October 29th, 2010 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall

City Hall: Mayor and Commissioners Disagree on Flexible Neighborhood Spending

Leonard Fish
Mayor Sam Adams began today's discussion of "flexible" neighborhood spending with a caveat, telling his City Hall colleagues he didn't want his new budget exercise to "inflame inaccurately people's concerns about geographic equity."

Here's the basic premise of what Adams is talking about: The city will create maps that show where bureaus spend their money so bureaus and neighborhood associations can grapple with "localized concerns." The exercise will also determine to what extent bureau projects are "flexible" in terms of where the projects happen. An example? The installation of new stop signs could be concentrated in certain neighborhoods or spread among a larger number of them.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz seemed to approve of the project, saying "If we don't look and we don't ask, we're not going to know."

But commissioners Randy Leonard, Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman raised numerous questions about the substance and timeline for the mayor's project. Bureaus learned of this new exercise on Tuesday and were asked to respond by today. Yet no methodology exists for how to determine the degree to which bureau budgets are "flexible."

"When it came to my attention on Wednesday I didn't understand the question," Fish told the mayor. "We could benefit from a little more time and guidance."

Leonard also offered a couple of strong counterpoints to the mayor's exercise. The Portland Water Bureau runs operations in East Portland but a plant in the Centennial neighborhood benefits every city resident who turns on a tap. Also, fire inspections are concentrated downtown. But that's not necessarily because the Fire & Rescue Bureau neglects North Portland. It's because most high-density commercial buildings are in the city's core. Leonard warned that budget exercises such as the one the mayor is proposing could be "fodder for misunderstanding and mischief."

Said Adams: "I accept that it's new and we're acting fast."
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