Your City Hall: Share your views on mayor's budget this Thursday
WHAT'S HAPPENING? The Portland City Council hearing on Mayor Ted Wheeler's proposed budget is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, May 9, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the World Forestry Center, Miller Hall, 4033 S.W. Canyon Road, Portland. It is the only time public testimony will be taken on the overall budget before the council begins a series of work sessions and votes on the final version Wednesday, June 12.
WHAT HAS WHEELER PROPOSED? The council has the most control over the record $577.3 million general fund dollars the city expects to collect in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The mayor proposes spending most of that money on existing programs, and on a few new initiatives. He is continuing to prioritize homeless services by renewing the nearly $32 million provided to the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services, continuing related existing city programs, and creating some new city services, such as mobile showers and bathrooms for use by homeless people.
WHAT IS CONTROVERSIAL? During recent public budget forums, a recommendation to cut $6.3 million from Portland Parks & Recreation to close a projected budget shortfall drew the most heat. That would lay off 9% of the staff, shut down several community centers, and curtail numerous programs.
Wheeler is proposing an additional $2.5 million to put off some of those decisions for 12 to 18 months, and to allow Parks Commissioner Nick Fish to appoint a task force to study potential long-term revenue sources, such as a voter-approved parks tax district.
Wheeler's decision is still controversial, however, because some cuts would still happen this year, and others could occur next year. Parks supporters are planning to attend the hearing to insist that the programs be permanently saved. They include groups in North Portland backing the continued operation of the Columbia Pool, which had been targeted for closure. The Hillsdale and Sellwood community centers still would close this year if nonprofit operators cannot be found.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty also has said she will move to eliminate the Portland Police Bureau's Gun Violence Reduction Team, formerly known as the Gang Enforcement Team.
WHAT IS NEW? Perhaps the most important initiative is the study of a Rapid Street Response program that would create alternatives to dispatching police to reports of people experiencing mental health crises. The idea is to provide the most appropriate help and free up police for more serious calls.
The chief administrative officer would be directed to convene a work group that would propose a plan to the council no later than Nov. 15. Wheeler is requesting $500,000 to start the effort, and would ask for more money later for the full program.
WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE? Details of Wheeler's proposed budget and other information related to the budget process are posted on the City Budget Office's website at portlandoregon.gov/cbo.
You also can read a previous Portland Tribune story on Wheeler's proposed budget at tinyurl.com/y2rcm9av.
WHAT IF I CAN'T MAKE THE HEARING? The mayor and council members are accepting comments by phone, mail and email. Contact information can be found on the city's website at portlandoregon.gov.
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