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April 6th, 2005 Zach Dundas | News Stories
 

Ranger Potter on Patrol

Danger! Hot spending decisions, coming through!

     
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IMAGE: MATTHEW CLARK AND JEFF PARKER
Rookie Mayor Tom Potter hikes into a major political tinderbox this week, ax and bucket in hands, with his first budget proposal.

With Potter and the City Council trying to divvy up dwindling cash, here are some hotspots in the $2 billion-plus budget and how likely each is to burst into flames.

POLICE

With an $8 million cut looming for the city's general fund, cops offered up programs for auto theft and police in schools as sacrifices. Instead, Dan Saltzman and Randy Leonard, the commissioners examining the Police Bureau budget, want to save $3 million by axing currently vacant positions. The Finest lobbied furiously against the idea, dispatching fully uniformed (and armed) cops to hearings.

If Potter backs Saltzman and Leonard, it'll show the mayor meant business when he promised bureaus wouldn't push him around. But what will it do to his relationship with Police Chief Derrick Foxworth?

FIRE DANGER: HIGH

FIRE

The Bureau wanted to close three stations and build a new one. Thanks for playing! Instead, Saltzman and Leonard recommend slicing the training budget. Firefighters claim that will erode their ability to keep people safe. Deciding whom to believe-and sticking by the choice-will test Potter's budgetary backbone. And like the politically active police union, the firefighters' union makes a dangerous adversary.

FIRE DANGER: HIGH

PARKS

The Parks Bureau got publicly shellacked for suggesting it might close pools, gardens and community centers. Look for Potter to pummel bureau planners and management instead. The question of whether to plan for new parks or pick up the garbage in existing ones seems mundane but has emerged as a prominent test of wills and priorities.

FIRE DANGER: MODERATE

NEIGHBORHOODS

There's big-time change on the drawing board in an area dear to Portland's ideological heart. Commissioners Erik Sten and Sam Adams recommend decentralizing the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, farming out a lot of the bureau money directly to neighborhood associations. Will Potter go for it-even though he's interested in keeping ONI under his own direct control?

FIRE DANGER: MODERATE

SCHOOLS

While the city doesn't run schools, Potter always makes noise about wanting to help kids. Seemingly minor budget decisions will show if those words have teeth. Sten and Adams propose that the city take over schools maintenance; to get the ball rolling, the city needs to shell out for a study.

FIRE DANGER: LOW

 
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