Last week, the final vote on the Fiscal Year 2013 - 2014 City of PortlandBudget was held at a public meeting in Council Chambers on Thursday June 20. I voted No, as I had done on May 29 when the Council voted provisionally on the budget. Read why, in my speech here.
While some improvements were made since May, notably Mayor Hales agreeing to my request to fund an additional inspector for sub-standard rental housing in East Portland, there were no discussions or changes on my core objections. Several significant reductions and additions to the Budget had gone counter to the spirit of the zero based budget approach. In particular, services provided to survivors of human trafficking were reduced by $117,000 - a cut of 24% from current year funding. That is a significant cut. I understand that we had to cut over $20 million from current services in this Budget, however the Adopted Budget added back programs that are not necessary to core values and services. And $117,000 in a General Fund budget of $397 million? What could be more important than assisting women and children who are being sold into prostitution here in our community?
I appreciate many, many people who emailed me and stopped me in the community to tell me you support my stand. I voted No on the overall Budget at the 2 p.m. session on Thursday, to stay true to what I believe are our community's priorities. Then I left to hurry up to PSU, where I joined former Senator Margaret Carter and former Superintendent of Education Susan Castillo, in a panel speaking to young women from all over Oregon participating in the week-long New Leadership Oregon (NLO) training. I apologized for being late, saying, "It was perhaps a complete waste of my time and yours that I stayed to vote, because it didn't make any difference to the outcome, but I felt I needed to say what needed to be said."
It turned out my No vote did matter.
My staff called during the NLO presentation to tell me the vote on the Budget was an Emergency Ordinance, requiring all present to vote in favor. By voting No, even though I lost 4-1, I was the prevailing party. The motion failed, and unless I returned to City Hall and changed my vote, the City government might have to shut down at midnight on June 30. No Adopted Budget, no funding for City services. I hadn't realized it was an Emergency Ordinance and had never intended to create that outcome. Suddenly, one vote, one person, made a huge difference.
While walking back to City Hall, I spoke with the City Attorney, Jim Van Dyke, and assured him I would 'move to reconsider'. As the prevailing party, only I could do that. Note to aspiring politicians: Learn Roberts' Rules of Order, and volunteer in a role that allows you to practice using them. I will always be grateful to the SW Neighborhoods, Inc. Board, and the late great Patty Lee, for training me in Roberts' Rules.
Arriving back in City Hall, I asked to meet with Mayor Hales. I said, "If I'd realized the Budget was an Emergency Ordinance, we would have had this conversation on Monday, but now that we both know it is, let's talk." While I could have demanded more, I proposed a reasonable compromise that would keep the Mayor's budget and City services on track. The Mayor graciously agreed.
Council reconvened in the chambers, after a hastily-noticed Emergency Session. I moved to reconsider the previous vote, then voted Yes on the Budget -- with the stated understanding that I will bring an ordinance to Council later this calendar year, requesting additional funding for services provided to survivors of human trafficking. I plan to convene discussions with leaders of agencies and non-profits offering those programs, to determine collaboratively what is most urgently needed. I will return to Council with a request to draw on the City's contingency reserve for funding.
Last November, voters re-elected me with almost 60% of the vote. This past Thursday, I felt very happy that I worked so hard to win that campaign, with the support of many ardent community volunteers. My husband and I invested our family savings in that election -- in our community -- and voters trusted me, so that I can continue to be your voice in City Hall. Sometimes, one vote does make a difference.