Mayor proposes increases in police and housing funds
City Commissioner Randy Leonard did not get cash for his doulas, but aside from that Mayor Tom Potter seems to have balanced his fellow commissioners' desires pretty well with his proposed $2.9 billion budget released Tuesday.
'Everyone's happy,' said Jennifer Sims, the city's chief financial officer. 'It's a miracle.'
Potter this year had a welcome dilemma: $37 million in discretionary general-fund money to spend beyond what the city needed to maintain the status quo of services. Various bureaus and their commissioners served up some $90 million worth of requests, and Leonard even asked for some $60,000 for a North Portland nonprofit program that trains doulas, who provide informational and emotional support to mothers before, during and just after childbirth.
In the end, Potter seemed to have met at least some of each of his fellow commissioners' priorities, such as shifting $2.7 million into the Parks Bureau to help prepare for the expiration of the city park levy, in 2008, a focus for Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
While the successful balancing of the commissioners' priorities might seem like a political accommodation, Sims said it was actually the product of the mayor sitting down in a room with his five guiding principles posted on the wall; they prioritized the city's core services, livability and business climate, among other things. Over the course of the last two weeks, he spent 33 hours in meetings with citizen budget advisors and staff, applying the principles to the budget requests to craft his list, she said. He then alerted commissioners Monday to his proposed budget, which will need to be approved by a council majority.
Among other things, his proposed budget includes:
• Down payments on bonds to pay for a $9.5 million contribution to move the city archives into a building owned by Portland State University, as well as $3.5 million to relocate the police traffic division.
• $3.2 million to the Bureau of Housing and Community Services to offset federal cuts in community development block grants.
• $1.4 million to improve the Fire Bureau's emergency response capacity.
• $1.5 million to add seven detectives, as well as hire civilians so that four sergeants and five cops could be moved to the street.
• $4.8 million to revamp the city's computer-aided dispatch system used by 911 operators.
• $1.1 million in additional small business loans and storefront improvement grants for disbursement by the Portland Development Commission.
• $200,000 to start a Human Relations Commission to review address concerns of discrimination by the city.
• $100,000 to address fiscal problems at the nonprofit Oregon Council for Hispanic Advancement.
The latter was a request from Leonard, so he said 'all in all' he is happy. But he may still try to get funding for the doula program in the final budget, which will be approved in May.
'Just because it didn't make the cut doesn't mean it's over,' said Leonard with a laugh, noting that the final budget will be approved by a three-vote majority. 'I consider that just one more round in a nine-round match. And I lost that round, but I get judged on nine rounds.'