Oregon's congressional delegation stacks up millions in 'earmarks'
Don't call them "earmarks:"
• More than $6 million to repair and improve the Willamette Falls Locks in West Linn.
• $2 million to create a railway quiet zone through parts of Oregon City.
• $793,000 to help Portland Community College develop an artificial intelligence program.
• $2 million to repair track and trestles for the 5.5-mile Willamette Shore Line Rail from Lake Oswego to Portland.
• $500,000 to help Oregon Technology Business Center in Beaverton develop a nonprofit incubator.
• More than $2 million to help the Virginia Garcia Health Center expand its Newberg clinic.
Most of Oregon's congressional delegation is asking U.S. House budgeters for nearly $50 million to fund projects across the state as part of the 2022 federal budget process, that aren't "earmarks." Sort of.
U.S. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Kurt Schrader, Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio offered a pile of proposals in late March for dozens of projects and programs. U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz of Ontario, the state's lone congressional Republican, did not offer any proposals. (Bentz's staff was contacted for a comment, but did not provide one.)
Officially, they're not "earmarks." Under new House rules adopted in late February, the proposals are "community project funding requests." Oregon's proposals were culled from hundreds sought by local governments, school districts, counties and agencies.
Two months ago, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., opened the 2022 budget process to representatives' specific funding requests for projects and programs. That process, usually known as "earmarks," was halted nearly a decade ago. Democratic House leadership brought it back for the new budget. Among rules for the new "earmarks" was a requirement that all proposals had to be published on congress members' websites.
DeLauro's staff said appropriations subcommittees would begin marking up the proposals in June. The process could take months. The federal budget year begins Oct. 1. It's likely many of the Oregon proposals won't survived the rigorous and often-contentious process.
Clinic expansion and a quiet zone
Bonamici proposed nearly $10 million in projects in the 1st Congressional District. She sought funds for landslide mitigation in Astoria, money for Hillsboro's water system project, funds to renovate the Japan Institute Building in Portland, money for a nonprofit incubator development project in Beaverton, funds to buy a defibrillator for the Banks Fire District and money to set up a small-business center in St. Helens.
In Beaverton, Bonamici's proposal would fund part of the Oregon Technology Business Center plan to develop an incubator to help people set up nonprofit organizations. The center on Southwest Millikan Way was created by the city of Beaverton.
In Newberg, funds from Bonamici's proposal would help the Virginia Garcia Clinic expand to provide dental, pharmacy and primary care to patients living in Yamhill County.
Blumenauer proposed about $10.4 million for his 3rd Congressional District. Among the projects were requests for money for the Cascade AIDS Project, funds to develop a Gresham park sports complex, money for seismic improvements to a PDX runway and funds for Portland Community College's artificial intelligence program.
In Gresham, Blumenauer's proposal would help fund the second phase of Gradin Community Sports Park on Northwest Eastman Parkway. The work would add capacity and basic infrastructure to Gradin Community Sports Park.
Blumenauer also is looking for funds to replace deteriorated structural wood elements on three trestles and track to aid the safety of the Willamette Shore Line railway on its trip from downtown Lake Oswego to Portland's south waterfront.
In addition, Blumenauer requested $200,000 to fund the city of Portland's Office of Violence Prevention Street Level Outreach Program, which focuses on root causes of conflict in neighborhoods, rather than on policing.
Schrader proposed $16.3 million, the most of the delegation, for the 5th Congressional District. Among his proposals were funding for Marion County public safety radio improvements, money for whale entanglement risk reduction research, money to make improvements to the Willamette River Locks near West Linn and funds to create a railway quiet zone in Oregon City.
A large chunk of Schrader's funding proposals would be spent to repair the Willamette Falls Locks and Canal in West Linn. The work would protect the locks against an earthquake and "would move the locks one step closer to returning the Willamette River to a single navigable waterway," according to Schrader's proposal.
In Oregon City, Schrader wants funds to create a railway quiet zone through most of downtown. The work would make several safety improvements to downtown rail crossings.
DeFazio, who represents Southern Oregon's 4th Congressional District, sought $12 million in projects. Among those were funds to improve Coos County's emergency radio system, money for Springfield parks and funds to expand a rural health care clinic in Cottage Grove.
Blumenauer said the project proposals were a small part of the federal budget, but were badly needed in parts of the state.
"What I tried to prioritize are requests that deal with some of the most pressing needs of our community, from mental health to public safety to LGBTQ+ and Native American health care access," Blumenauer said. "As for what makes it through, this is a new process that everyone is going through for the first time, so it's hard to make any predictions. What I can say is that we're going to fight very hard to ensure that the federal government is a strong partner with Oregon and local leaders on projects that are critical to the health and safety of our people."
Bonamici said her office received more than 70 requests to fund Oregon projects and programs in the 1st Congressional District, "which demonstrates that communities have significant infrastructure and other needs that would benefit from targeted federal investment."
"I looked for projects that would support job creation and our economic recovery from the pandemic, and I am confident in the merits and eligibility of the projects I am advancing," she said.
Schrader said his proposals were "targeted to meet those important demands in a wide array of areas, including health, education, housing, transportation and the environment."
"While I do not know which of the meaningful projects will receive funding, I believe the financial support would help each of them move forward, especially in our smaller towns, which could not afford to undertake the necessary improvements on their own," he said.
Funding proposals include:
• Astoria Pre-Disaster Landslide Storm Drainage Project,?$902,500.
• Beaverton Nonprofit Incubator Development Project, $500,000.
• Behavioral Health Resource Center Plaza in Multnomah County, $1.35 million (same request as Blumenauer).
• Cardiac Monitor/Defibrillator Project for the Banks Fire District No. 13, $170,000.
• Columbia County Small Business Resource Center, Columbia County Economic Team, $175,000.
• Construction Trades Expansion,?WorkSystems?Inc., $1 million
• Newberg Clinic Expansion, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, $2.12 million.
• The Japan Institute Building Renovation Project, Portland Japanese Garden, $1.75 million.
• Upgrade and Expand the Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction Program, $760,000.
• Water Supply System Construction, city of Hillsboro, $1 million.
• Cascade AIDs Project: Expanding the Prism, $847,337.
• Gradin Community Sports Park Phase II Development, Gresham, $2 million.
• The Lower Willamette Environmental Dredging and Ecosystem Restoration
• Portland Office of Violence Prevention's Street Level Outreach Program, $200,000.
• Friends of the Children Mental Health Surge Capacity Project, $750,000.
• Multnomah County Behavioral Health Resource Center Plaza, $1.35 million (same request as Bonamici).
• Northwest Native American Center of Excellence FLIGHT Program, $800,405.
• Port of Portland development of a seismically resilient runway at PDX, $1 million.
• Portland Community College Artificial Intelligence Program, $793,000.
• Willamette Shore Line Rail and Trestle Repairs, $2 million.
• Columbia River Pinniped Removal, $892,000.
• Marion County Public Safety Radio System Upgrade and Repairs, $1.2 million.
• Whale Entanglement Risk Reduction Research, $100,000.
• Willamette Falls Locks and Canal improvements, $6.6 million.
• Providence Milwaukie House, $800,000.
• Tillamook Bay Community College Nursing Program, $418,100.
• Detroit Lakes Marinas Excavation and Resiliency, $2.5 million.
• North Fork Road Improvements Project in Marion County, $1.44 million.
• Oregon City Quiet Zone, $2 million.
• SafeSleep United Women's Shelter in Salem, $425,000.
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