Every fall, the city's financial planner compares the previous year's budget to how much money the city actually collected and spent. If there's a surplus, the city council gets to spend it—last year, they sent nearly $23 million to projects like gang outreach, water billing, and road repairs.
This time around, there's only $6.7 million in one-time surplus, also known as the fall Budget Monitoring Process, or BuMP. The council's already signaled they'll spend $1.7 of that on capital improvements, like computer-assisted dispatch equipment, and another $850,000 on a project aimed to quell drug issues downtown—through inpatient and outpatient treatment, police officer overtime, and a "housing rapid response" program—in the wake of the Drug-Free Zones' expiration.
That leaves $4.15 million for the council to divvy up—but they've submitted more than $12 million in requests for the cash.
Fortunately, Mayor Tom Potter's October 25 city council walkout over the Interstate rename—and his refusal to entertain the idea of additional process over that divisive issue—has made it easy for his colleagues to potentially slash millions in requests. Noting that "hostility is at an all time high" at city hall, several staffers indicated that Potter's budget requests are likely the first to go.
What might be on the retaliatory chopping block? For starters, Potter's pet project VisionPDX wants $116,930 to fund their "Vision to Action" stage, $125,000 for "Vision to Action" grants via the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and $3,000 for "visioning final reports." Potter's Racial Profiling Committee needs $50,000 for "additional facilitation... to move the committee into the human relations commission." The Street Access for Everyone committee—another Potter project—wants $90,000 to implement their recommendations ($15,000 for 10 more benches, and $75,000 for another year of an overnight restroom at city hall). The mayor is also seeking $50,000 for a consultant to review "tram decision making," $22,000 to "create a successful employee volunteer program for the City of Portland," and $5,000 for Old Town/Chinatown's Under the Autumn Moon Festival.
But even if every Potter-related request is dumped, there's still not enough money to go around. The council plans to prioritize their requests by November 14, and the surplus isn't officially allocated until a December 5 vote. In the meantime, here are some of the budget requests to keep an eye on:
$1.05 million for affordable housing: Commissioner Erik Sten's Bureau of Housing and Community Development (BHCD) wants over a million dollars to fund housing for those making less than 50 percent of the median income.
$200,000 for bike-truck safety: Following two fatal bike-truck collisions, Commissioner Sam Adams has proposed $200,000 in improvements to 14 dangerous intersections, plus "safety barriers" installed on city trucks.
$15,750 to take on bad landlords: Also via the BHCD (and thanks to work by the Community Alliance of Tenants) this money would help a work group explore policy and program changes to combat rental housing problems like mold, lead paint, pests, and basic repair issues—in other words, things that crappy landlords don't always deal with unless the city forces them to.
$300,000 for OMSI: OMSI is in debt, and Governor Ted Kulongoski vetoed financial aid for the riverfront museum—leaving the organization with annual payments they can't afford. This $300K would pay down their debt to an amount the museum can manage.
$250,000 for 24-hour restrooms: Instead of forcing the homeless to trek to city hall to find a late-night bathroom—the building's nowhere near Old Town, where a large chunk of the city's homeless population hangs out—this money would fund two "compact, self-maintaining restroom facilities" closer to where they're really needed.
$50,000 to fight duct tape: Following Tapegate 2007—wherein this paper led a civic cleanup crew, ripping up duct tape to give citizens the right to sit anywhere they damn well pleased to catch the Rose Parade—Commissioner Randy Leonard formed a committee to find a permanent solution. With $50,000, the city can set up bleachers along the parade route, and "provide enforcement of city rules regarding the prohibition of marking space in the public right of way."
$20,000 for a "Sweatfree Consortium": The city has a work group hammering away at an eventual anti-sweatshop ordinance, but sweatshop-free activists want the city to take the campaign a step further, by funding a start-up consortium that would act as an independent enforcement agency.
$50,000 for a skatepark study: With $50,000, a consultant can get to work planning a world-class skatepark—think bleachers, lighting, and a roof—at the west end of the Steel Bridge.