The majority of Portland’s $391 million discretionary general-fund budget, which is 3 percent higher than this year’s pot of money, will go to salaries for cops, firefighters and parks department employees.
But each year the mayor and city commissioners earmark hundreds of thousands of dollars for other public agencies and nonprofit groups who seek the city’s financial support. In 2011-12, the total amount requested comes to $3.3 million, compared with the $1.5 million allocated last year.
Call it pork or call it charity, this year’s list of proposed recipients of “special appropriations” includes high-school students, low-income Portlanders and people who really, really need a bathroom.
Japanese Garden Society of Oregon: $500,000
The 5.5-acre garden built in 1967 north of Washington Park wants to expand—at a cost of $19.2 million. The board of directors at the garden would match Portland’s $500,000 gift with $1 million. In a break from standard practice, this request does not appear on the mayor’s or any other individual commissioner’s special appropriation request. “It’s in the hopper for consideration, but without a sponsor,” Adams’ spokeswoman, Amy Ruiz, explains.
High-School Sports Fields: $400,000
This contribution proposed by Commissioner Nick Fish continues support started last year, when Portland contributed $200,000 to Roosevelt High School’s improved athletic complex. The new money would go to the Portland and Parkrose school districts.
Portland Loos: $352,000
Commissioner Randy Leonard has so far christened four loos in Portland. An additional $352,000 would pay for four new public toilets.
CARES Northwest: $100,000
A regional child-abuse assessment center based at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, CARES Northwest treats 1,500 juvenile victims of abuse a year. Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s girlfriend works as a development director for CARES Northwest, but Commissioner Randy Leonard made this funding request.
David Douglas High School SUN School: $100,000
SUN Schools, or Schools Uniting Neighborhoods, provide extra educational resources for kids and parents in high-poverty neighborhoods. “David Douglas High School is the only high-poverty index school in the region without a SUN program,” the mayor’s request reads.
Black Parent Initiative: $100,000
The five-year-old nonprofit that helps black parents improve their children’s educations is poised to get $12,500 from the city’s taxpayer-funded Children’s Levy. Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who started the levy and requested the appropriation, says the $100,000 would fund a separate program. “This program keeps kids safely at home, and increases the role of relatives and natural support systems, therefore decreasing the disproportionate number of black youth in the care of the Department of Human Services,” his request reads.
CASH Oregon: $75,000
By providing free tax-preparation services to low-income residents, CASH, or Creating Assets, Savings and Hope, Oregon says it brings in close to $20 million in tax credits and refunds for filers. In 2010, the group helped file 15,600 tax returns, according to its newsletter. Adams gave the group $75,000 last year.
Oregon Food Bank: $75,000
The distributor of food for the needy last year got $50,000 from Portland taxpayers. This year, Adams may increase the city’s donation at Leonard’s request. “Exacerbating the challenge of keeping up with demand of emergency and supplemental food is the decrease in donations of food from industry partners in the retail and grocery business, growers and manufacturers,” city documents read. “This decision package requests $75,000 to provide approximately 150,000 pounds of food, or 115,000 meals to hungry people.”
VOZ Day Laborer Center: $25,000
The brainchild of former Mayor Tom Potter, the day laborer center got its start in 2008 with $200,000 from the city. The center, basically a parked trailer on an asphalt lot on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, allows contractors and other employers to hire temporary workers, many of whom are undocumented. Leonard made this request.
Portland Rose Festival: $20,000
Starting in 2008, the City Council gave the 104-year-old Portland tradition money for “temporary public toilets and designated seating areas for the elderly, disabled and families with young children.” Leonard has asked that the city continue that support for the Rose Festival, whose new headquarters in a city-owned building got a $1.5 million facelift on taxpayers’ dime.