DAVID F. ASHTON - Some of the two-dozen supporters from the Friends of Sellwood Community Center warmed up for their presentations before the only City of Portland Budget Hearing east of the Willamette River, at which four City Commissioners - including the citys Mayor - were present. Although Alice Ott Middle School is located 115 blocks east of the Sellwood Community Center, a large contingent of the Center’s supporters showed up at the City of Portland Budget Hearing at the school, on the evening of Tuesday, April 12.

Before this official meeting of the Portland City Council – at which Commissioners Steve Novick, Amanda Fritz, late-arriving Nick Fish, and Mayor Charlie Hales were present – the Chair of SMILE’s Friends of Sellwood Community Center Committee, Gail Hoffnagle, told THE BEE why they were there.

“For the sixth time in ten years, the Sellwood Community Center is again on the funding ‘chopping block’,” Hoffnagle frowned.

“They say it is because the city would have to provide $80,000 in general fund money for it,” Hoffnagle explained. “Yet, the community center brought in $420,000 this year, and it has the most ‘participation per square foot’ of any Community Center of the city.

“It's a little odd that this is a Center that they want to close,” Hoffnagle went on. “It’s well used, well loved, and it’s been a cornerstone of our neighborhood for more than 90 years. And the city is making money on it! We hope our testimony and show of support will change their minds.”

Asked to comment, Eastmoreland neighbor and Portland neighbor Charlie Hales told THE BEE, “We ask all Bureaus to show us what they would do if they only got 95% of the money that they got last year. It’s a good discipline to do that, even if it causes some anxiety when they come up with a list of what they would cut.

“That’s what has happened with Sellwood Community Center; the Parks Bureau put it on their list of cuts,” Hales said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t have funding for the Center.”

The Sellwood group was lucky enough to have their names chosen in the “testimony lottery” – and it was difficult for Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz and the other Commissioners to overlook the group, which was dressed in red T-shirts and was holding placards.

The Sellwood Community Center is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, by the way.

The final Public Budget Hearing will be in City Hall Chambers on May 12, from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m.; and is scheduled for City Council action on June 9.