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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Charlie Hales: Arbiter of Street Sweeping Tussles

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, May 1, 2013 at 12:59 PM


It was a small dust-up, hardly noticed amid the groans of potentially steep budget cuts. But the ongoing fight between two city bureaus over who pays for street cleaning—and how widespread that cleaning should be—could have reverberations for how Portlanders experience the city.

And in Mayor Charlie Hales' budget proposal, unveiled yesterday, round one appears to have gone to the Bureau of Environmental Services. The BES has argued for years it's been paying too much of the city's $4 million street sweeping program—roughly 28 percent last year. Director Dean Marriott claimed the program was not as successful at keeping detritus out of the city's storm drains as previously thought. The Portland Bureau of Transportation, as stewards of the city's roads, should pay, Marriott claimed.

“If we’re the customer, we’re no longer interested in having them do it,” he told the Mercury in March. “Why should we pay 28 percent the cost of street sweeping in Portland?”

PBOT, meanwhile, said Marriott's bureau should pay more.

Hales, apparently, disagreed. His budget slashes the amount BES will pay—from $1.1 million last year to $350,000 in FY14. That cash, like all BES expenditures, is generated from sewer bills.

The balance of the street sweeping money will come from general fund money the mayor piped into PBOT's budget (to the potential detriment of Buckman Pool, the city's share of a mental health crisis center, or any of a raft of other initiatives that didn't make the cut).

"BES and PBOT are directed to work together on crafting the most effective type of street cleaning program in order to increase overall water quality/stormwater benefits," a fact sheet from the mayor's office reads.

It's not a total victory for BES— which is potentially facing down $6 million in cuts after Hales recommended a lower-than-hoped-for rate increase—but Mariott's happy.

"I think this is a really good move," he said. "We're not in it in a huge way, but we're in it."

The question, now, is how Portland's street cleaning will change as the two bureaus work to make it, in the fact sheet's words "most effective." The program has already reduced service to two times a year for most residential streets, and six to eight times a year for large arterials.


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