There are lots of long-term needs, but the City could also try some new things that would help make a difference.
The City of Portland is about to enter into its Fall Budget Monitoring process, commonly known as the "Fall BMP". Due to revenue that is higher than forecast in this year's city budget, the City Council is looking to spend millions of dollars on projects that they feel are important.
When City Council meets to dole out the BMP money, requests will include several projects that average Portland residents support, including:
- Funding to expand the Portland Street Response program. Currently operating as a pilot in the Lents neighborhood, PSR sends social workers and behavioral health counselors in response to 911 calls from people who appear to be suffering from a mental health crisis.
- Funding to increase trash pick-ups throughout the city.
- Funding for additional affordable housing development, including permanent supportive housing units for chronically homeless individuals.
- Funding to increase the number of police officers in response to the city's recent wave of violent crime.
Yet many average residents may ask "What's in it for me?"
While all of these projects increase the livability of our city, the City Council could potentially use some of their BMP windfalls to give a little love to the hardworking citizens of Portland. Here are some great ways the city could make a difference for individuals living here, even if it's just for one month:
Give everyone a credit on their water bill.
If you're not a homeowner, you may not know how exorbitantly expensive water bills are in this city. But it's not the water. The vast majority of charges on water bills are for other expenses like stormwater management and the replacement of sewer pipes. Water bills in Portland increased 7.8% last July 1st, making the average water bill is over $100 a month, even if you use very little water. Even waiving the base charges for a month would put $102 in the hands of residents who could use that money to stimulate the local economy.
Pave the gravel roads.
It's unbelievable that a city like Portland still has hundreds of miles of unpaved roads, covered in gravel and filled with potholes. Local homeowners are expected to "share" the cost of paving unimproved roads, but many are calling for the city to do focus less on bike lanes and more on making roads throughout the city a little more drivable.
Waive this year's Arts Tax.
Sure it's only $35 a year, but the Arts Tax draws the ire of many Portland residents. It requires a separate form that people have to remember to do in addition to their taxes -- and increasing administrative costs for processing and collection -- and most residents see no benefit to the tax. Why not use the extra money in the city budget to give everyone an Arts Tax Holiday this April?
Give everyone a city "kicker".
The so-called "kicker" tax rebate from the state is a much-beloved tradition in Oregon. The City could give its own version of the kicker to residents by depositing a credit into people's city of Portland accounts that they could use for any city bills, like water or taxes, or just send every Portland household a check or a gift card that they can use for what they need most.
Replenish food banks and PDX Free Fridge programs.
People in Portland are increasingly choosing between food and other bills like rent, utilities, or medicine. Food banks and food pantries are scrambling as donations have gone down while the number of people looking for food has increased. School "snack" programs are on hiatus due to staffing and funding. Offer immediate cash assistance to PDX Free Fridge, food banks, and school-based food insecurity programs.
Offer neighborhoods a grant to address livability.
Portland is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own characteristics. The city could offer each neighborhood a pro-rated grant amount based on the size of the neighborhood. The neighborhood would then choose how to use the grant to address pressing livability issues such as: creating a homeless shelter or "safe rest village" for the people who are homeless in that neighborhood, doing a neighborhood clean up of trash and graffiti, fixing up homes for elderly and/or low-income homeowners, planting trees, setting up neighborhood watches or other crime reduction efforts, refurbishing parks, or whatever feels most important to people living in that neighborhood.
What would you like the city to spend the BMP money on to help YOU? One thing I'd like: buy more snowplows, and some rock salt too.
#portland #oregon #budget #homelessness #crime #trash