PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Mayor Charlie Hales unveiled his proposed city budget at the East Portland Community Center Tuesday, a budget he said will provide more money for affordable housing and programs to help young people stay out of gangs.
It was no coincidence Hales made the announcement on the city’s east side, an area he said needs extra attention.
“I love this city and I believe East Portland needs extra attention,” Mayor Hales said.
Tuesday’s proposal comes after the city learned it has a nearly $50 million surplus.
The mayor says he continues to emphasize a “back-to-basics” approach, and that means more money for street repairs, including a program to help pave the city’s many dirt streets.
Hales wants to spend about $20 million on streets and paving, including $7 million on E. 122nd Avenue alone.
“This is a serious commitment,” Mayor Hales said. “We’ve heard the people of Portland that they want their streets taken care of, and with the first chunk of new money that we have in our hands, we’re laying it down on street and asphalt.”
Safety improvements in the area could also lead to more frequent bus service, something local residents say is long overdue.
“A lot of crashes, yeah, I have seen a lot of them,” resident Monica Garcia said. “It is getting worse right here on 122nd, we need more transportation,”
He also proposes $1.38 million to retain 26 firefighter positions, a $2 million parks program for children, and $1.9 million to support the 2016 Indoor Track and Field championships that will be held next March.
The proposed money for the firefighters is aimed to keep those who were in danger of losing their jobs when a federal grant runs out.
Gangs and jail
“We’ve had a huge uptick in gang violence this year in the city. We had a shooting right over there, right across the street where kids were coming out of this community center and a young man named…turned and started firing back into the crowd,” Hales said.
“For his incarceration alone, if he’s convicted, we as the citizens of Oregon will spend about half-a-million dollars. I’m proposing to spend $2 million out of the available funds we have in this budget, not just this year, but every year going forward to make recreation for our kids more free and more available across the city.”
The mayor said he wants “free Saturday night recreation for teens in this community center and three others, a doubling of our teen program across the city. Let’s take the Montavilla Community Center and make it into a teen center and let’s make Dishman free to young people all summer long.”
“If we do those type of things and keep doing them year after year, summer after summer, we’ll have less incidents like that and we’ll spend money on things that make kids stronger and healthier and successful and safe rather than arresting them and putting them in jail at enormous public expense,” Hales said.
Hales explained why he’s proposing spending the money in this way.
“I think this approach of getting upstream in a kid’s life and spending money on prevention is really important.”
The City Council will approve a final budget next month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.