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October 24th, 2001 The Nose | The Nose
 

Keeping the mission creeps at bay.

     
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Dan Saltzman means well, but he's got us pining for Earl.

This weekend, seeking a distraction from fears about anthrax in the mail and the Oregon Ducks choking on their pre-season hype, the Nose decided to take a trip upstairs.

Deep in the back of the attic, the Schnozz dusted off an old trunk and found what he was looking for: his prized collection of shattered commitments, a strange assortment of promises others had made and broken.

Still somewhat shiny was George Bush Sr.'s "read my lips" speech. Tucked below that was the Trail Blazers' annual promise to field a team Portlanders could be proud of. There was John Kitzhaber's pledge to have employers pay for health care. Several initial public offering boasts from now-failed dot-coms. A can of New Coke. Crumpled at the bottom, just underneath a few Indian treaties and tickets from the "farewell" tours of the Ramones, Celine Dion and Garth Brooks, the Snoot located the object of his desire: a tattered copy of Resolution A.

Crafted in 1983, which happened to be the last time the regional economy was in the toilet, Resolution A was an agreement between the governments of Portland and Multnomah County. It was as splendid as it was simple: promote efficiency by having governments divide services. Pushed by then-county-commissioner Earl Blumenauer, who was nothing if not pragmatic, Resolution A required that county government provide human services (family support, ambulances, health care for the poor) and that the city provide urban services (cops, water, parks). It was to end empire building, avoid duplication of services, increase government credibility and save stretched tax dollars.

The Nose was searching for Resolution A because last week Portland City Council considered giving $3 million to what it calls the "Early Childhood Investment Fund." Recipients of this fund are certainly deserving, including Albina Head Start and Portland Relief Nursery, among others. But this isn't the city's business; it's the county's! Why create a bureaucracy to deliver human services in a government that isn't supposed to be in this line of work?

To be sure, the Early Childhood Investment Fund is not the first time the City Council has violated the spirit and the letter of Resolution A. Former city commissioner Gretchen Kafoury did it. So, too, current commissioner Erik Sten. Even Jim Francesconi, who at least seems to have come to his senses this time, has supported city-funded human-services programs in the past. But, economically, things are now quite different: It's 1983 all over again. The city is in deep financial doo-doo--it's anticipating budget cuts of $15-20 million over the next eight months.

Dan Saltzman is the fellow behind this current proposal. A former Multnomah County commissioner who now sits on the Portland City Council, he is unabashed about his plan to spend scarce dollars, which comes to a formal vote early next month. "Yeah, it's in violation of Resolution A," he says, "but kids' issues should be all of our responsibilities."

Yeah, well, so should fighting the Taliban. Does that mean that Police Chief Mark Kroeker ought to be cutting a check to purchase a couple of F-14s? We don't think so.

 
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