The changes voted on this morning—amounting to nearly $1 million in new one-time spending, plucked from rainy-day accounts—brought little grumbling. That's mostly because Adams was working with a $26 million surplus, managing to sock away $10 million while still offering a little something for everyone.
The biggest winner in the late adjustments was Housing Commissioner Nick Fish. The mayor personally added $500,000 more for short-term rent assistance for Portlanders close to losing their homes, upping spending on the program to the $1.9 million that Fish sought. Fish also got money for a Forest Park wildlife study and to start work on a Portland housing strategy.
"I thank him for stepping up and making that happen," Fish said of the mayor. The memo including the changes came out about when Fish told the Oregonian he'd be supporting the mayor's call for an equity office (at least for now).
Another commissioner had to ask for his largesse. Dan Saltzman had complained ever since the mayor's plan came out that it shortchanged the Bureau of Development Services' plans to add housing inspectors to keep an eye on the city's crappy rental properties. Saltzman won council assent for $373,000 to hire three more inspectors (and, ahem, also give them new cars worth $28,000 apiece).
"It's just not palatable to have people living in substandard housing," Saltzman said. "These additional inspectors, and their vehicles, will allow us to make a dramatic difference."
But there was tension. Amanda Fritz railed hard against the allotment for the inspectors' vehicles before giving in. Later, she tried to weigh in on the water bureau's federal- and state-mandated plans to cover and upgrade the city's reservoirs.
Fritz proposed adding a budget note that would direct the water bureau to come to council with details on any efforts to win a variance from the state and federal governments to save the city tens of millions of dollars in possible capital costs. She also wanted any rate increases approved to pay for construction to return to ratepayers if the city can get out of the plan.
Water Commissioner Randy Leonard reacted angrily to suggestions his office hadn't been doing enough to fight the plan. He said there isn't currently a path to a variance on the reservoir work and that it's "responsible" to be straight with people about that.
He read through pages of notes from council meetings and from letters he's sent to higher-up officials. Later in the meeting, the council is poised to award a construction contract for reservoir work that's $20 million less than what water officials had estimated.
"I have pages more to go through," he said, looking over at Fritz. "I will not bore the council... I have done as much as I believe any person can possibly expect an elected official to do... I don't want to cast aspersions on anyone's motives, other than to say we've been there, we've done that, and it's time to move forward.
"Nobody is questioning that you have certainly done a diligent job responding to the public as the commissioner in charge of the bureau," Fritz replied. "But what I am saying is this is a full council discussion and it shouldn't be done without a full council hearing."
The rest of the council, however, noted something curious in Fritz's request: Because it called for such a major policy change in a budget note, they said it would be better to bring her own item for a council discussion.
In one other notable item, the mayor's latest spending plan adds more detail to his call to build a new police training center, possibly at Portland International Raceway. He's seeking $1.8 million over a 10-year span starting next summer to pay back what could be $15 million in bonds to fund construction.
Fish, whose parks bureau includes the raceway, added a note that says the parks and police bureaus should come back this fall with updated costs and a more robust timeline for how the project might work out.