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Unions oppose city budget cuts

Fliers denouncing the cuts distributed at State of the City speech

Unions representing Portland employees are urging residents to protest potential spending cuts in next year's city budget.

The unions include Laborers Local 483, which represents workers in the Portland Bureau of Transportation, Portland Parks and Recreation and other city agencies. They oppose cutting maintenance and other programs at the agencies.

Other union groups opposing the potential cuts include the District Council of Trade Unions and the Northwest Oregon Labor Council. Their members include other unions representing city employees.

Laborer union members passed out fliers decrying such cuts when Mayor Sam Adams delivered his State of the Union speech before the City Club of Portland. The fliers listed phone numbers for all council members.

'For every dollar spent on maintenance, the city saves up to $10 on the cost of reconstruction. That means postponing paving, cutting back on street cleaning, and eliminating inspections costs the taxpayers more in the long run,' according to the flier.

Adams did not respond to the protest during his speech. Instead, in his only prepared comment on the potential cuts, he seemed to prioritize the Portland Police Bureau and Portland Fire and Rescue ahead of other agencies.

'While we face very difficult budget decisions this year, I pledge here today to work with my council colleagues to protect all sworn public safety positions in our police or fire and rescue bureaus,' he said.

In response to an audience questions after the speech, Adams said his office would present financing options for neighborhoods that want to improve streets and sidewalks in coming months.

Revenue projections show that city government is facing a potential $17 million shortfall in the general fund portion of next year's budget. That translates to a cut of approximately 5 percent in the city's discretionary.

The transportation bureau is also facing a potential shortfall of up to $17 million, in part because of lower-than-expected state gas tax revenues. The bureau is proposing to defer street maintenance projects to help eliminate the shortfall.

Mayor Sam Adams is scheduled to release his proposed budget on May 15. The council is expected to vote on it two weeks later. The final budget takes effect on July 1.

Union-back protests against the potential cuts began on November 17 with a morning march on the Steel Bridge. Organizers included Laborers Local 483 and a number of union-supported groups, including We Are Oregon and Jobs With Justice. Some Occupy Portland protesters also took part in the demonstration, which resulted in 25 arrests.

Union officials and members have also testified against the cuts at recent council sessions.

The unions are urging Portlanders to oppose the cuts at two public budget forums. The first begins at 6:30 p.m. on March 5 at the Montgomery Park Ballroom, 2701 N.W. Vaughn St. The second begins at 6:30 p.m. on March 21 at Cleveland High School Cafeteria, 3400 S.E. 26th Ave.