Portland City Commissioners heard testimony from dozens of residents, in the second of three budget hearings today. The city has closed a deal with Multnomah County to cover about two-million dollars of at-risk services. But Commissioners still must deal with roughly a nineteen-million-dollar deficit.
The Mounted Patrol, a low-income scholarship program, and Southeast Portland’s Buckman Pool drew several supporters to testify.
The Buckman Pool is a small facility, sited in the basement of Buckman School. It has frequently been designated for closure, and the city estimates that would save $88,000 per year.
Patron Carolyn Olson challenged the notion that the pool’s attendance is low, compared with other city facilities.
“I go there three days a week, at seven in the morning, and pool is full when I get there,” Olson said. “When you have a small pool that’s full with small numbers, up against a pool that’s full with big numbers, it does look like it isn’t being utilized.”
Activists are lobbying the city to send some cash left over from a parks levy to operate Buckman, until a new community center with a full-sized pool can be built.
Proposed cuts in city funding for services aimed at victims of child sex trafficking drew the most speakers. Shelter beds, services for adult victims, and a special prosecution effort could also face cuts, under the Mayor’s proposed budget.
Miriam Green manages a child welfare program for the state Department of Human Services. She asked Commissioners to consider the options for children who are captive to pimps who sell them for sex to other adults.
“These are serious monsters,” Green said “These are not kids we can turn our back on. These are kids no one wants to acknowledge are kids because they don’t always look like kids or sound like kids.”
Advocates acknowledged that victims often flee shelters and return to prostitution. But they say they’ve shown over time that relationships with caring adults have brought victims back to shelter beds for longer and longer periods.
Other advocates turned out in support of scholarships for low-income students, Main Street economic development programs and tree planting programs, among others. The final forum is Thursday evening in Southwest Portland, at Jackson Middle School.