Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced several initiatives that built on his proposed $6.7 billion budget for the next fiscal year during his annual State of City address on Friday, May 6.
"Today, in these urgent times, I will describe how my proposed fiscal year budget, along with my emergency declarations and other city program improvements, get off the horse and buggy, inherently ineffective form of city government, cut red-tape and break down siloes to better achieve real, tangible outcomes on community safety, homelessness, city clean up and job creation that comes from successful local businesses," Wheeler said.
Speaking remotely to the City Club of Portland, Wheeler also said he will soon be signing an emergency declaration to coordinate and streamline trash collection programs on public property beyond homeless camps, which already are being served. Wheeler said 20 city programs in eight city bureaus overseen by five City Council members currently are responsible for cleaning up trash, graffiti, illegal dumping, abandoned cars and more. The declaration will coordinate all of them through the Street Services Coordination Center he previous established with an emergency declaration.
Wheeler also said he is preparing a multi-agency, public, nonprofit and privately funded action plan to address Portland's affordable housing gap. According to Wheeler, despite the city's investment in affordable housing projects in recent years, $6.5 billion is required to create the 20,487 affordable units that currently are needed.
Wheeler said 8,000 — or one third — of the units are needed in East Portland alone. He said gentrification in that part of town is driving up existing housing costs and needs to be addressed with a new East Portland Equitable Community Investment District. That includes the creation of new urban renewal zones.
"I want to ensure that East Portland residents and businesses continue to live and work in a connected, accessible, affordable, inclusive and complete neighborhood, where families can root, remain, have a livable-wage job, and benefit from growth and change," Wheeler said.
Another crisis is the lack of mental health and addiction services to help the growing number of homeless people who need treatment. Wheeler called on the state of Oregon to speed up the release of $265 million in treatment funds authorized by the passage of Measure 110, which legalized personal amounts of hard drugs. Wheeler also said he will be co-convening a series of public dialogues with current Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and state lawmakers later this year.
"As we collaborate with county and state legislators on this issue at next year's state legislative session, we ask the state government health authority, with urgency, to release the delayed $265 million dollars that voters approved in 2020 through Measure 110 to expand access to low- and no-cost drug treatment," Wheeler said.
He also endorsed the Charter Commission's upcoming amendments to change Portland's form of government, which are expected to be referred to the Nov. 8 general election ballot. The current versions would expand the council from five to 12 members elected by ranked-choice voting from four geographic district. They also would make the mayor a non-voting member of the council who runs the city on a day-to-day basis with the help of a professional manager.
"Portlanders will have an opportunity to vote at the ballot box to do away with our current, systemically bigoted, red-tape ridden, antiquated form of city government," Wheeler said.
A previous Portland Tribune story on Wheeler's proposed budget for the next fiscal year can be found here.
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