June 27, 2019
I write to update you on the first six months of 2019.
A new colleague and a new Parks director. Progress on environmental issues and affordable housing. Important votes on JTTF and renter protections.
In January, I was sworn in for my third full term. With the departure of Dan Saltzman, I am now the longest-serving member of Council. And we welcomed our newest colleague, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.
A New Budget
This year we changed our budget process to strengthen transparency. It required us to build the budget from the ground up, which was an improvement.
A number of my priorities were funded but didn’t grab the headlines:
• Additional resources for supportive housing
• Full funding for the Joint Office of Homeless Services
• A Bureau of Environmental Services rate increase of 2.95% – below the rate of inflation
• Small investments in the Portland Film Office and the Rose Festival that generate big returns for our local economy
• Support for environmental priorities including brownfield cleanups, a dark skies initiative to reduce urban light pollution, and the next phase of our work to clean up the Willamette River
• An age-friendly coordinator in the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
• Almost $700,000 to cover ongoing operations and maintenance of new parks facilities, many of which are in East Portland
This was a challenging budget year for Parks. The bureau faced a $6.3 million gap caused by costs rising quicker than revenue and by its reliance on user fees. One-time funds would not have solved the structural problem.
I am grateful to Mayor Wheeler and my colleagues for supporting significant funding to continue this year’s already-scheduled summer programming.
Parks are an important part of a healthy community. I am taking a deep dive to identify new models for funding Parks & Recreation going forward. My goal over the next 2-3 years is to put the bureau on a solid and sustainable foundation.
Parks and Recreation
Following a national search, I hired Adena Long as our new Parks director. She’s off to a great start, and we’re fortunate to have her leadership.
Parks’ premiere summer program, Summer Free For All, is in full swing. It offers free, family-friendly activities like movies and concerts in the park, swimming, and over 100,000 healthy lunches for hungry kids. Thanks to our sponsors for their generous support.
I also attended celebrations of new Parks facilities, including new playgrounds in the North Park Blocks and in Couch Park, a new community garden at David Douglas High School, and the groundbreaking for the Barbara Walker Crossing.
Protecting Our Environment
I am committed to making Portland a healthier city and protecting our urban environment.
Parks has a pest management plan that prohibits the use of avicides – bird pest controls. I partnered with Portland Audubon to extend that prohibition to all City-owned and -managed land. These poisons put people, pets, and wildlife at risk. They have absolutely no place in our community.
I’m working with Mayor Wheeler and the community to clean up the Willamette River. The City and State launched a new, unique partnership that will efficiently leverage public investment to encourage private parties to begin design work.
Portland has over 900 acres of brownfields. I’m committed to turning them into productive community use. In April, BES awarded a grant to help clean a site that will become affordable housing in North Portland.
This year, Council has taken several votes to change how we participate in the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). I believe that communication among public safety agencies keeps us all safer. In March, Council approved an updated agreement that allows us to continue working with the FBI on an as-needed basis. You can read an op-ed I wrote in The Oregonian here.
During my service on Council, I have been focused on removing barriers – in the workplace, in our economy, and in housing. I believe that when we remove arbitrary barriers, everyone wins.
That’s why I supported a bold proposal from Commissioner Eudaly to change requirements for renter screening and security deposits. I appreciate that Commissioner Eudaly extended the roll-out until next year, which will give us more time to do education and outreach, draft rules, and fine-tune the policy. I’m also pleased the Council approved my amendment to require annual reports.
I’m proud that the City continues to partner with Project SEARCH to be a model employer. That means removing barriers in the workplace and providing meaningful experience for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We expanded the program this year and graduated another great group of interns.
Many music venues in Portland have a loading zone right outside. But musicians were getting tickets for using them. Commissioner Eudaly, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation, and I worked with partners to develop a pilot Musician Loading Zone program.
And my team created a new special events permit for small arts and culture organizations.
Out and About
• Appearing on KGW's Straight Talk with Laural Porter
• Receiving the "Public Official of the Year" award from the Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce
• Hosting Senator Jeff Merkley for a town hall at East Portland Community Center
• Participating on panels with The Intertwine Alliance and the Oregon Coalition for Living Well with Serious Illness
• Celebrating the Portland Trail Blazers' incredible season
My battle with cancer continues. I’ve learned many lessons over the past 20 months, especially the importance of a network of loving family and friends. I’m grateful for everyone in my corner.
It’s an honor to serve on your City Council. Thanks for all that you do to make Portland a special place.