May 16th, 2013 | Aaron Mesh News | Posted In: City Hall, Multnomah County, Politics

Hales, Cogen Reach Budget Deal that Funds Mental Crisis Center

County funds needle exchange and SUN Schools; city finds money for CATC

     
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Cogen 2Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen

After weeks of negotiations, Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen has agreed to help pull new Portland Mayor Charlie Hales out of a $21.5 million budget hole. In exchange, Hales has agreed the city will fund a county mental health crisis center police complained they rarely used.

The two officials released a joint statement this afternoon announcing that Multnomah County will fund needle exchange, senior centers and a one-stop domestic violence center. The county, which has comparatively flush finances, will also pick up half the tab for three SUN Schools, while Portland will add back the other half to its budget.

In return, Portland will fund a a 16-bed mental-health crisis center where Portland police can take people in mental distress—but rarely do.

Cogen was irate when Hales released his budget last month and didn't include funding for the county-run Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center, at 55 NE Grand Ave., opened in June 2011 above the Central City Concern Sobering Center as a partnership between the city and the county to help people in mental distress.

"I understand difficult choices, but this is just a poor one," Cogen told WW then.

Today, both men struck a conciliatory tone—less than two hours before a City Hall budget hearing expected to be packed with angry citizens.

"Both of us appreciate the collaborative spirit of our discussions to help the city deal with the budget shortfall it faces this year," Cogen and Hales wrote. "We are optimistic this spirit will be a model for our future discussions. The good news today is that we have reached an agreement that will benefit our entire community."

UPDATE, 8:35 pm: An quick analysis of the numbers provided by Hales' office shows that the deal is not quite an even horse trade: The city will spend an additional $428,653, while the county will spend $623,300.

So Hales is giving Cogen the one big-ticket item the county wants—the mental crisis center—while Cogen is satisfying several lobbies that could have made Hales' life difficult, especially SUN school parents.

In fact, tonight's City Hall budget hearing, expected to be a contentious showdown with SUN school supporters, turned into a lovefest—a small child even sat on Commissioner Nick Fish's lap while her parents testified about North Portland neighborhood programs.

City Hall staffers, who didn't hear about the deal until after it was cut, were elated.

One of them observed that the only two items identified for cuts in the bureau-slashing Hales budget that still have citizen factions fighting for them are "the pool and the ponies"—meaning the Buckman Pool and the Police Bureau's Mounted Patrol Unit.

A rundown of the exchange, provided by the city:

The City:
·         Funds CATC one-time ($634,107 cost)
·         Funds half of the SUN Schools pass-through (adding back 1.5 schools for $136,000 cost)
·         Further reduces senior center pass-through ($141,454 savings)
·         Gets County agreement for additional BIT collection ($200,000 savings)
 
The County:
·         Funds the remaining SUN pass-through ($135,000)
·         Funds the domestic violence cuts ($64,300 plus $77,000 for victim’s advocate position that was previously one-time funded, total of $141,300)
·         Funds needle exchange ($65,000)
·         Funds some of the senior center pass-through that was cut, but not all (about $282k)
 
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