IT'S HARD to argue with a measure that helps impoverished, neglected, occasionally abused kids. Improving circumstances for the city's least-privileged children, in fact, was a big impetus for the Mercury's endorsement of water fluoridation ["The Sanest Arguments Against Fluoride... and Why They're Still Wrong," Feature, May 1].
So it would be hypocrisy to fight the Portland Children's Levy's bid for a third round of funding. It also would go against common sense.
The levy passed for the first time in 2002, and got a second nod from voters in 2008. You're already paying for it if you own property, or rent from a landlord who passes property taxes onto you. In doing so, you're ensuring thousands of the city's kids get access to preschool and mentorship programs. You're helping fund programs that assess and intervene against child abuse, and improve outcomes for kids whose turbulent circumstances have led to foster care.
As we said, it's hard to argue with that—and no one is. Measure 26-150, which would fund the levy for another five years, has no formal opposition on the May 21 ballot. That's not lost on the levy's chief spokesman, City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who describes the push for fresh approval as a "low-key campaign."
Perhaps that's why Saltzman's sales pitch to the Mercury last month was long on broad strokes and good feeling, but short on specific success stories.
"We really don't have those types of data," he said.
And there's probably no urgent need for him to chase compelling narratives down. The levy passed by a wide margin in 2008 after squeaking by in 2002. People love kids.
Despite the lack of specifics, we see no reason to doubt the levy's work. With about $10 million generated every year, it's kicking money to scores of local programs while also basing future funding decisions on their performance. It's consistently met its target for administrative costs: capping them below five percent. And at 40 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, the levy puts a reasonable price tag on helping some of the city's most helpless.
We also approve of administrators' expanding vision for the levy. If it's funded afresh, the allocation committee wants to tackle childhood hunger—specifically, ensuring kids have access to dinner, which Saltzman called "the biggest question of the day," in light of so many programs that focus on breakfast and lunch. The group's spoken with the Oregon Food Bank and Meals on Wheels about possibilities.
Children make for an easy mascot, which is all the more reason to scrutinize money collected under their banner. But here's the bottom line: the Children's Levy is doing what it's said it would do for the past 10 years.