My friend and occasional golf buddy Dave Lister has a column in today's Oregonian posing a pretty smart question about whether Mayor Adams' city budget should be prioritizing bikes or mental health funding.

At the beginning of any city budget forum, the mayor is likely to open the event with a lecture explaining the "colors" of city money. Water Bureau money is blue. Transportation money is red. Parks money is green. These pots of money may not, under any circumstance, be commingled.

Unless, of course, you are Portland Mayor Sam Adams. Then you have a gift for alchemy. Then you can suggest that $20 million of blue Water Bureau money might be used to jump-start a $600 million red money program for expanding the city's bicycle transportation infrastructure.

But let me ask you a question: If we're going to resort to alchemy to turn lead into gold, shouldn't that transformation be dedicated to the city's highest priorities, rather than pandering to one political constituency?

From the death of James Chasse in 2006 to the recent shooting of Aaron Campbell, one thing is apparent. Portland and Multnomah County cannot care for our mentally ill. Portland's police have become the first-responders for people in mental crisis, and the outcomes have too often been tragic.

Lister, a small business owner, ran against City Commissioner Dan Saltzman Erik Sten back in 2006. And it's encouraging to see that even someone with a more conservative outlook is able to see the sense in this approach:
If we're going to resort to alchemy to break the rules of the colors of money, what's more important? Striping paint on streets or providing help for the helpless and hope for the hopeless?

The answer should be obvious.

So. Is it obvious, Blogtown?
Bikes, or mental health?

Update, 11:39 I should add that Paul Cone is right: Adams is talking about taking money from the Bureau of Environmental Services, not the water bureau. That'd be Leonard's bureau. He'd prefer to pilfer from Saltzman, it seems.