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Portland City Council passes fall budget adjustment, emphasizing police and homeless support

The annual adjustment incorporated $62 million in unexpected one-time revenue, devoting about $18 million to homeless services and $7 million to public safety.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland City Council voted unanimously to adopt the 2021-22 Fall Supplemental Budget on Wednesday, completing the annual budget adjustment process. 

The updated budget incorporates $62 million in unexpected one-time revenue to fund a joint initiative with Multnomah County to boost homeless services and a package of investments to reform and re-staff the Portland Police Bureau (PPB).

The council voted on amendments and listened to four hours of public testimony on the supplemental budget at last week’s meeting, setting up an immediate second reading and vote on Wednesday. Mayor Ted Wheeler and each of the commissioners made statements as they announced their aye votes.

RELATED: Portland City Council prepares for fall budget vote, including new police funding measures

Wheeler described the adjustment as an “action-oriented budget” that would address some of Portland’s most urgent needs until longer-term investments that the council made earlier this year can come to fruition.

Commissioner Mingus Mapps touted the package of investments as a way to improve the public safety system, clean up the city and provide assistance to homeless residents and residents who are struggling to recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's not perfect but represents some progress on some important goals," he said. "Specifically the investments we make today will make Portland safer, the investments we make today will help house the homeless, the investments we make today will help clean up the trash and graffiti that's accumulated on Portland streets during the COVID era, and the investments we make today will provide direct aid to Portlanders struggling to pay their bills."

Commissioner Carmen Rubio highlighted the investments the package will make in homeless services, including closer coordination with Multnomah County and more housing and social service providers, as well as investments in east Portland parks and efforts to combat climate change.

The budget includes $500,000 to explore longer-term solutions, such as installing benches, to deter people experiencing homelessness from setting up tents near high-impact parks like Laurelhurst Park.

A joint statement released by Commissioner Hardesty and Rubio's offices said, in part:

"In terms of Laurelhurst, specifically, we heard a desire from the community to address the right-of-way that is between the two parks spaces, and to protect access to Nathan Thomas Field, the kids soccer field that memorializes a victim of gun violence. In balancing these goals, Commissioners Rubio and Hardesty have sought this funding to explore various possible longer-term solutions to the ongoing camping in the right-of-way along Oak Street. In exploring these options we are committed to avoiding hostile architecture and maintaining this as an assessable space to all Portlanders."

Commissioner Dan Ryan praised his colleagues and city staff for working with Multnomah County to rapidly develop the joint $38 million homeless crisis package. He said he viewed housing as the ultimate solution to the homeless crisis, but that the current plan’s emphasis on shelter beds was a necessary middle ground because shelter capacity has fallen during the pandemic and the region is heading into the cold winter months.

RELATED: Portland Street Response adds second team, will respond to late night calls

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty gave the longest statement, in which she heavily criticized some aspects of the supplemental budget as well as the process of drafting it, which she characterized as rushed and lacking in transparency.

She said she ultimately decided to support the budget adjustment and praised the inclusion of funding to expand Portland Street Response and the city’s 3-1-1 system, but she also expressed concern about making sure Portlanders understand what the plan entails.

“I do not want to mislead the public,” she said. “Nothing we do today will change conditions on the streets overnight.”

She referenced Wheeler’s goal to hire 200 police officers and 100 community safety specialists in the next three years. That goal was part of a package of public safety improvements that Wheeler announced earlier this month, and the fall supplemental budget includes funding for many of the actions he announced, but “nothing we’re voting on today funds 200 officer positions,” Hardesty said.

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