GRESHAM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Gresham City Council unanimously renewed a city fee Tuesday evening that was almost replaced by a police, fire and parks levy last month.
About a dozen people testified at the city council meeting in favor of the fee to maintain public safety. The renewal of the $7.50 fee was then passed unanimously in front of a full house.
If no action was taken Tuesday evening, more than $5 million would have disappeared from the City of Gresham’s budget when the fee expired in June. That would have meant cuts to fire and police services, which Mayor Shane Bemis was not willing to tolerate.
“We are at a point where the vote of this council is either going to be to dismantle this organization and make it a place that is not safe for our police officers and not safe for this community,” Bemis told KOIN 6 News, “or to vote to maintain the fee.”
Bemis said that of the 100,000 residents of Gresham, only 12,000 voted in May — and the levy failed by less than 200 votes.
He said he felt comfortable a majority of people in Gresham don’t want cuts to fire and police.
“I don’t want to build a tram. I don’t want to do crazy things with taxpayer money,” he said. “But I do want to provide a safe community for our kids, I want safe parks and I want a community that this community is proud of.”
He pointed out his city’s number of police officers per capita is already the second lowest of any city in Oregon.
“Now take 20 police officers off that and we’re the lowest and we are in an urban environment with gang and poverty issues. All sorts of issues that we need to deal with.”
Bemis said many Portland problems are migrating east into Gresham and that the tax base in Gresham is simply not big enough to keep up.
The renewal of a fee already in place, he said, was the only rational answer.