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Welcome to Amanda's blog
Thoughts on Development Services and Parks, four weeks later
It's been four weeks and two days since Mayor Hales announced the assignments for which member of Council is in charge of each bureau. Since I wasn't expecting to be the Commissioner in Charge of the Bureau of Development Services (BDS), and Portland Parks & Recreation (PPR), my staff and I have spent time learning about the bureaus. My initial comments on these bureaus are posted here.
I have not opened comments on this post, as I am leaving on vacation after my community events on July 4, and won't be following either this blog or my email. I'm visiting my 83-year old mother, who doesn't believe in new fangled Internets (but is better than me at texting). Please contact my staff for assistance while I'm gone, or call 503-823-4000 for the City's wonderful Information and Referral staff.
I look forward to re-engaging with Portlanders when I return on July 24.
July 3, 2013
The Power of One
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.
June 24, 2013 | Comments (0) | Post a Comment (Sign-In Required)
Speech at the vote on the City's 2013 - 14 budget
I was going to title this blog post "Comments ...", but when comments run close to 15 minutes and are read from a script, it's a speech.
So, my comments/speech on the 2013 - 14 City Budget are posted here.
The short version: I can't vote for a budget allocating $397 million in discretionary spending, that cuts $117,000 (24%) from services to children and women escaping human trafficking. Especially when at the same time, the Portland Police Bureau is planning to cut 22%, four of 18 officers, from the Family Services Division that investigates child abuse, elder abuse, and domestic violence. We should prioritize spending to provide more support for the most vulnerable people in our community. While the Budget approved by the majority of the Council today does that, in part, by allocating full funding to the Housing Safety Net, the Approved Budget reduces the City's commitment to resolving the horrors of prostitution.
Commissioner Saltzman asked a good question at the end of the hearing. In response, we learned that the current General Fund total for 2012 - 13 is approximately $502 million, the new total General Fund is $493 million. In "discretionary resources", current is $413 million, upcoming year $397 million. So in six months, the gap has gone from $25 million to $16 million. Some reasons for that are the state PERS legislation; resolution of the CenturyLink law suit confirming the City's right to equalize telephone taxes on land lines, as enacted by the 2012 Council; and expected agreements from City unions to accept a lower Cost of Living Adjustment than the inflation index. I was disappointed the Council was not more involved in deciding which cuts to add back to the funding list, after it became clear the deficit was less extreme than first appeared.
There may be some minor changes to the Approved Budget when it is formally adopted in June. Questions were raised at the hearing about cuts to City Hall and Portland Building security staff, and also about adding another inspector for the Enhanced Rental Inspection program in East Portland. But for the most part, the 2013 - 14 City of Portland Budget is done. Congratulations to Mayor Hales and his staff, the City Budget Office, and everyone who advocated successfully for funding for jobs, programs, and services. Thank you to all who sent comments and participated in the six Community Budget events. Community involvement made many differences in which services will be provided starting in July.
May 29, 2013 | Comments (2) | Post a Comment (Sign-In Required)
Response to Petition on Saving the Mounted Patrol
In the past three days, I have received 217 emails notifying me that people (some Portlanders, some not) have signed an on-line petition asking to preserve funding for the Portland Police Bureau's Mounted Patrol. Unfortunately, the web site generating this petition does not provide me with the emails of those signing, so I have no way to reply to each person individually. I am therefore posting this response in the hope that some of the petitioners will read it. This is not a particularly satisfying human interaction, more my computer posting information in response to the petitioner's computer, but the best I can do. Note: On line petitions are far less effective than direct individual emails, even if you send just one sentence of your own thoughts!
This is a difficult budget, slashing at least $20 million after four years of cuts. There are few easy targets, and many who support each service currently being funded. I will work with my colleagues on the Council, considering all community input, to make decisions that provide the most services to the people and principles most in need of support. We will be making choices such Mounted Patrol vs winter shelter for homeless women? Mounted Patrol vs 9-1-1 operators? Mounted Patrol vs after school programs for disadvantaged kids? These are just a few examples of the stark realities – we don’t have enough money for all of the worthy programs currently being funded, and donations from Friends of the Mounted Patrol don’t come close to covering the ongoing expenses.
The challenge is not only the extra funding needed for the horses, rather prioritizing which police functions are more vital in crime prevention and community safety than others. We likely need to cut at least 40 police officer positions. So the choice is Mounted Patrol officers vs School Resource officers? Mounted Patrol officers vs Gang Enforcement officers? Mounted Patrol vs child abuse investigators? Mounted Patrol officers downtown vs District Patrol officers in outer neighborhoods?
I would be interested to read Portlanders' priorities on these funding choice examples. Please send your comments directly to me at Amanda@portlandoregon.gov You are welcome to post your opinions here to discuss with others, however I will be using my time to respond to direct emails rather than interacting on the comment string here.
May 5, 2013 | Comments (2) | Post a Comment (Sign-In Required)
Reminder: Front desk job opening in my office, applications due Sunday 5 p.m.
Although we have already received over 100 applications for my office team's Front Desk/Constituent Services Specialist opening, additional submissions are still welcome. Details here. Applications received by 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 7 will be considered first. Please be sure to include a cover letter telling me why you want to work with my staff and me, and a resume that includes your current and past volunteer community service.
April 6, 2013
Job opening in my Office
I am seeking an energetic, self-motivated, positive individual with customer service experience to join my office team as an Administrative Assistant. The successful applicant will staff the front desk and serve Portlanders as my Constituent Services Specialist, answering phone, email and letter communications and coordinating office management. Details here. Applications received by 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 7 will be considered first. Please pass along this information to anyone who may be interested.
March 15, 2013
Portland Passes Protected Sick Leave ordinance
On March 13, 2013, the Portland City Council unanimously adopted the ordinance that provides Protected Sick Leave to all employees, starting in January 2014. The adopted Code is here. The standards require all businesses to provide Protected Sick Leave for employees who work more than 240 hours in a calendar year within the city of Portland. Businesses with 6 or more employees will have to provide up to 40 hours of paid Sick Leave annually, earned at one hour of Sick Time per thirty hours worked. Smaller businesses will be required to allow employees to earn and take up to 40 hours a year of unpaid leave without fear of being fired for missing work, due to personal health care needs, safety from domestic violence, or caring for a sick child. The ordinance will take effect on January 1, 2014. Information on the process leading to adoption of the Ordinance is here.
My comments when voting for the Ordinance:
This is an historic moment for human rights in the United States of America. This is about public health and well being, the health of workers, their families and consequently the health of our community.
I thank the members of the Everybody Benefits Portland coalition - led by Andrea Paluso, Sharon Bernstein, Lisa Frack and other staff from Family Forward Oregon. And thanks to coalition members:
There are many others who joined in this grassroots campaign. Thank you to every one.
Supporters after the vote. Chief architect and craftsman of the ordinance,
my Chief of Staff Tom Bizeau, is out of the limelight on the far right
Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Do what you believe in your heart is right, because you will be criticized anyway."
I believe in my heart that this is right. It will provide people and businesses with a means to maintain their health, which means satisfaction in the job and consequently productivity, which means thriving, sustainable businesses.
People matter. Jobs matter.
There will be costs to businesses, and there are other ways that the Council will support businesses in the coming months. This Code was crafted as simply as possible, to minimize the administrative burden on businesses. Thanks to Bernie Bottomly of the Portland Business Alliance, and Heather Hoell of Venture Portland who along with others participated in the Task Force process which improved the Code details after the hearing on January 31. Thanks to Commissioner Dan Saltzman who proposed the Task Force process and co-led it with me. The standards adopted today are better because of that process.
Real change does not come without sacrifice.
The stories that I have heard from the workers who have had to come to work sick or be fired, or not be able to make the rent, or not be able to care for a child or a loved one, made me understand the scope of the problem that we are trying to solve. These people now have names that I know, since many Portlanders both for and against the ordinance have participated in the public review.
Many businesses here in Portland already have paid sick leave benefits. Sixty percent of all employees receive some paid leave. These are the true pioneers of this regulation because they provided it without government having to ask. Now, we need to take care of the other 40% who need protection and pay when they need to stay home due to illness.
We have worked hard to accommodate the needs of businesses, especially the smaller ones. I believe the true cost of this benefit will be a minimal expense in comparison to all the other expenses that a business is confronted with. And it comes with responsibilities. Employees work for money and job security, the Employer needs good workers who know the job and can be good long term workers because it saves them money as well. We are all in this together. We need to care for each other, and this regulation seeks to do that.
I am hopeful that the State will pass as good or better requirements state-wide as we are passing here today. I am already lobbying to pass HB 3390 and SB 801. As Senator Steiner Hayward said when I visited Salem on Friday, "It's not fair that employees in Portland should have a benefit that employees in Medford don't have." The more workers covered by paid sick leave, the better. I hope this will become a national standard.
I thank all my colleagues who recognize how important it is to Portland, to the State and to the people that are in real need of protection. I thank all those legislators in the County and at the state who have supported and continue to strive for broad and lasting regulations outside the City of Portland.
Our President, Barack Obama, said in his State of the Union speech this year:
"You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time - not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals. Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom."
As an elected official, I make decisions based on facts and broad public input, seeking the long term public good for the whole city, with shared benefits and responsibilities for all Portlanders present and future.
Thank you for engaging in making this decision with your Council. I am happy to vote Aye.
March 13, 2013 | Comments (0) | Post a Comment (Sign-In Required)
Volunteers needed for the Portland Utility Review Board
Here's a great volunteer opportunity! Most of the following information is from Janis Adler, citizen chair of the Portland Utility Review Board (PURB):
The PURB reviews proposed water, sewer, solid waste and recycling rates and makes recommendations regarding adoption of the proposed rates from a citizen and business user’s perspective, to the Portland City Council. Advised by high-level staff from the Portland Water Bureau, the Bureau of Environmental Services, and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the PURB receives administrative assistance from the Office of Management and Finance. They also consider comments from affected ratepayers. While the PURB's recommendation is advisory rather than mandatory in the rate-setting process, it is an important Board whose advice the Council considers carefully.
The PURB is intended to be a 9-person board. Currently, there are two vacancies: one at-large position and another member representing commercial/industrial ratepayers. Ideally, one or both of these positions would be filled with someone with an engineering background.
The PURB as a valuable, on-going resource to help gauge community sentiment on utility rates and related issues. The PURB meets monthly at 4:30 PM, on the third Thursday of the month in the Lovejoy Room at City Hall.
Please contact Patti Howard in my office if you are interested in volunteering for this important Board.
February 28, 2013 | Comments (0) | Post a Comment (Sign-In Required)
Draft Police Use of Force Policy revisions posted
The Portland Police bureau has posted proposed changes to the Use of Force policy, here.
Comments on the proposed policy should be sent to Matt Robinson and Chad Stover in the office of Mayor Hales. You are also welcome to copy Dora Perry in my office, since Dora is tracking public safety issues with me.
February 24, 2013 | Comments (0) | Post a Comment (Sign-In Required)
Email of the Week, on gun violence
I have received many messages related to the issue of violence using guns. This weekend, Portlander Betsy Toll sent me the following, which I consider especially pertinent:
"Missing from most discussion about gun violence are some stark facts as to who tends to commit violent crimes. If we are choosing to target specific demographic groups for restrictions, rather than, or in addition to, weapons, we must acknowledge that alcohol and drugs are implicated in violent crime at a dramatically higher rate than mental illness.
In homicides, armed assaults, and domestic violence, a huge number of perpetrators are either under the influence or have a history of alcohol and/or drug abuse. As noted in a New York Times article on Dec. 17, 2012, Dr. Richard A. Freeman reports that:
"Alcohol and drug abuse are far more likely to result in violent behavior than mental illness by itself. In the National Institute of Mental Health’s E.C.A. [Epidemiologic Catchment Area] study, for example, people with no mental disorder who abused alcohol or drugs were nearly seven times as likely as those without substance abuse to commit violent acts."
That bears repeating: People with no mental disorder who abused alcohol or drugs were nearly seven times as likely as those without substance abuse to commit violent acts.
Restricting the gun rights of anyone with any alcohol or drug offense history would be an important step in reducing the tens of thousands of gun-crimes and suicides that occur in our country every year. I urge you to bring this perspective to the gun rights debates that will be happening in coming months."
Thank you, Betsy, for this thoughtful comment.
February 25, 2013 | Comments (0) | Post a Comment (Sign-In Required)
Comment period open for Regional Transportation investments
Susan Patterson-Sale on the Metro staff informs me that from Friday, February 22, to Monday, April 8, 2013, Metro will hold a 45-day public comment period on proposed project list changes for the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). Susan says:
"The RTP establishes a comprehensive policy direction for the regional transportation system and recommends a balanced program of transportation investments to implement that policy direction. The RTP is updated every four years, as required by federal law. In between full updates to the RTP, it may be necessary to amend the plan in response to changing local conditions and newly adopted plans. To be eligible to build a project with federal funds, the project must first be amended into the RTP.
Comments made during this period will be presented to decision makers for consideration before taking action in May. Proposed changes to the RTP project list include projects in Washington County, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Portland, East Multnomah County and Oregon Department of Transportation projects along I-205. You can also comment on analysis of how these changes may affect regional air quality.
For project information or to comment online, see: www.oregonmetro.gov/rtp, mail comments to 2013 Amendments to 2035 RTP, Metro 600 NE Grand Ave., Portland, OR 97232, or email to email@example.com. Comments must be received by Metro by 5 p.m., Monday, April 8, 2013."
February 24, 2013
Foreclosure assistance that works
Last June, I wrote about Larry Cross and his unusual appeal for help in what has become a much-too-usual problem - threatened foreclosure on his home in SE Portland.
Last week, I received a joyful email from Larry. He writes:
<<I signed the necessary papers today to prevent my foreclosure.
Funds came from the federal “Hardest Hit Fund.” These funds, that prevent foreclosure, pay the arrears in full as a 5-year loan that is “forgiven” at the end of the 5-year period. The State of Oregon maintains a “junior lien” on the property for the 5 years. >>
As noted in a Huffington Post article,
<<“Long a national leader in keeping its populace caffeinated, Oregon can claim bragging rights in another category: spending federal dollars to help its homeowners avoid foreclosure.
As of June 30, Oregon had drawn down $107 million of the $220 million allocated under the Hardest Hit Fund, a $7.6 billion program administered by the Treasury Department that pushes bailout dollars to housing agencies in states especially battered by the foreclosure crisis. Oregon has spent $63 million of the funds it has withdrawn, mostly in the form of no-interest loans to help unemployed homeowners make their mortgage payments, according to state housing officials.
.... Oregon -- long a national leader in espresso carts and artisanal cupcake bakers -- can add another feather to its cap. The state has proven relatively efficient at getting Hardest Hit Fund aid into the hands of residents in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.
"We took a lot of homeowner applications at the beginning," said Margaret Van Vliet, the director of Oregon's housing finance agency, which oversees the state's program, in explaining why her state's program has distributed more aid than average. "We got out of the gate faster.">>
Margaret Van Vliet in the Huffington Post? I know her! She was Commissioner Fish's first Director of the Portland Housing Bureau, before moving up to the state. Yay Margaret! Yay us!
So, there is still plenty of money left to assist qualifying homeowners in need of a new loan to prevent foreclosure. Please pass this information to anyone who may need it.
Congratulations, Larry! And thanks to State Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer, who joined me in encouraging Larry while he worked with Senator Merkley's great staff and with responsive mortgage experts at Wells Fargo Bank. Also to Fernando Guzman, the Hacienda CDC counselor who helped Larry negotiate the process, and the State Legislature and staff who provided assistance. Please pass on the information to anyone who may be eligible.
January 26, 2013 | Comments (0) | Post a Comment (Sign-In Required)
Earned Sick Leave forum and process
About 65 people attended the forum I hosted on Earned Sick Leave on Wednesday evening. Employers and employees of both large and small businesses, all-local through multinational corporations, participated and gave constructive feedback on the proposal, posted here. I greatly appreciate all the input, and the constructive, courteous approach of all attendees. Please email your comments and any suggested amendments to all members of the Council (thus comments are not open on this blog post).
I will file the Ordinance and Code proposal on Thursday 1/24, for posting on Friday prior to the hearing next Thursday, January 31st, in City Hall starting at 2 p.m. There may be changes in the filed documents, compared with the previously posted versions, based on feedback received.
After the hearing next week, Commissioner Saltzman and I will co-chair a Task Force to identify and discuss potential amendments to the proposed Code. I anticipate 11 - 13 people, invited by Council members to represent the broad range of stakeholder communities, meeting weekly for three weeks. A report from the Task Force will be posted. Council members may choose to propose amendments identified in the report, or suggested by others submitted via open public input. A second hearing will be held at the end of February to consider amendment requests, with a Council vote anticipated the first week of March. The new standards would be implemented January 2014.
I hope the Legislature will pass a statewide Earned Sick Leave standard. I am open to revisiting Portland's ordinance if that happens. I will also lead the work to identify benchmarks and gather data before, during, and after implementation, likely with a monitoring committee comprised of Portland employers and employees. If the Code is implemented in January 2014 as currently proposed, I will bring a follow-up report Council mid-2015. I believe sick leave standards are necessary and reasonable, and I appreciate the constructive engagement of Portlanders on all sides to identify the details for the Code the Council will vote on at the end of February or beginning of March.
January 23, 2013
Earned Sick Leave Proposal
Portland City Council to consider Earned Sick Leave policy January 31st
Informational Forum scheduled for January 23rd
Although an estimated 60% of employees working in Portland are currently provided paid time off when they are ill, up to 40% of Portland’s workers can’t take even a single day off to recover from contagious diseases, accidents, or major surgery. Some are even threatened with losing their job if they don’t show up at work due to illness. This issue is of particular concern during the flu season, and with recent outbreaks of Norwalk virus, with illnesses spreading when people who are sick don’t stay home to recover. But almost everyone gets sick sometimes.
Like minimum wage and safe employment conditions, ideally standards on emergency sick leave would be set by the State Legislature. The Portland City Council adopted a State Legislative Agenda this week that includes asking for statewide Paid Sick Time regulations. In the meantime, I am proposing a local measure that would be implemented for employees working within city boundaries. My proposal will only go into effect if the Legislature fails to adopt standards that are equal or better in safeguarding public health and employee rights. As a retired Registered Nurse, former public school mom, and now Commissioner in charge of wellness for over 5,000 City employees, I believe protected sick leave is an important element of workplace safety and public health.
My proposal would allow employees who work in Portland for more than 240 hours in a year to earn one hour of sick time per 30 hours worked, and then use up to five days of earned sick time per year for specified emergency absences. Employees in businesses with six or more employees would be eligible for paid sick time. Those working in businesses with five or fewer employees would not be paid for time off due to sickness, but they would have the right to use their earned sick leave without fear of retribution.
The proposed Ordinance and Code are posted here.
I will host an informational forum next Wednesday, January 23, from 6 – 8 p.m. in the PortlandBuilding, Room C on the 2nd floor, 1120 SW 5th Avenue. This event will give an overview of the proposed standards, with an extended question and answer opportunity. It is a public meeting, but for review of the proposal rather than a hearing designed for proponents and opponents to advocate for or against the proposal.
The Council will hold a hearing on the proposed Protected Sick Leave Ordinance and Code on Thursday, January 31st in City Council chambers starting at 2 p.m.
Following that hearing, I will convene a stakeholder Task Force which will meet weekly for three weeks to discuss the details and potentially propose amendments for Council members to consider presenting at the second hearing at the end of February. Following the Council vote, administrative rules used in implementation of the new code will be adopted in collaboration with the City Attorney’s office and the state Bureau of Labor and Industries. If adopted by City Council, the new sick leave standards would then be in effect January 1, 2014.
January 17, 2013 | Comments (2) | Post a Comment (Sign-In Required)
Lower cost Landline Phone Service, Cell and Internet Options
City Council's action in November equalizing taxes on land line phone services highlighted the fact that customers have options in buying phone services. The City of Portland's Office for Community Technology manager, Mary Beth Henry, writes:
For more information from the Office for Community Technology, call 503-823-5385 during business hours.
December 30, 2012 | Comments (2) | Post a Comment (Sign-In Required)
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