Sources: Metro homeless measure comes with conditions
Local governments like Portland will not be allowed to easily reduce their own homeless program spending if Metro's $250 million supportive housing measure passes at the May 19 primary election.
Mayor Ted Wheeler has said the approximately $30 million the city has been giving the Joint Office of Homeless Services for the past few years is not a sustainable level of funding.
The budgets of other Portland bureaus have stagnated or been reduced, most notably Portland Parks & Recreation, which is cutting staff and closing community centers.
But the measure says other jurisdictions cannot use its funds to offset their own current spending.
The only exception in the measure is, "A local government may seek a temporary waiver from this section for good cause, including but not limited to a broad economic downturn."
The goal is to assure that passage will increase spending on homeless services by the voter-approved amount. But it also could extend the ongoing challenge to local governments with competing priorities.
If approved by voters, the measure would impose a first-ever income tax on higher wage earners and larger businesses within Metro to fund a wide range of homeless support services, from rental assistance to mental health and substance abuse treatment.
TriMet, Metro not keen on merger
Three candidates for Portland mayor questioned TriMet's effectiveness during the most high-profile campaign debate.
Incumbent Ted Wheeler, architect Ozzie Gonzalez and community activist Sarah Iannarone all said TriMet was not meeting the region's transit needs. Wheeler even suggested it should be merged with Metro, the elected regional government that oversees, among other things, solid waste disposal, the urban growth boundary and The Oregon Zoo.
The timing of the criticisms was especially notable because TriMet is in the middle of the largest bus service expansion in its history, supported by increased revenues approved by the 2017 Oregon Legislature. It also is preparing to build a new MAX line in the Southwest Corridor between Portland, Tigard and Tualatin, if voters approve a regional transportation funding measure Metro is expected to place on the November general election ballot.
Both agencies were cool to the merger suggestion.
"While TriMet typically does not comment on these types of election matters, we appreciate any conversations being had with our city and regional partners to make our transit system work better and move faster, and we will continue pushing ourselves and our partners toward improvements that give transit priority on the region's roadways," said TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey.
"Lots of things are said during debates. Regardless of who runs what, Metro is committed to working with the City of Portland, TriMet and other partners to ensure everyone in greater Portland has a voice in decisions about our roads, bridges and transit system," Metro spokesman Jim Middaugh said.
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