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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Answering Paving Audit, Hales Announces Plan for Cuts

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 3:44 PM

This week's lead news story is all about Mayor Charlie Hales' response to a bare-knuckle audit hammering Portland City Council over a the city's gazillion-dollar street-maintenance backlog.

Bringing up every city road to good or fair quality would cost something like $85 million a year for the next 10 years, about $75 million more than the Bureau of Transportation has recently been allotting. But instead of immediately seeking new revenue, Hales says he wants to cut in some other places first, never mind that much of PBOT's money is already spoken for.

So how much more money is Hales hoping to find? According to Jonathan Maus at BikePortland.org, who was covering PBOT's budget presentation today, it's not much: a little more than $7 million. That's about a tenth of what the auditor says it would take to get current, and not even all of that will go toward paving.

Here's the list of cuts Maus posted:

• $4.5 million from debt service on Sellwood Bridge bonds (this money was originally slated for the city's general fund, Hales is attempting to keep it all for PBOT);
• $1.2 million from a sidewalk project slated for SE 136th Ave;
• $950,000 from the Downtown Marketing Initiative program;
• $500,000 from the City's ADA curb ramp program.

Even this list won't be easy to swallow. Maus reported some immediate blowback at the meeting about the 136th Avenue sidewalk cuts. Taking money from the general fund could mean other cuts in other bureaus. Hales also told me yesterday, when asked point blank about the Portland Business Alliance-affiliated Downtown Marketing Initiative, that it was "on the table."

Of course, PBOT has tried and failed to make that cut before. Last year, when the bureau, under fired director Tom Miller, submitted a requested budget without that line item, the money was restored, plus some, by the time council and then-Mayor Sam Adams got through their annual budget exercise in making as many people happy as possible.

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