PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Multnomah County leaders are reacting to the mayor’s demand they help fund sanctioned campsites across Portland.
On Dec. 15, the county is set to vote on how to fund an extra $33 million from the metro supportive housing tax.
Mayor Ted Wheeler doesn’t want that vote to happen.
Wheeler wants them to delay that vote until new county leadership is in office because he thinks some of that money should be going to create the large sanctioned campsites that are part of his plan.
He said if some of that money is not dedicated to the city’s sanctioned campsites then the county is “no longer a partner of ours.”
This happened at a recent Portland Business Alliance forum.
Wheeler, continuing his battle with current county chair Deborah Kafoury, said she’s opposed him with his plan to ban camping in public places, create sanctioned campsites with the intention of bringing people closer to services, and in the long term create twenty thousand affordable housing units.
“The current chair, and I’m not disparaging her, does not support the plan, she doesn’t support it and the budget she has provided reflects her lack of support,” Wheeler said.
He said incoming chair Jessica Vega Pederson has been more supportive, but this vote occurs before Vega Pederson comes into office.
Wheeler also said without a better idea coming forward he’s been unfairly criticized for the plan.
“We have a group of people who represent the disabled community, predominantly people who are blind who have every right and every expectation to use a sidewalk in this city and they can’t,” said Wheeler. “We heard story after story after story of visually impaired people telling us they have to walk into traffic to navigate around homeless camps. Then I have these so-called experts telling me, I am inhumane because I am asking people not to occupy our public spaces.”
When asked for comment, KOIN 6 was told Kafoury was out of the office, despite responding to a separate KOIN inquiry earlier in the day, but Jessica Vega Pederson said she met with the mayor this week and that “the time is now for the city to share detailed plans about their proposal with me and the county board, and they need to reach out to commissioners about this plan, as well.”
Vega Pederson said the mayor did commit to that.
Wheeler also said the Joint Office of Homeless Services is not being transparent.
“The Joint Office of Homeless Services, to be blunt, has not been transparent with the city,” Wheeler said. “They have not provided us basic data, the financial data we have requested.”
When KOIN 6 asked, Wheeler’s office did not provide specific examples of a lack of transparency and the Joint Office said its entire budget is on its website.
But Wheeler wants new county leadership to conduct a financial review of the Joint Office because “we believe that this will allow for level-setting and a more informed decision-making process of where to spend these unanticipated tax dollars.”
“The second area where we need to see real improvement on the part of the county is around transparency, and the sharing of data,” Wheeler said. “If we were truly partners then there is no reason to withhold financial data or outcome data from the city.”