Belt-tightening in prior years and new, higher-than-expected revenue from business license fees put the City of Portland in good financial shape in 2011.
That means when city bureaus submit their budgets Jan. 31, program cuts won’t go as deep as city officials once feared. Instead of .75 to 1.5 percent reductions, some bureaus won’t have to take any cuts at all.
But as Mayor Sam Adams embarks on his third year in office, more than the city’s 2011-12 budget is on his mind. Along with city commissioners, Adams has set a wide-ranging agenda for 2011. Here’s what to expect in the weeks ahead.
Strengthen police training: A fatal shooting by an officer in Southeast Portland on Jan. 2 marked the fourth officer-involved shooting since mid-December. Two Portlanders died in those exchanges. On Monday, the mayor and Police Chief Mike Reese said they’d hire an outside consultant to review the incidents. Adams also said he’d “fast-track” the process.
Prediction: “Fast” is a relative term, especially in the mayor’s orbit. For more, see here.
Reconsider role in Joint Terrorism Task Force: Following the Nov. 26 alleged plot to set off a bomb in Pioneer Courthouse Square, Adams promised to revisit Portland’s involvement in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Commissioner Dan Saltzman wants to rejoin the group that Portland broke away from in 2005. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon opposes that. Adams has scheduled a Jan. 13 town hall-style meeting at 6:30 pm at a to-be-determined location.
Prediction: Status quo. Rejoining the task force is about as likely as your rejoining the gym.
Build a new police training facility: Rewind to 2008 when then-Mayor Tom Potter tried to secure funding for a new police training facility on farmland 20 miles from Portland in Scappoose. Commissioner Randy Leonard rejected the plan for the 276-acre site, and his skepticism ultimately tanked the Potter project. But Leonard says he’ll now work just as hard to find a new site. In Adams and Reese he has close allies. “I got associated with killing it out in Scappoose,” Leonard says. “So I feel somewhat responsible to help them come up with an alternative.” One option is Portland International Raceway, which the city’s Bureau of Parks and Recreation already owns.
Prediction: Kenton neighborhood residents near PIR will embrace the new facility but may raise objections about noise from a possible shooting range.
Secure a westside emergency response center: The hunt continues to find a suitable site for emergency vehicles to refuel on Portland’s west side after a massive earthquake or other disaster. Last year, Adams called the lack of a site “unacceptable.” But Saltzman expressed concerns about Adams’ wish to buy 10 acres from The Oregonian in industrial Northwest Portland for the project. Saltzman considered that land better suited to businesses that could create jobs. Now the city has turned its attention to two different parcels—one in Multnomah Village at Southwest 25th Avenue and Multnomah Boulevard and a second site the city already owns next to The O’s land. The Southwest spot currently houses the Jerome Sears U.S. Army Reserve Center. It was to be turned into an affordable housing project after the military decommissions the site in September 2011. But that project fell through because of a lack of funding.
Sell the 1900 Building: Adams appears closer than ever to a decision to sell Portland’s 1900 Building to Portland State University, which wants the building for its business school. The building houses about 80 employees of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability plus all 150 employees of the Bureau of Development Services. Leonard, who oversees BDS, wants that bureau to have new headquarters on the inner east side. Also, Adams wants to move the planning department to the Oregon Sustainability Center, a so-called living building that incorporates green-energy techniques.
Prediction: Imminent. The success of the Sustainability Center in part depends on having tenants from the 1900 Building.
Increase technology oversight: Saltzman in 2011 wants to bring more transparency and accountability to the city’s tech projects, such as the $47 million business system software implementation, which Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade in November called “expensive, late and incomplete.” One component of Saltzman’s plan would create a citizen oversight committee much like the Portland Utility Review Board.
Prediction: In a city that loves citizen involvement, a new committee is a shoo-in. Its effectiveness is another question.
Improve services for foster kids: Saltzman, whose Children’s Levy raises about $12 million a year from Portland property owners to fund social services for kids, wants to create a new center in Portland for foster-care kids aging out of the system at 21. Modeled somewhat after the domestic violence one-stop center that opened in East Portland in 2010, the foster kid center would help young people seek jobs and higher education. It might also offer housing.
Prediction: A design team will look at funding possibilities with Multnomah County. If it doesn’t attract money in 2011, it will in years to come.
Promote urban renewal: A plan for a central city urban renewal zone is off the table for now. But the mayor has floated a small urban renewal zone in the sidewalk-deficient Cully neighborhood in Northeast Portland. One goal? Building a grocery store in a neighborhood some call a “food desert.” But Cully isn’t the only neighborhood lacking a supermarket. Commissioner Nick Fish says he’ll seek $50,000 in city funding to help the nonprofit Janus Youth Programs create a community grocery store in the New Columbia housing development.
Prediction: Adams must convince critics of urban renewal that smaller zones, possibly funded without bonds, make financial sense.