Portland City Council punts on vote for funding camping ban

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) –After three hours of testimony, Portland City Council failed to take a vote, either to pass or reject, the first major funding allocation a part of the new camping ban and sanctioned campsites.

Thursday, the second round of the City of Portland’s fall budget adjustment, commissioners were considering allocating $27 million for various aspects of creating the first three of six proposed sanctioned campsites.

Wheeler, who has said enforcement of the camping ban would not occur without the sites, says the money would be a “down payment” on the rest of the program.

The proposed vote on Thursday was considered an “emergency ordinance” which would require a unanimous vote by the city council. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty signaled she would not support the emergency ordinance, so the final vote on Thursday’s session was to remove “emergency” in the ordinance.

Sixty people had signed up to testify on Thursday, nearly all of whom opposed the funding saying it could be better spent on rent assistance, creating housing and converting other facilities to housing.

“These millions of dollars would be better spent addressing the root causes of homelessness and preventing further homelessness that we are bound to see with the state’s allowed rent increase,” said Daisy Quiñonez, who opposed the campsites.

The biggest amounts require nearly $13 million for the first year of operation, more than $4 million for the construction of the first three campsites, nearly $4 million for the impact reduction program that cleans up camps around the city and $3.5 million for a navigation team that will conduct outreach for services for people who are sleeping outside.

Then there is money for private security at the campsites, maintenance and identifying the sites.

“I urge you to hold yourselves accountable to the same standards you do when considering other city programs and projects. There should be measurable benchmarks documented and written plans from this untested strategy.” Brian Hoop said during testimony, who is the executive director of Housing Oregon.

Many people shared during city council testimony are not pleased with the private contracts or enforcement and say the money can be better spent on housing solutions.

In defense of the plan, Commissioner Dan Ryan pointed to the diversion program as a part of the package intended to find criminal justice solutions outside of jail or fines as well as the city’s goal to create 20,000 affordable housing units in the next eleven years.

“Failure to act is not compassionate, we understand this may not be the perfect solution, but it is the step in the right direction for Portlanders,” Ryan said.

Last week, Ryan requested $7 million for the city’s rental assistance and eviction defense fund which has run out. Ryan hopes that money will be coming from the county as he said they are expected to vote to allocate $15 million countywide next week.

The Mayor’s spokesperson says the vote will now occur on November 30th. A city council source expects the budget to pass, despite the objection of Commissioner Hardesty.

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