Bob Ball is making another bid to save the Portland Police Bureau's mounted patrol unit.
The Pearl District condo developer made the city an offer this month through the non-profit Friends of Portland's Mounted Patrol to increase its annual contribution to the horseback cops from $25,000 to $75,000 annually for the next three years.
The annual mounted patrol budget is $1.2 million. Both the Police Bureau and the city's budget office have recommended it be cut to help fill a $21.5 million budget shortfall.
Friends of Portland's Mounted Patrol mailed a letter to Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and the City Council on April 7 offering to up its yearly contribution by $50,000 through 2015.
"As former Mayor Vera Katz said in 2002, the MPU 'puts a gentle face on this city,' and we believe the citizens of Portland still feel the same way," Ball's letter says. "If we don’t eliminate the program in this troubled year of budget cuts, we’ll all proudly look back at saving an effective policing tool and symbol of Portland that has served us for generations."
Ball tells WW that the unit both combats crime and improves Portland morale.
"There's a point where you start taking away the identity of our city," Ball says. "You need things that give kids hope and role models that there's a better life."
Friends of Portland's Mounted Patrol is also launching a horse sponsorship program, asking people or businesses donate $5,000 to feed, equip and care for each of the unit's 10 horses.
Those sponsorships would help fund the nonprofit's bailout of the unit, but Ball says the offer to the city isn't dependent on the plan's success. "We just said we'll pay regardless," Ball says.
This isn't the first time Friends of Portland's Mounted Patrol has stepped in to save the horseback unit. In 2010, Ball's nonprofit gave a $100,000 donation to save the unit from the budget axe.
"I was raised in a difficult environment where we didn't have a lot of money," says Ball, a Portland Police reserve commander who briefly ran for mayor. "There were some things that gave me a sense that there were better and brighter things in the world."