City leaders start budget poll process in far-East Portland

You can’t get much farther east than Alder Elementary School! See what happened, and what neighbors thought about the process, right here …

Portland Mayor Tom Potter welcomes outer East Portland citizens to the first of several Budget Forums held across the city.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
City of Portland officials said they were kicking off their “City Budget Community Forum” process in outer East Portland. The location they selected for the event — Alder Elementary School, at 17200 SE Alder Street – is about 500 yards west of the Gresham border.

Before the meeting started, participants were invited to peruse a “Community Resource Fair”. Here, Richard Bixby, director of the East Portland Neighborhood Office, helps neighbors locate their neighborhood.

“This is the city’s first community budget meeting,” said Mayor Tom Potter as he greeted us. “We’re talking about the 2008/2009 budget. What we do, before we get too far down the road developing a budget, is to hold some community meetings to find out their concerns, issues, and desires about how we spend our money.”

In the school’s gymnasium, each of the City’s bureaus set up a table. “People can go to each table and discuss issues about that bureau,” Potter explained. “We also have tables set up by the City Commissioners’ offices, because they, and myself, also have special funds requests. For example I’m requesting funds for a Office of Human Relations. So I’ll have a table here, and I’ll be glad to have people talk to me about issues of human rights here in Portland, Oregon.”

These meetings are important, Potter said, “Because, actually, it’s the citizens who pay for this. I think the residents of Portland who pay their taxes should have a say in how things are done. We’re listening to the folks who finance our city, and we’re asking, ‘Here’s what we’re looking at what you think’?”

Participants sat at tables hosted by City bureau personnel. At regular intervals, participants were asked to change tables.

Forum features round-robin format
Although it was made clear to the participants that no formal testimony would be taken, and that Council will not be making any budget decisions at the forums, their comments were recorded at each of the tables.

Participants in the community budget forums expressed their opinions in a round-robin format, where Commissioners listened. At these tables, community members learned what is being proposed in various areas of the budget, were invited to give their comments, expressed their concerns, and asked questions.

Neighbors speak …

Donna-Lynn Kublick, Chair of the Glenfair Neighborhood Association listens to a city official speak.

Following the meeting, Donna-Lynn Kublick of the Glenfair neighborhood commented that it “was a good experience.”

The best thing for her about the meeting was “Having the choice of sitting at different tables with experts in the fields I wanted to know more about, and being able to give opinions on things that need to change. But, I felt we should have been at the tables at least 5 or 10 minutes longer that we were, and instead of going to only three tables [during the evening] we should have been able to go to a fourth.”

Kublick said she appreciated that a “scribe” wrote the comments voiced on the easel boards. “I felt they really were listening, even to our negative comments – including mine, of how they have treated East County. And, they heard several other negative comments about how outer East Portland has been neglected.”

Jon Turino participates in the forum

Outer East Portland businessman Jon Turino’s take on the Portland Community Budget Forum was that it was well planned and executed. “It provided a good mechanism for Portland residents and business owners both to learn the details of the proposed budget items and to provide their feedback to those requesting the budgeted amounts.”

Turino said he liked the idea of people rotating among tables staffed by bureau executives. “It allowed me to visit those groups of most interest to me, without having to hear about extraneous material that was not of interest to me and/or my constituency. But, it would have been good to have all of the elected officials present to show their direct interest in the inputs from the East Portland community.”

While he saw that his thoughts, issues, and ideas were heard and recorded by the staffers, Turino told us, “I am concerned about how those inputs will be valued and applied as the City’s budgeting process goes forward, and I hope that there will be some feedback regarding the impact of my input.”

What Turino took away from the forum was that the City of Portland budgeting process is a complicated, with a lot of competing priorities. “Some of the City issues are also impacted by County and Metro plans, making it difficult to nail down some specifics.”

Coming from Pleasant Valley, the southernmost neighborhood in outer East Portland, Linda Bauer said she enjoyed the process.

Speaking for herself, Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association’s Chair, Linda Bauer, said she appreciated the Budget Forum, because, “Lots of Bureau people were there. But it is disappointing to see that not many citizens participated.”

Bauer said she did believe the bureau representatives did hear and record her comments. Most interesting, she added, was that each Portland City Commissioner had picked a special project to champion.

Portland Police Bureau Chief Rosie Sizer listens to the public safety concerns of Centennial neighbor Ron Clemenson. “Overall, it was a good event,” commented Clemenson.

After the release of the Mayor’s Proposed Budget, the City Council will return to the community for more input. A community hearing will be held on May 8 at the King School to take testimony. Additional testimony opportunities are available at the regular Council meetings before that body approves and adopts the new budget.

Want to chime in? Go online and let ’em know Downtown in City Hall what you think by CLICKING HERE.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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