Mayor Charlie Hales is ready to nix the $3 billion Columbia River Crossing project if the Washington Legislature doesnt agree to pay for its share, and soon.
I think were going to know that probably in the next 30 days, Hales told the Portland City Club Friday, in his first State of the City speech. If they don't, its time to say enough, this is the worlds most expensive shelf study.
The Oregon Legislature has agreed to pay $450 million for the Interstate 5 bridge and light rail line to Vancouver, along with I-5 interchange improvements, but some Washington lawmakers are resisting funding the project.
In his 25-minute speech to Portlands leading civic action group, Hales mostly stuck to familiar themes about his back to basics approach to city governance.
I want to assure you we are not done building a great city, Hales said. But first some repairs are in order.
Hales has been working long hours to cure a $21.5 million shortfall in the citys $500 million general fund budget, and he said his budget is ready in draft form to be unveiled Tuesday. But he steadfastly refused to give any hints of what hell propose.
Im not going to tip my hand on any piece of the budget, he told
the crowd, which included many local political and business leaders.
Were trying to do this passionately and dispassionately at the same time.
Hales said hes been happy with the work of his fellow city commissioners, saying theyve been receptive to his board of directors approach to leadership. Since none of the commissioners knows which bureaus they will oversee yet, Hales said they all are pitching in to help balance the budget without trying to protect their future turf.
In addition to the budget, Hales initial priorities are fighting for better school funding from the Legislature, and moving the Portland Police Bureau back into a community policing mode.
We shouldnt feel the need to be protected from the police, Hales said, in a pointed remark about police friction with minority communities and people with mental illness.
In his future vision, Hales said, people of color trust the police and wont be surprised that the person they call on for help actually looks like them.
The Portland mayor was more specific when he listed his next priorities once the budget is approved. They include: addressing a new direction for the Portland Development Commission; initiative to deal with aggressive panhandling and downtown homelessness; assisting the James Beard Public Market project planned at the foot of the Morrison Bridge; and cleaning up the Willamette River.
Hales said its unacceptable that 1,700 people sleep on Portland streets each night. We also have to have civility in our streets, he said.
Backers of the public market are seeking some initial funding from the Oregon Legislature to do pre-development work, and a $20 million public fundraising drive is in the works. Hales said hed like the city to help in some way, though hes not yet sure how. The market lies in an urban renewal zone that Hales labels a zombie, which means it has no money available except to pay off bonded indebtedness.
Im interested in getting creative in how do we use the tools in making it happen, he said of the project.