Portland City Council is full this morning with students and education activists to hear Mayor Sam Adams' "State of Education" report.
Also on the council agenda is the city's tree code, a tax-credit program for businesses that create job-shadowing opportunities for teenagers, a scholarship program to send high-school graduates to community college, Commissioner Dan Saltzman's new technology oversight committee and Commissioner Randy Leonard's plan to issue $40 million in bonds to improve the emergency infrastructure at Portland Fire & Rescue.
State of Education: Adams charged into office in 2009 promising to cut Portland's drop-out rate in half. Two years later it should be possible to measure how well Adams has done. And yet....Portland, and other cities nationwide, use a variety of measures to assess graduation rates. Portland's favored method at the moment involves tracking one class of students (sometimes known as a "cohort") from middle school until at least 12th grade. Adams has told WW in the past that Portlanders won't be able to judge how effectively Adams has helped to reduce the drop-out rate until 2013 when the 2009 cohort has moved through high school. This morning, Adams will present a report that is the product of 60-plus Portlanders. But one thing we probably won't hear is how the graduation rate today compares with the graduation rate in 2009.
The city's tree code: If this sounds like a easy topic to tackle, you probably haven't been reading the Southeast Examiner's extensive coverage of tree issues in Portland of late. In sum, a variety of city bureaus perform work related to the planting and permitting of trees. Today's action will consolidate city tree regulations.
Tax credits: Saltzman joins Adams to push a plan that would give Portland businesses a $500 tax credit if they create job-shadowing or internship programs for poorer teenagers. Saltzman, who wants to use city money to create a one-stop center for the city's vulnerable population of youth in foster care, pushed for the tax credit to apply to businesses that help foster kids.
The mayor's 2010 promise to send high school graduates to community college: We've covered this topic extensively. Last year, at his annual State of the City address, Adams proposed sending up to 1,000 high-school graduates to community college with city-sponsored scholarships. Almost immediately, there were questions about how the mayor would justify paying for the scholarships. That's because Adams wanted to use ratepayer dollars from the city's Water and Environmental Services bureaus. In January 2011, Adams' office insisted the program -- and the funding plan -- remained on track. But last night, in an email to supporters, Adams announced he won't use ratepayer money for the program and will instead use general fund dollars.
Technology oversight: A citywide computer project that Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade in November called "expensive, late and incomplete" prompted Saltzman to propose a new technology oversight committee. Today the city accepts a report on the group's new administrative rules.
Fire bureau firefight: Last week a seemingly simple plan to issue $40 million in bonds as part of the city's approved $72.4 million fire bond turned nasty. Leonard wanted to spend part of the $40 million on new emergency vehicles. But, as Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Saltzman pointed out March 30, Leonard's fire bureau hasn't yet cemented a plan for how to staff the new vehicles because the union has to agree to any staffing changes in collective bargaining. Leonard found their questions very "frustrating." Expect Fritz to have more questions today about a plan that calls for buying equipment before council decides how to use the equipment.