City Commissioner Amanda Fritz stunned her four colleagues on Portland City Council today by casting the lone vote against Mayor Charlie Hales' city budget.
In a speech lasting nearly 15 minutes, she placed herself at odds with the new mayor's first signature project, and did so days before Hales is scheduled to assign city bureaus to council members.
Her reason for this self-imposed exile in the last moments of a $390 million budget? It was $117,000 for a shelter and service provider that fight child prostitution and sex trafficking.
Fritz cited a number of reasons for voting no—including a "less collaborative" process that shut her out of final decisions, and the elimination of environmental programs she championed. But she repeatedly returned to the mayor's 24 percent cut to two programs: $70,000 from Janus Youth Programs, which shelters child and adult women forced into the sex trade, and $47,000 from LifeWorks Northwest's New Options for Women program, which provides counseling and supplies to women exploited by prostitution on 82nd Avenue.
"I cannot visit the shelter for children escaping from prostitution and look them in the eyes if I vote to cut funding for their safe shelter and treatment," Fritz said. "I'm discouraged that the only woman on the council is the only member who finds this unconscionable."
Hales' office announced last week that it had found $277,000 in one-time money to support Janus Youth Programs and LifeWorks. But Fritz said today that gesture wasn't enough—she couldn't believe the city would consider the Police Bureau's Mounted Patrol Unit and not fund the anti-trafficking programs.
The audio of Fritz's remarks can be heard here, starting at the 15-minute mark, and she has posted the full text here. Here are crucial excerpts from her speech:
"Some have said that shelter treatment for child and women survivors of human trafficking should be a county function. This is not something we can kick down the road anymore. We have been doing that for far too long. It is a city function to help victims escape the mental and physical misery in which they are enslaved, since our current level of law enforcement cannot stop men for paying for sex with children and enslaved women. Already our current funding in this fiscal year is like applying a Band-Aid to a ruptured aorta with uncontrolled bleeding.
"I was reelected to speak the truth as I see it every day, and I plan to continue doing exactly that. Some would say that the dollar amounts of my issues, in numbers, compared with the whole budget is small, and that's true. Some say that something is better than nothing. When we're talking about vital, basic services such as treatment for people escaping prostitution, something is not enough. We should prioritize services and needs so that people struggling to survive are more important than things like additional maintenance in parks."