Jails or Clinics: You Decide
Please Feature this Story!!!!!
Multnomah County is hosting a series of 4 Community Budget Workshops. Last night was the 2nd, out at East County Primary Care Clinic. More than 100 people have shown up both nights to grapple with huge budget cuts and to tell the county administration straight to their face what services they want to keep, and which will go. Two more workshops happen next week, and an online budget tool will let anyone weigh in on what's important to them.
Multnomah County provides an enormous array of services such as Oregon Health Plan enrollment, HIV Prevention, Corrections, and Domestic Violence Prevention. These are services that affect every single person in the metropolitan area. As former commissioner Bev Stein used to say, "The County serves the neediest, the naughtiest, and folks who use the library." All of us fall into at least one of those categories from time to time.
The county is losing 18 million dollars out of its budget this current year, and 30 million next fiscal year. So, the county is taking it to the streets, inviting all residents to tell the administrators whether to cut jail beds, or close clinics. Or both.
These are tough decisions, but the county knows that too many of these services are so important to many people that they can't simply make the cuts and walk on. These series of Budget Workshops display the kinds of cuts that the county is faced with, and asks everyone: How would you balance this budget?
So far, more than 100 people have shown up at the first two - Wednesday Nov 13th Wednesday, November 13 at First United Methodist Church 1838 SW Jefferson; and Thursday November 14th at Multnomah County East Building
600 NE 8th St. Gresham. The next two meetings will be:
Tuesday, November 19, 6 - 9 pm
Kaiser Town Hall
3704 N Interstate Ave. (Cross street is N. Overlook, Tri-Met #5)
Remarks from Commissioner Cruz
Wednesday, November 20, 2002, 6 - 9 pm
Brentwood Darlington Community Center
7211 SE 62nd Ave. (Just south of Brentwood Park, Tri-Met #71)
Remarks from Commissioner Naito
In addition to the workshops, some of which include translation services, there is a website where the results will be reported. Soon, a budget tool will be available, so that anyone with a computer can suggest exactly what cuts the county should make. Please see the website in the header.
On December 11th, there will be a public hearing at the Multnomah Building on SE Hawthorne to get the final say of the people about the proposed cuts.
The County Board of Commissioners will adopt the current fiscal year (which runs through June 30th, 2003) adjustment, making cuts based on data gathered at these workshops and hearings, and from the website.
No other major media have decided that these leaps toward participatory democracy are worth covering. But it's truly amazing to see elected officials and local government decision makers out in the general public asking people what kinds of decisions they should make about the services that they use. It tickles a faint image in my mind of what life might be like in an active democracy. A poorly funded democracy, perhaps, in more ways than one.
Participants can ask people like the Deputy Director of Health Services, or the District Attorney exactly how these programs work, and what the effects of eliminating them might be - and can engage in constructive dialogue with other people in their neighborhoods about what services really matter.
If you feel strongly about the money that we spend on various programs; if you want more jail beds, or fewer detox programs; if you want to know what the people look like who actually make these decisions; or even if you just think it would be nice to participate in a rare example of participatory democracy, this is the place for it.
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