baltimore, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott called on citizens to help make the streets safer amidst public demand for more policing.

"It will take all of us, every single resident in Baltimore, rolling up their sleeves and getting in this fight to curb the current cycle of violence and bring about sustained reductions in violence across our city," Scott said in a press release.

Meanwhile, voters in some traditionally liberal cities have made their thoughts known about what they value in leaders. New York City saw the election of Mayor Eric Adams in November, and though he may be a vegan who promotes urban gardening initiatives, he's also a former police officer who was seen as more of a centrist than other Democratic candidates.

During the protests in the summer of 2020, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who was mayor of Atlanta at the time, said in an interview that the city had spent years reallocating funds to social services and community enhancement initiatives and away from the police. She later received backlash for her police reform policies as crime surged in the city, and in the summer of 2021, Bottoms announced she would not seek reelection.

At an event in early February 2022, Atlanta's new mayor, Andre Dickens, a Democrat like his predecessor, spoke of increasing the city's police ranks.

"The goal is to be smart on crime, and so we have to have a balanced approach to safety and justice," Dickens said. "That means getting more officers in because we lost about 400 to 500 officers over the past three years. So I'm trying to get those 400 officers back, but training them in conflict resolution and skills on how to de-escalate issues so that they can be better community-based cops."

Other issues, such as social justice reforms, have also become less of a priority in some instances as well. For instance, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, a Democrat, voiced support for Tuesday's recall of three of the city's school board members. The ouster of the officials was seen as a blow to progressive ideals, with critics claiming the school board spent too much of its resources on issues like renaming schools that honored Abraham Lincoln and George Washington rather than focusing on education.

"San Francisco is a city that believes in the value of big ideas, but those ideas must be built on the foundation of a government that does the essentials well," Breed said in a statement following the recall vote.