Community members gathered at Ventura Park Elementary School this past Saturday for the first People’s Budget planning event hosted by City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. This event kicks off a series of events aimed at bringing City Council to the people, a promise Hardesty offered to the public during her campaign.
“Budgets are moral documents that reflect the values of a city. Community member input in planning, not just responding, is an important building block,” says Commissioner Hardesty.
The event’s main activity had attendees engaged in an interactive exercise to directly suggest areas for increased or decreased spending for city bureaus. By using sticky notes, participants were able to “vote” for their budget priorities, as well as include a written rationale for their vote.
Feedback on budget priorities from attendees included a desire for greater houseless services, housing affordability solutions, and alternatives to policing. Some also reflect more recent concerns, like increasing parks funding.
Other responses called for more pedestrian and public transit infrastructure, moving funds from policing into social services, and more equitable access to resources and services.
Mayor Ted Wheeler’s city budget proposal is expected to come out May 1st. Commissioner Hardesty shared her top budget priorities with attendees, including:
- Creating a Portland Street Response program to better serve those in mental health crises.
- Restoring a rapid response vehicle at Fire & Rescue to help address low acuity calls.
- Emphasizing resiliency planning at the city to help ensure resident safety during major events.
For Hardesty, this is just the beginning when it comes to being thoughtful and smart regarding the city budget. “We want to hear your thoughts, we want to hear your priorities, and most importantly we want to empower you to be the best advocates you can be on the issues you care about,” says Commissioner Hardesty. “Normally community members respond to a proposed budget, but what if we flip that process around and start with what the community wants? This event is just the start.”