See why no pet projects were promoted at this well-attended meeting …
PP&R Director Mike Abbaté addresses a large audience as he begins this Community Budget Meeting.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Organizers of the Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) “Community Budget Meeting” were obviously surprised at the large number of people who arrived at St. Philip Neri Church on S.E. Division Street on the evening of January 8.
Before the meeting started, all of the cookies had been snatched off the refreshment table and the bowl of apples was quickly diminishing, while employees scurried to set up additional seating to accommodate the swelling crowd.
This public meeting was billed as a “Budget Dialogue”, at which “participation will make an important contribution to PP&R’s budget process for this year and beyond.”
PP&R Director Mike Abbaté outlines the purpose of the meeting.
Thus, many attendees who spoke with East Portland News said that they had come to advocate for a specific maintenance, improvement, or capital project, of interest to them or to their neighborhood.
But, after they’d arrived, the attendees discovered that the “dialog” expressly excluded input on these subjects.
PP&R Director Mike Abbaté started the meeting, asking for a show of hands to see who came to advocate for a project. After seeing many hands raised, he made it clear that this wasn’t the forum for that.
“This is not a meeting to discuss capital improvements,” Abbaté announced. “This is a meeting to talk about the operation of the Parks Bureau.”
He continued, saying that he thought that this group represented the largest turnout for any public budget meeting.
“The Mayor and I have talked about this year’s budget,” Abbaté continued. “He considers the next one to be a ‘stabilization year’ not a ‘budget-cutting year’.”
PP&R Finance Manager Jeff Shaffer presented “Parks Budget 101”. He pointed out that the City’s income, called the “General Fund City Service Area Resources”, of $443.4 million came from four primary areas – nearly half of it being from property taxes.
Of that amount, about 14%, or $63,656,342, was dedicated to the Parks Bureau. Shaffer outlined the eight parts into which the Parks Bureau budget is broken.
This meeting isn’t about specific projects, PP&R Director Mike Abbaté says, as participants gather for “table” discussions.
Then, participants were invited to sit at one of six tables, each staffed by a Parks staff member, to discuss pre-determined topics.
- Table 1: Funding an expansion of the GRUNT (Greenspaces Restoration & Urban Naturalist Team, the Nature & Job Skills Program for 10th Graders) Program – employee pipeline, parks and natural areas maintenance, enhancement funds and Tree Code implementation.
- Table 2: Ongoing funding for SUN Schools and Aging Services Pass-Through.
- Table 3: Create more permanent positions from seasonal positions.
- Table 4: Major maintenance items, and asset management implementation.
- Table 5: Equity/access programs.
- Table 6: Three one-time funding programs: ADA Transition plan, workplace improvements, and major maintenance.
Although several people came from outer East Portland to endorse the E- 205 Initiative Phase II, they were told that this did not emerge as a priority after “an initial ranking by the Parks Budget Advisory Committee”.
Comments about the City-wide budget for the Parks Bureau are heard by Director Mike Abbaté.
At the end, it was not clear how this meeting helped members of the Parks Budget Advisory Committee move forward; the data was still being compiled at deadline.
© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News