The Portland City Council Agenda this week has an extra-long Consent list. Last week, Commissioner Sam Adams was sick, and Commissioner Dan Saltzman was absent, so the Council did not have the required four votes to pass the Consent package. Mayor Potter asked if any Commissioners wanted to pull any item for consideration that day, and when neither of the other two Council members said yes, set over the entire list to be voted on this week.
At that point, a good number of city employees left the Council chambers. Staff are expected to attend the Council session when their items will be voted on, in case there are questions - even when the items are on the Consent calendar. By setting the list over to the following week, the Council required those employees to take time away from the rest of their duties, again this week. If I had been voting last week, I would have pulled the entire Consent agenda, and asked the Mayor to have the Council Clerk read them one by one. That way, they could have been passed at that time, instead of pulling employees away from their jobs again this week. Plus, some of the Consent items are accepting money - let's get it into our coffers sooner! It would have taken less than five minutes. This is an example where paying attention to details can save the City and its taxpayers money. Oh well. Roll on January.
There are two important Time Certain reports this week:
1549 TIME CERTAIN: 9:30 AM - Accept the Small Business Advisory Council annual report to City Council (Report introduced by Commissioner Adams)
From the cover letter:
The Small Business Advisory Council (SBAC) is the City’s official advisory group on small business. As directed by the City Council, under City Ordinance, the SBAC continues to advocate that the City provide a customer-centered business climate as well as review and bring forward regulations, policies and issues that support small business formation, growth and prosperity. This report provides City Council with an overview of the SBAC’s priority action items, ongoing initiatives, and committee activities. The report also delivers specific issues and programs that the SBAC believes most important to the development of a small business-friendly climate in Portland.
The Report is on line here. Interestingly, much of the workplan focuses on process improvements, rather than specific 1, 2, 3 actions.
1550 TIME CERTAIN: 10:00 AM - Accept the Quality Rental Housing Workgroup recommendations and direct Bureaus to develop an implementation strategy (Resolution introduced by Commissioners Fish and Leonard)
It is disappointing this report is being heard on Wednesday morning, when many renters have to be at work. Especially when later in the Agenda, we read this:
WEDNESDAY, 6:00 PM, NOVEMBER 19, 2008
DUE TO LACK OF AN AGENDA THERE WILL BE NO MEETING
Sigh. Going back to the Resolution:
Good hearts and brains have been working on improving rental housing in Portland for decades. I am glad to see the report refer to "bad actors" rather than "bad apples". That term focuses on behavior rather than the person doing the behavior. It sounds like the committee has worked hard and come to more consensus on proposed actions than many might have expected at the beginning of the process. Some of the most important elements in the Report:
Summary of Recommendations
Recommendations by the QRHW are intended to hold both landlords and tenants accountable for their behavior through a balance of education, preventative community resources, and enforcement activity. Key recommendations include:
* Creating an enhanced system of unit inspections based on the current complaint driven model that relies less on tenant complaints which can make them vulnerable to retaliation (i.e. evictions) and gets inspectors into more units that may have maintenance and repair problems.
* Updating Title 29 to include clearer language on health and safety issues (lead, mold, pests, and sanitation) that will enable the City to more efficiently and effectively enforce the Code.
* Increasing fines for non-compliance and strengthening collections mechanisms.
* Increasing preventative services such as tenant/landlord mediation and providing more education to tenants and property owners on rights and responsibilities.
* Collecting an annual per unit fee ($8-10) for rental units (exempting non-profit owned units).
The QRHW recommends that resources necessary to enforce safe and healthy rental housing be provided by “bad actors”, with start-up support from the rental housing industry and the public:
* Increased fines and fees;
* Commitment of City resources (the QRHW is requesting approximately $500,000 in new GF annually);
* An per unit rental fee estimated to provide $2.4 million ($800,000 for 3 years) in support of healthy rental housing;
* An elimination of the business license exemption for property owners of nine or less rental units. It is anticipated that this proposal may increase general fund revenue that could be used to support the program.
The Regular Agenda starts with this:
1594 Declare that employee volunteer service in support of youth is within the mission of the City of Portland and all its bureaus and direct implementation activities (Resolution introduced by Mayor Potter and Commissioners Adams, Fish, Leonard and Saltzman)
Note, the Resolution and its Report are sponsored by all five Council members. No point in showing up, if you disagree. The pilot program just completed allows some (in the future, more) City employees to use up to four hours of paid time per month to "volunteer" in activities with use. I put "volunteer" in quotation marks because to me, if you're getting paid, and it's during work hours, you're not volunteering. Choosing to spend time at one activity rather than another, yes. But volunteering? Not exactly.
"*1596 Authorize settlement agreement with Rocky Balada regarding disability benefit and employment claims (Previous Agenda 1430)
This item will not be discussed and will be referred to the Mayor's office."
I changed my format on this item, and added quotation marks, to show you the bolding in the on-line version.
Possibly the most important item on the Agenda:
1598 Adopt the Budget Calendar for FY 2009-10 (Resolution)
Dun, dun, DUN! The Budget will be the most important item on my To Do list for at least the first four months in office. Everything else depends on where the money goes, and where it doesn't. I will endeavor to keep citizens informed of the timeline and when you can be most effective in participating in the process. Hint: sooner rather than later.
I hope this goes through on the second time of asking:
*1605 Authorize Intergovernmental Agreement between the Bureau of Parks and the Portland Development Commission to acquire approximately 4 acres of property in the Gateway Regional Center Urban Renewal District (Previous Agenda 1538)
I heard there was a glitch with appraised value at the previous hearing. One difficulty that will keep coming up at both the City and Metro in purchase agreements for new public land, is fluctuations in appraisals as the market dips. Delay in getting ordinances to Council can mean the agreed price may be less valid.
As noted above, no Wednesday p.m. meeting. On Thursday:
THURSDAY, 2:00 PM, NOVEMBER 20, 2008
1606 TIME CERTAIN: 2:00 PM - Adopt the Cully-Concordia Community Assessment and Action Plan as a touchstone and guide for City Bureau and other agency work programs and a participatory and advocacy tool for community stakeholders (Resolution introduced by Mayor Potter)
Kudos to Cully Association of Neighbors and Concordia Neighborhood Association, dozens of volunteers and staff, for great work on this project. Read the Resolution here - lots of good information. A sobering note on funding the Action Plan:
"As shown on the attached Budget Impact Statement, adoption of the Cully-Concordia Community Assessment and Action Plan by itself does not result in any financial impact to the City. An allocation of $15,000 was earmarked in the 2007-08 Schools/Families/Housing budget to implement a priority action item from the Cully-Concordia project, and has been carried ovBureau of Planning through the Fall 2008 BMP for this purpose. As recommended by the project’s Community Discussion Group, this amount will be conveyed to the implementer of adult English as Second Language classes through an interagency agreement as a one-time funding agreement. Other activities identified in this plan are intended as a guide for future budget and work program decisions, but the plan does not direct specific actions or funding commitments."
Finally, one of the last Measure 37 and Measure 49 claims finishing up:
1607 TIME CERTAIN: 3:00 PM - Accept Staff Report and Recommendation and Order of Council for Gregory Kurahashi Measure 49 Claim (Report introduced by Mayor Potter; Claim No. PR 06-180855)
The Report recommends denial of the Measure 49 claim, which protests expenses related to developing a home on a site with environmental conservation (EC) zoning. Measure 49 allows waivers only when development of a home is prohibited, which is not the case in EC zones.