May 9th, 2013 | Aaron Mesh News | Posted In: City Hall, Environment

Hales' Budget Cuts Include a Bureau Director

Office of Healthy Working Rivers chief slated for layoff

     
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news3_3922DRIFTING AWAY: City Hall is looking at killing the Office of Healthy Working Rivers, a city agency run by Commissioner Amanda Fritz that counts among its credits sponsoring the Big Float on the Willamette. - IMAGE: Steve G Jones / CC

This week's issue of WW features an analysis of the winners and losers in Mayor Charlie Hales' proposed budget. But we didn't have room for every cut made to fill a $21.5 million shortfall.

And one of the biggest bummers has befallen the happiest-named city bureau: the Office of Healthy Working Rivers.

Hales' budget calls for eliminating the the entire bureau, which was created by then-Mayor Sam Adams in 2009 to promote the Willamette and Columbia rivers as a healthy resource for recreation and a vital part of Portland’s economy.

That's a savings of $779,368—the bureau's annual budget—including five staff positions that will be cut.

And Hales' office confirmed Wednesday that the cuts go all the way to the top: The mayor is planning to lay off the bureau director, Ann Beier.

The decision isn't a surprise: The Office of Healthy Working Rivers has been on the city's chopping block ever since the larger bureau that oversees it—the Bureau of Environmental Services—suggested cutting it in February. "This office sleeps with the fishes," we wrote then.

Last month, WW took a closer look at the apparently doomed bureau:

The office is part clearinghouse, part public relations. Sponsors of the Big Float—the inner-tubing event that drew more than 800 to the Willamette last summer—credit the office’s publicity with making their event a success.

And Healthy Working Rivers’ website points to other recent activities, such as sponsoring a brown-bag luncheon on salmon migration, hosting a talk on floodplain mapping and promoting a children’s art competition.

But its role as a conduit for dealing with river issues has put the office in the middle of a turf battle—and made it not especially effective at dealing with one of the biggest issues confronting the river: the Portland Harbor Superfund site.

 
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