Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Unless the federal government ramps up financial support, deep budget cuts will be required of governments at all levels, but especially state and local governments. The City of Portland and Multnomah County are legally forbidden from running budget deficits.
Reduction to frontline public services, especially safety net services, and public safety services, for those most impacted by economic contraction, are clear and real. It is typical during recession for houselessness to increase rapidly, and for crime to spike. That can deter customers.
Our city is powered by seen and unseen individual actions and partnerships: Nonprofits, businesses and layers of independent governments. Normally, it is a marketplace of ideas and services and products. We need to gather these disparate stakeholders around tables and save our City.
Save Frontline Services by Coordinating and Pooling Resources
Employers create the jobs, taxes and charitable contributions that power cities like Portland. They cannot succeed without basic public services, like fire, police, transit and transportation.
Depending on how you count them, within the 146 square miles that make up the city of Portland, there are about 26 layers of independently-managed government services. These services spend an estimated $11 billion to $16 billion. Many have overlapping missions.
For example, transportation-related services include:
Portland Bureau of Transportation
Multnomah County Roads and Bridges
Portland Streetcar Inc
Port of Portland
Portland Police Bureau Transportation Unit
Multnomah County Sheriff’s office River Patrol
Oregon State Police
Oregon Department of Transportation
US Postal Service
US Customs Service
Taxis, Uber, Lift, shuttles
Mail, freight and delivery firms
Bikes, scooters, pedestrians
Right now, each of these organizations and firms are making plans to services cuts, on their own, without significant consultations with each other.
Siloed basic service cuts, unnecessary add to and expend our economic and human disasters.
It does not have to be this way. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Sit in a room together and has it out.
City council approved goals for each of its basic services in the Portland Plan. These goals were put together working with the 26 layers of government that do work within the city’s boundaries.
As I did when I was on the City Council, using the shared Portland Plan strategy, it is time to convene these public, nonprofit and private service providers and coordinate budget plans. Customers and labor must also be key participants.
Put all the resources on the table, the forecasted revenue losses, build a prioritized list of efficiencies to fund frontline services, and figure out which stakeholder can contribute what to each priority.
For example, traffic signals that manufacture or break down on key intersections gridlocks both autos, freight, delivery alike. Three transportation agencies that work locally have signal electricians. If cuts are required, we can better coordinate across jurisdictions to keep signals working.
This process can also find dollar savings that can go directly to Portlanders who need them most. For example, like in transit, subsidized transit passes for unemployed workers who are volunteering their time at building small house villages for the houseless. [insert link to mail chimp page]
This lack of coordination among key sectors of our economy has always been wasteful. But being siloed during this recession, it is deadly for protecting jobs and businesses.