The winds of change continue to blow hard on the third floor of Portland City Hall.
After trumpeting $600,000 in salary cuts by hiring only half the staff his predecessor did, Mayor Charlie Hales today announced nearly $400,000 more in reductions to his office budget. How'd he magick 'em up? By going after two of Sam Adams' most cherished education programs.
From a press release just sent out by Hales' office:
Gail Shibley, Mayor Hales’ chief of staff, announced today that $395,000 for summer internships and grant management contracts will not be moving forward. Together with the $600,000 annualized salary difference from the earlier administration, Mayor Hales has reduced his office spending almost $1 million.
A local non-profit, Worksystems Inc., was to receive two separate grants from the mayor’s office. One, worth $195,000, was for the SummerWorks youth employment program. A separate contract amendment worth $200,000 would have gone toward coordination of activities and support for the Summer Youth Connect program.
Both were flogged hard by Adams, a self-styled "education mayor." And dozens of kids, from poor neighborhoods, went through each. The Summer Youth Connect program was also popular across the river, at the Multnomah County administrative building. A former county aide, now working for City Commissioner Steve Novick, wrote a glowing review of it last year.
But Hales, who also has counted education as a priority (mostly by promising to lobby for school funds in Salem), is arguing the city's general fund—bleeding out through a $25 million chest wound—needs the money even more.
“Mayor Hales knows the value of summer internships, and has great respect for the good work of Worksystems,” Shibley said. "These budget decisions simply reflect the tough fiscal reality we face, and the mayor is committed to leading by example as the council begins crafting next year’s budget. Every dollar of general fund saved today can go toward the $25 million hole the city faces.”
Mayor Hales reiterated his commitment to education and jobs, stating “I stand ready to advocate for workforce development resources, especially in efforts for Portland-area agencies like Worksystems Inc. The federal and state government, along with private sector industries, are essential partners in this important work.”
It's tempting to see this solely as another symbolic rebuke of Adams and his approach to governance. But there's also an unsubtle message being sent to other city hall offices and bureaus about the symbolism of doing more with less. Which means everyone should be on notice.