Portland Budget Forum meets in East Portland

Find out where the only chance for folks to comment, east of the Willamette River, was held and what happened there …

Portland City Councilors Amanda Fritz, Nick Fish, and Randy Leonard join Mayor Sam Adams at the Community Budget Forum held for the east side of Portland in the Cleveland High School cafeteria.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The Portland Community Budget Forum for the area east of the Willamette River was a well-attended event, as nearly 300 people crowded into the Cleveland High School cafeteria on the evening of March 21.

“Welcome to Cleveland High School,” Portland Mayor Sam Adams began; “Home of the Warriors – and one of the most improved schools in Portland. If you grow tired of this tonight, you can go upstairs and take in a few minutes of the Battle of the High School Bands!”

Portland Mayor Sam Adams says City leaders value well-reasoned input from citizens.

After introducing Portland City Commissioners Amanda Fritz, Nick Fish, and Randy Leonard, Adams continued, “This is a very difficult budget year. We have to cut the budget, or find other means to bring it into balance. Nobody likes this task, but it has to be done.”

Adams cautioned that the best way to advocate for an interest group’s cause comes from the quality of participants’ comments, questions, or arguments – and the sincerity of the speakers. “The loudness or auditory robustness of your questions or concerns or comments is less impactful.”

Nearly 300 people came to the Community Budget Forum held in the Cleveland High School cafeteria.

After participants heard an introduction to Portland’s current economic situation, and after getting an overview of the City’s budgeting process, attendees were encouraged to participate in a demographic poll, using wireless voting clickers that had been provided.

All of the City’s Bureaus were grouped together in one of five categories:

  1. Public Safety,
  2. Parks, Recreation, and Culture,
  3. Public Utilities
  4. Community Development, and
  5. Transportation.

While a representative of each group spoke about the Agencies and Bureaus in their respective segments, Mayor Adams stepped aside and spoke with East Portland News.

“We have to cut $17 million from the City’s budget,” Adams confirmed. “And, we need the citizens’ input on where to cut, and what they want to protect. That’s what tonight’s meeting is about.

“Tonight’s forum is also about getting suggestions for how to improve the services of the City, and questions we need to be thinking about ourselves.”

From the Portland Office of Management and Finance, Kelly Ball explains the evening’s activities.

Asked if he believed that citizen participation in forums like these have an effect, Adams responded, “They definitely make an impact. We’ve just begun the budget process; and are beginning our analysis of the City’s Bureaus.

“We haven’t made any decisions on prioritization. The timing of this [forum] is perfect, as we start the ‘ugly job’ of cutting budgets.”

In the CHS cafeteria, Kelly Ball, of the Portland Office of Management and Finance, was explaining the evening’s activities.

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese stands ready to answer budget questions about his Bureau.

“Our first exercise is an opportunity for community members to ask questions and share their priorities directly with Bureau directors and their staff,” Ball said. “Then, we’ll ask participants to break into six groups, and take the opportunity to share their top budget priority, and what’s important to them and to their communities.”

That exercise completed, attendees returned to the general session, where they were asked to use those remote-control voting “clickers” to prioritize City services, interests, and topics.

“The results will provide advisory feedback to the City’s leaders,” Ball said, “as they move into Portland City Council budget hearings convene April 2-13. Mayor Adams is scheduled to release his office’s proposed budget in May 17.

City Bureau and Agency directors and staff stand by to talk with citizens.

“We encourage people to go online and learn more about Portland’s budget process,” Ball added, saying that there’s a wealth of information available. “We have a section set up specifically to encourage online comments, and to obtain a wide variety of input from as many people as possible.”

You’ll find all that at their website: CLICK HERE to open it.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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