Nothing says budget cuts like a good old-fashioned bake sale—or at least that’s what Portland’s unionized municipal workers think.
This afternoon, with two tables lined with cupcakes, muffins, cakes, and cookies, a group of about 100 protesters held a bake sale against the budget. The group, mostly composed of members of city employees from Labors’ Local 483, organized their bake sale to protest the city’s expected $28 million budget shortfall. The protest, said union members, was an attempt to nudge the city to seek out new sources of revenue instead of cutting services. To do this union members sold baked goods in front of city hall. And what money they didn’t make there, the protestors hoped to make inside the building by selling multi-million dollar baked goods to the mayor and city council.
Okay it was a joke. But the city’s budget problems are real.
To prepare for the coming shortfall, Mayor Sam Adams has instructed city bureaus to cut their operating budgets by up to 8 percent. Transportation and parks, both representing unionized employees, are expected to take the biggest hits.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation is slated to lose up to 30 jobs and Parks and Recreation expects to lose as much as 40 jobs according Labors’ Local 483 spokeswoman Megan Hise. Members of the union say Portlanders will notice the cuts as services begin to disappear. Of particular importance, say union members, is road maintenance.
“For every dollar we save now,” said Labors’ Local 483’s Kevin Stampflee, “we lose ten dollars down the road when things are worse. So do we wait for it to crumple, or do we fix it now?”
Stampflee said he hopes the city starts looking beyond cuts to new sources of revenue.
And that’s the reason for the bake sale, said Hise: to make up for the shortfall with a little fundraising. “And whatever we don’t raise out here,” she said, “ we are going to charge to the mayor and city council inside.” And they tried to do just that.
After raising about $500 from their bake sale, delegates from the union filed into city hall in groups of four to present city council members and the mayor with baked goods expensive enough, they said, to make up for the city’s current budget woes.
Stampflee was in the delegation that attempted to present Mayor Adams with his multi-million dollar cake. The delicately frosted cake depicted a maintenance vehicle that had fallen into a sinkhole, a reference to an incident that occurred in Southeast Portland in 2006. The cake, and the earlier incident, said Stampflee is symbolic of the kinds of maintenance problems the city could see if it doesn’t find new sources of revenue. Adams was unavailable to meet with the union members, or pay for his cake. Stampflee said Adams’ secretary said the mayor was in a budget meeting. Union members also reportedly presented a cake to commissioner Nick Fish, in charge of Parks of Recreation. Fish was also not available to accept his baked good, or pay its hefty price.
At around 4:45pm the protesters were asked by security to stop entering the building and the doors to city hall were locked, causing confusion for people not associated with the protest trying to enter the building. After protesting at city hall, union members headed to the downtown post office where they meet up with members of Occupy Portland protesting the proposed cuts to postal service.
Mayor Adams is scheduled to release his proposed budget at the end of this month. At the end of May, city council is expected to vote on the final budget, which will go into effect in July.