Plus, the City Auditor's Office questions oversight of arts spending and a low-income utility relief program is approved.

COURTESY PHOTO - Portland City HallThe Comprehensive Plan update that will guide growth in Portland over the next 20 years took effect May 24.

The plan and periodic updates are required by state land-use planning laws. It was approved by the City Council last year and subsequently was acknowledged by the state Land Conservation and Development Commission. The council already has approved the first amendment, the Central City Plan.

Parts of the plan were challenged before the LCDC by the Multnomah Neighborhood Association and others. Association leaders now are considering whether to appeal it to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

City arts spending questioned

Portland Auditor Mary Hull Caballero told the City Council that it needs to improve its oversight of spending by the Regional Arts & Culture Council during a May 22 work session.

The audit had been requested by Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Nick Fish, the city's liaison to the arts community. It found the city had no clear policies for prioritizing arts spending and was not tracking where the funds it gives to the RACC are going.

According to the audit, the city provided $8.3 million of RACC's $12 million budget last year, including $3.3 million from the voter-approved Arts Tax. The council was aware of some of the problems and funded a position to oversee the spending in the budget that take effect July 1. Fish promised to lead a review and revamp of the city's relationship with RACC.

Utility relief program approved

The City Council approved a program to help lower-income renters in multifamily buildings with their water and sewer bills on Wednesday.

The ordinance submitted by Commissioner Nick Fish adds $640,000 to an existing short-term rent assistance program operated by Home Forward, the county's housing authority. Each qualifying family will be eligible for a $500 payment, equal to roughly 85 percent of the annual cost of water and sewer services for an apartment, once per year.

"We're very excited, after years and years of work on this, that we've finally cracked the code and will be able to provide even more assistance to needy families," Fish said of the program, which will start in July.

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