SO FAR, dozens of prominent Portlanders (and some less so, like me) have lent their names and faces to a clever Facebook campaign with a deceptively simple name but a decidedly complicated mission.
It's called "I Support the Portland Safety Net." And it's being led by Street Roots and a panoply of housing providers who can't help but stare at Portland's $17.4 million budget deficit and wonder how they—and the hundreds of clients who rely on them for rent help, winter shelter space, and other needs—will fare.
Who can blame them? Months ago, Mayor Sam Adams ordered all city bureaus to contemplate cuts as deep as eight percent. Later, in his State of the City speech, he promised he'd do everything he could to keep from laying off cops and firefighters—never mind that doing so would force even deeper cuts from other bureaus. Like housing—which has asked for $4.7 million in one-time money to preserve vital programs.
It sounds dire. And it is. But thanks to the Facebook campaign, there might be a glimmer of hope.
Because despite Adams' prognostications, two city commissioners—Nick Fish, who runs the housing bureau, and Amanda Fritz—have publicly aligned themselves with the safety net campaign and its stated goal of delivering every item on the housing bureau's budget wish list.
If you do the math that means Fish and Fritz need only one more vote to go over the mayor's head if he doesn't produce the kind of budget they'd like to see.
It would be a bold and dramatic move, a departure from the collegiality that's marked Adams' time atop the council, but maybe not unbelievable. Adams, you'll remember, is leaving office after this year—meaning he has little leverage left to punish any insurrections. Same for his closest council ally, Randy Leonard. That leaves Dan Saltzman, a punchy vote of dissent during last year's budget fight and still burning over the way Adams stripped him of the police bureau in 2010.
All that won't escape Adams in the weeks of horse-trading between the day he releases his budget plan and then submits a revision that incorporates changes from the rest of the council.
I asked Adams' office if the mayor—a quiet but staunch backer of housing needs in past budgets—might surprise us all and sign up on behalf of the safety net. He's sympathetic and "thinks it's nice work," says his spokeswoman, Caryn Brooks, but will remain agnostic. "Due to his position in the process," she says, "It wouldn't be appropriate."
Fair enough. But that doesn't mean that you can't.