Multnomah County Keeps Revising Demands Related to $5 Million a Year in Funding for Homeless Services

The negotiations between the county, city and Metro are stalled and two parties blame the county.

Hampton Inn, Portland. (Justin Katigbak)

On Dec. 18, elected officials at Portland City Hall, Multnomah County and Metro released a joint statement cheering the progress in reaching a deal on using hotel taxes for homeless services.

But behind the scenes, city officials say the county is holding up a deal.

Metro and the city had reached a deal on a revised Visitor Facilities Development intergovernmental agreement, but still need the county's support.

The three governments use hotel and rental-car taxes to fund the convention center and support tourism as well as other venues around the city. For the last year, County Chair Deborah Kafoury has championed the idea of directing $5 million to homeless services as part of the agreement.

On Dec. 14, the city's lobbyist Elizabeth Edwards updated officials that the county had suggested a version of the agreement that "was severely inconsistent with terms of our agreement, introduced new concepts, raised issues that had previously been settled, etc.," in an email obtained by WW.

At the Metro Council vote on Dec. 13, outgoing president Tom Hughes told a similar story, explaining that negotiations had been ongoing for 10 months with the county, but a pattern had emerged.

"We have come to agreement multiple times only to find that 'agreement' didn't really mean agreement; it meant agreement except we've got another set of red-line changes we want to make," Hughes said.

It's unclear at this point whether a deal will be reached, but county officials say they plan to continue discussions in the new year.

"Using these dollars is a completely new concept and we knew this would not be an easy negotiation," says county spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti. "But our position hasn't changed. Getting stable funding to help people get off the streets and into housing, and protecting our fiscal integrity, have been the county's top priorities throughout these talks and what we will work on with our partners in the New Year."

Mayor Ted Wheeler's office similarly expressed a commitment to continuing to work out a deal.

"The Mayor continues to work in good faith with the Chair and the Metro President on negotiating this multi-jurisdictional agreement," says Wheeler spokeswoman Eileen Park.

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