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The City of Portland, Oregon

Auditor Mary Hull Caballero

Promoting open and accountable government

Communication and data needed to manage homeless camp cleanups

 

The City should ensure its program to address public safety and health effects of homeless camps communicates better with people living in the camps and those making complaints about the camps. It should also improve its data systems, according to an audit released March 20, 2019.

The Homelessness/Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program addresses some issues related to people living in tents and other makeshift shelters on City property. The program takes complaints, assesses campsite conditions, and removes trash, but its cleanups sometimes displace people from camp sites.

The program has had some success. Cleanups have improved living conditions for some people in camps, and the program has made it easier for the public to report camps. However, demand for services has pushed the program past its capacity. The program needs a comprehensive data system to enable complaint tracking, status updates, risk assessments, and cleanup prioritization. The program should also ensure property it takes from people experiencing homelessness is protected when it is in the City’s possession.

The audit recommends improving the program’s public information, data, and internal policies. Responses from Mayor Wheeler and the Office of Management and Finance are included in the report.

-- Kristine Adams-Wannberg, Senior Management Auditor

Transportation Bureau still needs to analyze Uber and Lyft service data

 

Recommendations summary tableTransportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft, have operated in Portland since 2015. The following year, we audited how the City regulated these companies and recommended better monitoring of the services they provided.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has made some progress in implementing our eight recommendations. We consider three to be resolved, but work remains in analyzing company data for long wait times or disparities in wheelchair-accessible service.

On the plus side, the Bureau has updated the collision report form and uses this information to decide where to inspect cars. The Bureau also continues to conduct inspections in areas where bicyclists and pedestrians are at risk.

But we want to see renewed efforts by the Bureau in regularly analyzing data for service levels – including how many rides are happening, how long are wait times, and how many passengers don’t get a car they requested. The Bureau estimated there were 12 million rides in 2018 with an average wait time of six minutes, but more comprehensive analysis is needed. For example, the Bureau did not analyze whether there were disparities in wheelchair-accessible service.

For more detail, see our follow-up report. We will check back next year on the Bureau’s progress implementing the remaining recommendations. Stay tuned!

– Minh Dan Vuong, Senior Management Auditor

We're hiring a Chief Hearings Officer -- deadline extended to Feb. 8

 

Opens:  January 21, 2019  |  Closes: February 8, 2019  |  Salary range:  $ 92,851 - $ 162,490 per year

Apply here: https://tinyurl.com/y9jqqjl9

The Chief Hearings Officer acts on behalf of City Council to conduct quasi-judicial administrative hearings and render impartial decisions related to code enforcement, land use, vehicle tows, appeals, and other types of cases.

The Hearings Office is a division of the City Auditor’s Office, which provides it administrative support and a neutral base from which to make its decisions, which are subject to appellate review. As an elected official, the Auditor is independent of the Mayor, Commissioners, and City management.

In addition to hearing cases and preparing written decisions, the Chief Hearings Officer manages a small office. The Hearings Office is staffed by two full-time administrative clerks and one part-time Hearings Officer. The Chief Hearings Officer may assign cases to rotating on-call Hearings Officers under contract to the Auditor’s Office when outside assistance is needed to manage caseloads, conflicts, or provide land-use expertise.

The Auditor’s Office values a diverse workforce and seeks ways to foster a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion in delivering public services and everyday interactions in the workplace. The Office encourages candidates with experience working with a broad range of individuals and diverse communities to apply.

Does green infrastructure meet City's goals?

Example of green street projectExample of restoration projectPortland residents rely on Bureau of Environmental Services restoration projects and green streets to improve water quality, restore wildlife habitat, and prevent flooding. However,   without formal methods to select projects and document outcomes, the City may not meet those goals.

In 2018, the Bureau spent nearly $13 million in construction on projects to treat rain water run-off, including restoration projects and green streets, however there was no formal method to track and report progress towards goals. Instead the Bureau relied on piecemeal reporting and staff assurances.

  • Despite intentions going back almost a decade, the Bureau did not have a Stormwater System Plan in place to guide the investment of capital spending for restoration projects and green streets.
  • The Bureau did not have an inventory to document where it invested funding for restoration projects and the goals achieved.
  • The Bureau did not have a method to quantify the overall condition of more than 2,000 green streets.

We recommended that the Bureau commit to a date for completion of the stormwater system plan to ensure that restoration projects and green streets were in the highest priority places. We also recommended improved monitoring and reporting.   

To view the entire report go to: www.portlandoregon.gov/auditservices/BESgreen

-- Elizabeth Pape, Senior Management Auditor

Auditors take Environmental Services results on the road

Stormwater management examplesOur reports are geared to general audiences, but some well-informed community members may want more of the nuts and bolts. If you’ve found yourself wishing you could ask us whether we considered something you’ve been thinking about, we can come to your community meeting to offer an in-person briefing.

Two recent examples were the Development Review Advisory Committee and the Portland Utility Board. Last week they took the opportunity to grill us about our audit on Bureau of Environmental Services programs for stormwater management on private property.

The Bureau of Environmental Services relies on private property owners to manage stormwater that runs off roofs and pavement yet has not adequately tracked their systems or assessed the overall benefits.

The City Auditor found that the Bureau of Environmental Services’ data about private stormwater management were not adequate for system planning. The Bureau also had not evaluated whether programs related to private stormwater management met goals for volume of stormwater managed or for rate fairness. Without evaluations, the Bureau could not show that the benefits of private stormwater management exceeded costs imposed on the private sector and could not adjust program elements to optimize efficiency.

Members of the Development Review Advisory Committee provide advice to City bureaus about the development review process. We thought that the committee might be interested in our finding about thresholds in the Stormwater Management Manual that trigger requirements associated with new development.

The Portland Utility Board is a community oversight body for the management of the Bureau of Environmental Services and the Portland Water Bureau. We thought the board might be interested in our finding about the Clean River Rewards discount program. The Board tied our finding to its broader work related to providing financial assistance for low income ratepayers.

To view the full audit report visit: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/auditservices/article/691508

If your community organization is interested in an in-person briefing about any of our audits, we’d love to come out and speak with you. Visit the Audit Services Division website for contact information and audit topics. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/auditservices/

-- Elizabeth Pape, Senior Management Auditor