THE BEAUTIFUL THING about having $49 million to spend is that you make a lot of friends.
When Mayor Charlie Hales took office in 2013, he had to wrangle a $21 million budget cut. It was a bloodbath, and things got emotional.
Last year, Hales had sunnier news: There was nearly $10 million in extra cash to go around. Even that, though, wasn't enough to fend off fresh enmity in some corners, and it only partly soothed bad feelings from the year before.
But now look at us! The budget Hales' office unveiled May 5 has an extra $49 million in general fund money compared to last year. And Hales' plan sucks up every last drop, leaving none for contingency or rainy day money.
There will be reshuffling in coming weeks, as city commissioners take their best crack at a sensible spending plan. But booming tax receipts will likely mean the least fraught budget season of Hales' tenure to-date.
Here are some takeaways from the mayor's proposal.
TRANSPORTATION: Hales spent the last year trying (and failing) to persuade citizens to pony up for roads, so it's only right that he follow his own advice. The mayor's budget throws more than $20 million in new money at the Portland Bureau of Transportation. A big chunk will go toward prepping 122nd Avenue for much needed frequent bus transit, with a still-larger chunk going toward maintenance projects throughout the city. This is a major general fund outlay for a bureau that's long contented itself with parking and gas tax revenues— but a tiny fraction of the money needed to get Portland's roads where they need to be.
And it's unclear whether this will cut for or against Hales and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick in the ultimate quest for more streets money. It may be taken by cynical voters as proof the city has plenty of money for roads. (It doesn't.)
COPS: The mounted patrol's alive and well! And the police bureau may get 17 new positions, after losing dozens in the tumult of 2013. Three of those positions will staff an ongoing team dedicated to enforcing domestic violence restraining orders—a long-neglected task in Portland police work ["Violators Will Be Prosecuted," News, April 1].
TEENS: One of Hales' more novel suggestions is spending $2 million to give teens in gang-affected areas new, better options at the city's community centers—including free summer access to Matt Dishman Community Center, and year-round programming at Montavilla Community Center.
TRACK AND FIELD: But the mayor's also dumping a pretty sizeable chunk of change into a private event that would happen with or without the city's contribution. The mayor proposes spending almost $2 million to, in part, help build a stadium in the Oregon Convention Center. It's a gift to the indoor track and field championships coming to Portland next year, and it's money that commissioners might well seize on to fund other things.
HOMELESSNESS: The mayor's budget has money for women's shelters and veterans' housing. We'll be most interested in the $1 million "intensive street engagement" initiative, which will target problematic homeless camps throughout the city. The bulk of that money will go toward a "collaboration between police and social service providers." Details to come, we assume.