"Please cut our budget."
That wasn't the headline of the email I read earlier this week. The subject was, "Housing Rapid Response Funding letter". I didn't open it right away, because my mailbox is being inundated with requests from citizens advocating for their most cherished programs in the upcoming budget. I was expecting another plea for General Fund money that will be very scarce in the 2010-11 fiscal year starting on July 1. I am sympathetic to almost all the requests; I know the City isn't going to be able to fund them all.
So imagine my double-take when I read:
"Please find attached a letter from Ed Blackburn, Central City Concern Executive Director, requesting a funding reduction from the Portland Police Bureau for the Housing Rapid Response program (the CCC portion of the Service Coordination Team program). "
Yes, a funding reduction. The full explanation is here.
Central City Concern, a non-profit that helps so many in our community, found ways to provide services more cost-effectively, and volunteered to refund the savings both for this fiscal year and the upcoming one. I am grateful.
In addition to housing and treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, Central City Concern is a key partner with the County and City in providing mental health services for Portlanders. And in contracts with the Portland Business Alliance and the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, job-training program participants work on graffiti abatement and other livability services to residents, businesses, and visitors to downtown. A recent study on the effectiveness of their programs is here.
Some people say there is no incentive for government workers and their community partners to be more efficient. They say there is no direct accountability to shareholders, no personal financial gain at stake in doing the job more diligently, or less. I believe Portlanders show over and over, inside government and outside, that we are motivated by higher principles and values. We want to do our jobs well because we want to serve our community, we want to go home to our families or relax with our friends knowing we gave our best effort at work. This letter from Central City Concern is but one example. City staff and partner agencies want to be as efficient as possible in using taxpayers' money, because in being careful we can provide more services to more people with the same or less money.
That goal is going to be sorely tested in the current budget process, where the requests for service far outnumber the available funding. This refund from Central City Concern is small in relation to the gap -- and still, greatly appreciated.