Closing the loop on a promise the Mercury first reported early this summer—issued after her colleagues cut cash for anti-sex-trafficking programs as part of the city's budget—Commissioner Amanda Fritz presided over an emotional parade of advocates, survivors, and children this morning that gave way to a unanimous council vote not only restoring that money but also adding some more.
The 5-0 vote—which takes effect immediately—will divert $250,000 in one-time money from the city's rapidly draining contingency fund for work that not only expands the reach of current programs helping girls and boys escape a life of pimping and abuse, but also to help seed new programs meant to help keep kids out of the life in the first place.
Most of the money will go to social services providers, including Janus Youth Services and the Sexual Assault Resource Center. The rest, $60,000, will go to the police bureau. All told, the decision to pull the money out will leave the city's contingency fund with just $503,000. The fund started the year with $3 million. The council had approved another big hit last month, also for social services, when it voted to spend $1.7 million on homelessness programs at the urging of Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
The money is a certain political victory for Fritz, who spared no one's feelings in the spring when she gave a 15-minute speech during a budget hearing accusing her male colleagues of lacking sensitivity in approving what had been tens of thousands of dollars in cuts. Almost immediately, Fritz began planning another way to get the money back.
But on the eve of the vote—and even after it—she said she didn't see it in those terms. She saw it as a chance to set the table for a better and more comprehensive request next spring when both the city and Multnomah County prepare next year's budgets.
"This is a partnership," she said, ditching her prepared remarks in light of powerful testimony by several advocates and students, including a young girl who's been part of the self-defense Girl's Strength class the council voted to expand, by adding a Boy's Strength program.
"And it's crucially important important that it continues to be a partnership between the city and the county and the providers in the community," she continued.
Although Fritz was very careful to couch her request as a one-time-only deal, it was very clear that the money could definitely work as a permanent springboard. Much of it will go toward hiring counselors an advocates, and training volunteers, whose work will continue.
"We want to have a foundations that's sustained after the funding ends," one advocate for Girl's Strength told the council.
Dennis Morrow of Janus Youth said it was time for "the adults" to take responsibility going forward.
That depends, in part, on Hales—who was the biggest force this spring behind the cuts Fritz protested. Hales has made untangling the budget "mish-mash" between the county and city one of its major priorities for next year. And in this hearing, he repeatedly dropped the name of interim county chair Marissa Madrigal and asked pointed questions about county funding.
He aimed some of those queries at Morrow, assuring him that "the adults" were, in fact, "in the room."
Morrow told him Janus suffered after the city's $70,000 cut, but that the county began stepping up its support instead. Some previously one-time money, he testified, is now permanent—amid plans to increase funding even more.
Hales answered with an announcement—that he would be working with Madrigal before they both put out "coherent" budgets—taking a page from his predecessor, who also talked of joint budgets but could never work out personality conflicts with former chair Jeff Cogen.
That issue not only affects sex trafficking, interestingly enough. It also affects homelessness and transportation and services for senior citizens. (Something Commissioner Nick Fish helpfully reminded the room.)
And when voting at the end of the hearing, the mayor invoked once more his distaste for the current and haphazard blend of funding for these programs and others. (Hales also defended the nearly immediate decimation of a contingency fund he beefed up this year even though it meant taking cuts from ongoing programs, arguing there's still "money in the drawer.")
"I'm bound and determined, with chair Madrigal's help, to sort some of that out," Hales said of the governments' shared roles, "so you and the citizens know who's in charge of a public service."
"In the meantime," he followed, "I'm happy to support this."
Not that Fritz, with some careful assembly of advocates and testimony, really gave any of her colleagues—if they really were having second thoughts—a choice.