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Portland Council Approves Adams' Budget

Portland City Council approved Mayor Sam Adams’ budget for the next fiscal year Wednesday.

Early in Wednesday’s meeting, schools officials offered their thanks for a package of fiscal aid, including a one-time payment of $5 million. 

School board member Greg Belisle said the district’s best alliances with the city are not born from crisis, but he says the relationship is working now.

April Baer / OPB
Portland City Council approves Mayor Adam's budget.

He explained, “The $5 million that you are contributing makes clear you understand a great city needs great schools, and great schools are created with support from the entire community.”

But once the focus shifted to how the city would spend its own money for the budget year, the mood was darker. 

Public comments drew a core of activists who’ve repeatedly called out Council for what they perceive as a lack of action. 

Joe Walsh has become a regular at Council’s discussions about Water policy and rates. 

Walsh told the council, “We want you to go to Washington D.C. and kick some ass!”

The city has spent years trying to fight a federal mandate to cover water reservoirs. As the dispute has shifted to the state level, Council members say they’re no longer able to dodge the mandate to build a system to replace open-air reservoirs. 

The Water Bureau says costs for the project will mostly be reflected in long-term budgeting. Their impact on the coming fiscal year has to do with the city’s assumption that the state would let Portland push back its construction schedule. Now it looks like that’s not going to happen. 

Ten people testified asking council to keep up resistance.

Commissioner Randy Leonard, who’s leaving council this year, oversees the Water Bureau. He  countered the activists’ demands with a long list of things the city has done to fight the plan over ten years. 

Leonard said, “We are obliged to comply with the law or the feds come in, take over the project, charge us for the cost of the project, plus fines. Maybe somebody else will sit here January First  that you can convince to go, ‘Cool’. I’m not gonna do it.”

Council unanimously voted to approve Adams’ budget with a few amendments. 

Last-minute reprieves came for a variety of housing safety net programs. 

The city will now submit the budget for a state review. Council’s final vote comes in late June. 

Council also passed a separate 7.6 percent water rate four-to-one, with Commissioner Amanda Fritz the lone “no” vote. That’s an increase for both  residential and commercial customers.

In other actions, Mayor Sam Adams pulled a proposal that would grant the Police Bureau a waiver to contract with a company owned by a Bureau employee. The company sells gear and firearms. Adams said he did not support the plan, and did not elaborate.