Portland OKs budget, millions for homeless, public safety

Multnomah County

Unanimous council vote a bit of a surprise

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In a unanimous vote, the Portland City Council voted to pass their Fall supplemental budget which allocates more than $18 million toward addressing homelessness and $7 million to public safety.

The 5-0 vote was a bit of a surprise. Although Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioners Mingus Mapps, Dan Ryan and Carmen Rubio were on record as supporting the budget, it was unclear how Jo Ann Hardesty would vote. In the end, she voted ‘aye.’

The money for homeless issues includes adding shelter beds. The public safety money includes filling vacancies within the Portland Police Bureau using the “retire-rehire” program and expanding the Portland Street Response program.

Before voting, Wheeler acknowledged how much interest there has been from the public on how to allocated a historic budget surplus of $62 million.

Two weeks ago, Mayor Ted Wheeler rolled out his top priorities for spending with most of the money proposed to be allocated toward dealing with homelessness, community safety and economic recovery. The mayor’s proposal would put around $18.9 million into addressing homelessness, $7 million into improving public safety and $2.2 million into supporting economic recovery.

“This investment proposal focuses on infrastructure, human infrastructure,” Wheeler said.

A statement from Wheeler’s office provided more clarity on the distribution of the money:

“While we have allocated $18 million to help address the houselessness crisis in partnership with Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Commissioner Dan Ryan, $7 million to help enhance public safety and response, and $2 million to help support shared economic prosperity—you may notice there should be additional funding left. In total, over $3M was allocated to fund recommended bureau packages, $15M was allocated to fund citywide liabilities, and the remainder $44M+ was allocated for Mayor’s proposals.”

Hardesty’s ‘difficult decision’

Although Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty voted yes on Wednesday afternoon, she said it was a “difficult decision.”

“Today I made the difficult decision to vote yes on a budget that has a lot I like and a lot I am concerned about,” Hardesty said. “I want to make it clear where I stand on this budget, where I continue to have concerns, and what I support because my style has always been to be honest and transparent with the public we represent.”

Hardesty said her primary concerns are the lack of transparency, public engagement and measurable outcomes around the allocation of this surplus.

“This was another budget that involved a lot of dealing behind closed door with the wealthy, well-connected and large business interests and that should concern the rest of us,” Hardesty said.

With more money going to the police bureau, Hardesty says she expects the council to hold the bureau to a high standard.

Also at the meeting, Commissioner Mingus Mapps expressed his support for the budget but echoed many of Hardesty’s sentiments. He said the proposal is not perfect — but it moves the city closer to achieving goals of addressing public safety and homelessness.

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