City Council’s budget hearing comes east

Find out what transpired at this, the only Portland City Council Budget Forum east of the Willamette River, here in outer East Portland …

Volunteer advocates for keeping outer East Portland funding through the East Portland Neighborhood Office are gathered at the Budget Forum meeting.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The auditorium at Alice Ott Middle School, located in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood, was filled – standing-room-only – on the evening of April 12, when four of five Portland City Council members arrived at a city Budget Forum meeting.

“This is an important evening, because this is a chance for citizens of our city to say what they think we should spend money on,” said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales on the way in to the meeting.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales says he and the other City Council members came to hear what’s on the minds of East Portland folks.

“Before I propose my budget, it’s really good to hear from people in the community about what is important to them,” Hales told East Portland News. “This year we’re having an open-ended conversation. We asked all of Bureaus to show us what they would do if they only got 95% of the money that they got last year.  It’s a good discipline to do that, even if it causes some anxiety when they come up with a list of what they would cut.”

Meeting facilitators from Resolutions Northwest provided an overview of the process.

The auditorium at this school is filled with those who, having drawn a number, hope they’ll be able to testify regarding the city’s budget.

After outlining the mayor’s proposed budget, City of Portland Budget Director Andrew Scott spoke with East Portland News, recalling that he’s held the post since 2008, serving under Mayors Tom Potter, and Sam Adams, and Charlie Hales.

“Our job is to provide our city leaders with the best information possible,” explained Scott. “Our mission is to provide objective analysis to the Mayor and Council about City fiscal issues and budget issues.”

Scott agreed that, in past years, they’ve held more public sessions in the community. “This year, the Portland City Council decided to go with two Budget Forums held out in the community, and gauge the interest.”

City of Portland Budget Director Andrew Scott tells about the four priorities of Mayor Hales’ new budget.

The “budget priorities” of Mayor Hales this year, Scott said are:

  1. Housing and Homelessness
  2. Preservation of City Assets
  3. Public Safety
  4. Core Services

“While we have some significant expenditures, the real interesting thing about next year’s budget is that there is [currently projected to be] a $20 million surplus,” Scott pointed out.

“Housing and Homelessness is the biggest of those,” Scott said. “The Mayor has laid this out as his top priority. As you may know, a few months ago, the Mayor and a couple of colleagues pledged an additional $20 million of city funds to deal with the housing and homelessness crisis. The Mayor also asked for City Bureaus to put together 5% reductions.”

As the meeting begins, four out of five Portland City Commissioners, Steve Novick, Amanda Fritz, Mayor Charlie Hales – and, arriving late, Nick Fish – listen to public testimony.

Portland City Council members do listen closely to those who appeal that funding for programs and Bureaus are preserved, Scott said. “We take the oral testimony, and also written testimony, and provide it to the Commissioners, as well.

“Every year there are a few places where Commissioners may be leaning one way, but change their minds after hearing the testimony,” said Scott.

Each of these youths advocate for programs meaningful to them: the “Restorative Justice” program, Sellwood Community Center, and World Cup Soccer.

In the center, Division Midway Alliance for Community Improvement District Manager Lori Boisen tells about their “Festival of Nations”, and advocates for continued funding for grant programs.

As the City’s official “budget guy”, Scott admits to being a bit of a pessimist. “We’ve had a very long [financial] expansion, which has been very good for Portland, but not good for everyone in Portland,” Scott said. “My concern is that, to the extent we have an economic slowdown, and the City has to make deeper cuts in programs, I think a lot of the people who haven’t benefited from the expansion will be hurt the most.”

By the numbers: The mayor’s budget guidance for years 2016-2017

Housing and Homelessness

Base budget adjustment of $5 million ongoing, and $5 million one time

  • Housing Bureau: $17.7 million in one-time requests
  • Citywide Rental Housing Development: 10 million
  • Expanded Veterans Assistance: $0.2 million
  • Safety Off the Streets: $1.9 million
  • Permanent Housing Placements: $4.5 million
  • Prevention and Diversion: $1.1 million


Public Safety

  • 13 Firefighters: $1.4 million ongoing
  • Fire Logistics Center Relocation: $3 million one time
  • Police Recruitment Staffing & Incentives: $2.1 million ongoing
  • Police Body-Warned Cameras: $.9 million ongoing
  • Staffing 13 9-1-1 Operator positions: $.9 million ongoing


Preservation of City Assets

  • Transportation infrastructure 37.6 million one time
  • Parks Major Maintenance Projects $3.3 million one time
  • Mount Tabor Reservoir Improvements $.8 million one time
  • Columbia River Levy Project $1.7 million one time
  • Portland Building Data Center $4.8 million one time

Core Services

These include properties enforcement and inspection, planning & stability that is sustainable, budget software, IRS data exchange, Camp Site cleanup, and Housing Emergency Engagement, for a combined total of $3.4 million.

Parkrose Neighborhood Association Chair Annette Stanhope tells of her support for funding to alleviate the houseless crisis.

The next opportunity before the budget approval hearing will be on May 12 from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m., at Portland City Hall chambers.  The budget is expected to be adopted at City Hall on June 9.

Send your own written testimony Portland City Budget Office: CLICK HERE to visit their web page, to learn how and where to email it.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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