Potter says combining school districts, “rainy day fund”, best for Portland

You may be surprised to learn that Mayor Tom Potter has called for bringing all Portland schools into one district; that he’d like the city’s surplus funds set aside in savings; and, read his promise that he’ll look into ways to limit the growth of porn in Parkrose ‚Ķ

Portland Mayor Tom Potter, a member of the Lions Club, listens to concerns of a Roseway Lion at this October meeting.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It isn’t often that the mayor of a major city, like Portland, schedules an address to a civic club.

But, members of the Roseway Lions Club were pleased to hear the mayor deliver a “state of the city” address. And several members looked surprised by his proposal to combine all Portland-area school districts at the October 24 meeting at Steamers Restaurant and Lounge in Parkrose.

Club president, Lion Melinda Palmer got their meeting underway, and Lion Ron Huddleston introduced the mayor.

Lion Ron Huddleston introduces Mayor Tom Potter to club members meeting at Steamers Restaurant in Parkrose.

“Overall,” began Mayor Tom Potter, the city has been doing well.”

Parading Portland’s awards
“We’ve been awarded as the ‘Most Dog Friendly’ city in the US. The ‘O’ celebrated this by creating a graphic, putting my head on the body of a dog.”

Portland was also cited as being the “Cleanest City in America”, Potter added. “We take pride and effort to make sure it is clean, and the most environmental city in the U.S. We have decreased the hydrocarbons by 13 percent since 1990. We encourage people to use public transportation. 24 percent of the city’s power is wind power. In five years it will be 100%. And, we endorse sustainable building practices, like disposing off storm water on-site instead of letting it flow into the rivers.”

Calls for Portland “Rainy Day” fund
Turning to finances, the mayor reported, “We’re in good financial situation. The city has an $18 Million surplus,” he said. “We’re having a discussion on how to spend the money. My hope is that we’ll save some if it for a rainy day. Every government entity needs a rainy-day fund.”

The city’s population is growing, Potter informed the group. Unlike Los Angeles, Portland has grown by five percent while LA has lost by the same percentage. The city has been most successful in attracting those age 18-35, Potter added. “Creative types, like industrial designers and people involved in the arts.”

Wants to help 1,000 homeless
During the past 18 months, the mayor reported getting 900 homeless people off the streets and into permanent housing. But, he added, there are still 1,000 who need permanent homes.

“Most people are not homeless because of what they’ve done. 60% of our homeless have some kind of mental disorder or problem. Some self medicate with street drugs. We’ll be a better city if we can get them off the street rather than letting them wander around.”

Mayor Potter delivering a “state of the city” address to the Roseway Lions club.

Housing prices shift city’s population
Turning to affordable housing, the mayor decried that, for many working people, housing is unaffordable. “What we’ve seen in the past ten years is a migration from inner- to outer-Portland. Many people, including minorities, are moving out to the suburbs looking for housing they can afford.”

Potter pointed out that Portland has six school districts. Only one of these, Portland Public Schools, is seeing a drop in students. He noted David Douglas, Parkrose, Reynolds and Continental are all growing, due to the population shift eastward.

“In these districts, we’re asking for school-building funds on the November ballot. You may not have children in schools, but you did once. Your district needs your support.”

Kids “Bill of Rights”
“My top priority is children. If we don’t take care of our children, they won’t be able to take care of the city in the future.”

The city’s top executive outlined four pillars of his Children’s Bill of Rights:

  • Roof over their head ‚Äì “One major reason children don’t succeed in school is because their families don’t have stable housing. They fall behind when they change schools.”
  • Full stomach ‚Äì “We need to make sure they have enough good, wholesome food to eat. As we’re here [at this Lions Club meeting], we’re eating our lunches. But one in five children will go to bed hungry in Oregon.”
  • Quality Education ‚Äì “Our children need the best education possible to prepare them for life. By helping them succeed at the start of their life, it increases the chance they’ll succeed later in life. From my experience as the Police Chief, I know that when kids graduate from high school, they’re less likely to get into crime or go on welfare.”
  • Caring Adults ‚Äì “During my first year after retiring, I ran a homeless youth shelter. I met the kids who live on the streets. I realized they committed criminal acts to survive. 80% came from abusive families with parents who were addicted to drugs, alcohol and tobacco. They, and their children, had a lot of medical problems. Caring adults give our community good, caring children.”

A city, or a society, the mayor concluded, should be measured by how well they take care of their very young, their very old, and people who can not care for themselves.

Suggests combining Portland school systems
When Mayor Potter asked for questions, a member said he was confused by the “school situation”, asking, “Why are some of our schools closing; yet we’re being asked to pay for a bond to build new schools?”

Members of his audience raised eyebrows and shuffled in their seats when Potter floated the idea of combining all of Portland’s school systems into one. Club president, Lion Melinda Palmer, listens intently.

The mayor explained that Portland has six school districts. “We’re starting talks on consolidating our school districts. [Districts] gaining population need money to build schools. The districts losing students and closing schools need money to pay their teachers. Some facilities close because of age or asbestos; others close because of lack of students.

“We need to cut down on overhead of operations.

“This idea [of school district consolidation] will not go over well with the districts. They are independent political bodies, their boards are elected. We cannot tell them what to do. But we can bring it up before the citizens.”

Mayor vows to ‘look into’ proliferation of adult-oriented businesses
Lion Eileen Stocker asked the mayor why the city can’t limit the number of Sandy Blvd. corridor sex shops.

“The number of sex shops and strip clubs in our neighborhood keeps growing,” Stocker said. “We already have too many, and we’ve just added another one ‚Äì a block away from an elementary school. Can the City Council develop a program to help keep the number of sex businesses from growing? Our kids grow up thinking this it’s normal to have sex shops on every street.”

The mayor said he’d driven around Parkrose before the meeting and observed the proliferation of adult-oriented businesses.

“I agree with you on this. The city did pass an ordinance regulating these businesses, regarding location, signage, and so forth. But, the Oregon Supreme Court threw it out, citing the first amendment of the state’s constitution. They’ve given this wide latitude.”

A member piped up, “Another honor you could add to your list is, I believe, we’re the only city in the country to have live sex acts on stage.”

“You have a good point,” Potter responded. “I will go back and make sure the neighborhood associations are sent up-to-date information about the current law. I don’t know if they can do it or not, but I’ll recommend the License Bureau look into it.”

Meet the Roseway Lions
Interested in being of service to fellow Oregonians? If you live or work in the greater Parkrose area, Roseway Lions invite you to meet them at one of their noon meetings on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month.

You’ll get a great lunch for a reasonable price. They meet at Steamers Restaurant, 8030 NE Sandy Blvd. (east of NE 82nd Ave.).

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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