portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting portland metro

social services

Services Axed, Prisons Grow. Diane Linn, Say it Ain't So.

Bear with me, I know few words inspire more boredom than "budget." But this is important. The Multnomah County budget is just about to break out of the secret box in which it's been fomenting since the commissioners learned that they were facing yet another gigantic funding shortfall. Although it's not slated to go public until Thursday, word about its substance has been eeking out bit by bit. And if you care about the people of this city, you're not going to like it. Despite the reputedly progressive leanings of Diane Linn and at least 3 of the four other commissioners, it looks like children, old people, people with disabilities, and people who are poor are about to get the shaft, while the Sheriff's department smiles.
Like most people in Portland, I have not yet seen the final budget. However, Chair Linn has indicated that severe shortfalls will inevitably lead to a tightening of the proverbial belt. Apparently, that tightening will come at an enormous cost. Aging and Disability Services, for example, is about to see its budget slashed, leading to a loss of employment for scores of county workers, and a loss of services to people who need them. Multnomah County Mental Health services are slated for cuts, and rumor has it the public guardian's office will be eliminated entirely, leaving some of our most vulnerable citizens without assistance. Programs serving children, serving people with disabilities, and homeless people are reportedly on the chopping block. Human Resources staff at the county report that mass layoffs are unavoidable, and committees are already being formed to try to help "transition" people out of their jobs.

Said one county social worker, who chose to remain anonymous, "This is just really difficult. I don't know what my clients will do, and I don't know what I will do." Another worker added, "I've put in a lot of hard work, trying to make things better for people. And now, I'm about to lose my job. I don't know how I will manage." She noted that unemployment is very high in Oregon, and that there are few jobs to go to. "I'm like everybody else," She said. "I have rent to pay, I have a family to feed, I have bills that are stacking up. I have 6 years of college, and I make next to nothing, and I took it all this time because I believed in what I was doing. Now, I have very little savings to fall back on."

While county workers are frightened at the prospect of unemployment and poverty, they are equally frightened about what might become of their clients. "Kate" is a caseworker whose job is likely to be eliminated. "I work with the most fragile clients," she said. "Most of them have no families to take care of them, and it's all up to me. I don't know what will happen to them if I have to go." When I spoke to her, Kate was juggling the needs of several clients. She was trying to get a wheelchair for a woman who could not afford one, and she was trying to find housing for an elderly man who could not live on his own anymore but did not want to go to a nursing home. And, she was trying to find a home for a cat. The cat belonged to a woman who was too ill to care for it any longer. While the county commissioners may not consider her work to be important, I imagine the woman with the cat, the man who needs housing, and the woman who needs a wheelchair would all disagree.

"Barbara" is a worker with Adult Protective Services. She, too, is concerned for her clients. "I see unimaginable things," she said. "You wouldn't believe the kinds of things that go on behind closed doors. I can't believe this community would be willing to leave its weakest members without any protection. Sometimes, we're the only ones there for people, and if we're not there, well...." She trailed off and grew silent.

These are only some of the people who will be impacted by dwindling public resources at a time when billions of dollars a DAY are being spent on unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Part of the county budget shortfall is a result of cuts to federal dollars that once trickled down to Multnomah County, but are now going to Halliburton and Bechtel, and to people like Kenneth Lay. But some of the responsibility has to be shouldered more locally. Because curiously, Chair Linn and the other commissioners have apparently decided that more police presence and more prison beds are a higher priority than social services.

Commissioners identified 6 "priority areas" in the budget process. One of those areas is "safety." I believe that "safety" should mean that people are safe from abuse in nursing homes because there are enough protective services workers and monitors looking out for them; that people are safe from being thrown out on the streets because caseworkers and intake workers and public guardians are working to keep them in safe, affordable, adequate housing; that people are safe from suffering preventable mental breakdowns because mental health workers are getting them access to treatment; that people are safe from succumbing to bed sores, broken hips, dehydration and exposure, because the threads of our community are binding them to us, and we are providing them with the services and attention they need.

Alas, though, the commissioners have apparently interpreted "safety" to mean, instead, more sheriffs to keep us "safe" from things like "terror," and more prison beds in which to put people who jaywalk or hold signs on city streets. Chair Linn has proudly been reporting all day that, not only will the sheriff's office not receive the kind of cuts being felt among social service workers, but her new budget will actually increase jail space by more than a hundred beds. How about that.

If you find this as disturbing as I do, please take a moment to give the commissioners a piece of your mind. They can be found here:

Diane Linn (County Chair)
Multnomah County Chair's Office
501 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Suite 600
Portland, OR 97214
503-988-3308
fax 503-988-3093
(Hey, feel free to drop by.)

Maria Rojo de Steffey (District 1)
503-988-5220
 district1@co.multnomah.or.us

Serena cruz (District 2)
Commissioner Serena Cruz, District 2
Office: (503)988-5219
Fax: (503)988-5440
 serena@co.multnomah.or.us

Lisa Naito (District 3)
503 988-5217
 district3@co.multnomah.or.us

Lonnie Roberts (District 4)
Phone: (503) 988-5213
Fax: (503) 988-5262
 lonnie.j.roberts@co.multnomah.or.us
(He's an ass. Really.)
stop paying taxes 04.May.2005 00:01

gettin' 2 da root

everybody who pays their taxes is supporting this stuff. everybody who makes life choices in which they have to pay taxes to avoid losing their homes or other essentials is also supporting this stuff. people need to stop supporting the system, and a completely vital way is to withdraw your financial contribution. that doesn't stop with federal tax, either, when the states and counties start going this way. i'm not going to give the feds money to make war on poor people in Iraq. why should i give it to the county for a war on the poor people here?

Taxes 04.May.2005 09:17

and concerns

I'm not sure this is the appropriate place to rail against paying taxes. Not that I don't agree with you in regard to the need to stop supporting war, but I need to remind you that taxes are also a powerful means by which our society redistributes resources. This is why so many rich people hate taxes: It means they have to share. All of the programs that are being cut in the above article are programs that depend on tax dollars to survive at all. If we paid *more* taxes, then they likely would not be facing cuts.

The truth is, taxes ought to be (and were SUPPOSED to be) a way for disproportionatly wealthy people to give up some of their wealth to benefit disproportionatly poor people, and to support their society in general. This country is extremely wealthy, and produces enough for all of us, if we would only share. But, human nature being what it is, we usually do not share. Rich people do not have more because they deserve more, they have more because they took it. They inherit it, they steal it, they exploit their way into it, they put their own material gain ahead of any concerns for anyone or anything else. And then, when they have much more than they need, they have the nerve to pretend they earned it and have no responsibility to share it, or to ensure that they help support the society that gave them what they have. Most efforts to undermine the tax system have originated with people who have more than they need and do not feel compelled to ensure that others have enough. Be careful who you get in bed with.

They reap what they sow 04.May.2005 09:20

Marleen

The commissioners will reap what they sow. Killing social services =
Ever increasing crime, severe draw on the health system and all the
misery that follows. Their answer is more laws and law enforcement.
Personally, I feel very sorry for many of the cops on the street.
The problems are thrown at their feet, and the politician's
foot soldiers are expected to deal with the mounting social issues
as law enforcement issues.

The typical band-aid approach. Don't address the root problems in
advance. It would be VERY cheap insurance.

It has always puzzled me how these legislators can sleep at night,
commuting to work, seeing the homeless on the streets, knowing many
of their constiuents struggle just to pay their electric bills, and feed
their families on a daily basis, then pass multi-million tax relief
measures for large corporations.

If there's a hell - they'll surely burn there for eternity.

Students 04.May.2005 12:56

Ben

FOR CHRIST SAKES PEOPLE ITS THE WAR ON THE POOR! CAN'T WE DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT? In public schools, the poor schools such as Jefferson are getting half of their teachers cut, while in the rich public schools only one teacher is getting cut. Thursday its on. If you see anything join it. Come on people do something

Bailing On Linn-Land, If I Have My Way 05.May.2005 12:18

alsis38 alsis35@yahoo.com

I'll be leaving County employment in a month, if all goes well. I don't enjoy the work, nor the inflexibility of bigwigs who scoff at me when I tell them I'd really like to be furloughed in order to spend more time on personal and community issues. Who knows how many social service jobs they could at least partially salvage by offering furloughs to those of us who chafe constantly at the 40-hr-per-week harness ? I personally was begging for over two years FOR A PAY CUT, as they would not have to compensate furloughed employees for our surrendered hours, and was rewarded with sneers. So much for Management freeing itself of orthodoxy to better serve the public. [rolleyes]

Frankly, it also embarasses me to hear from other, older workers here in DBCS (ie-- the office that processes your property tax bills) that our jobs are protected behind some metaphoric bullet-proof glass. Why my job should somehow be more sacred to the community while those of the social-service folk (mentioned in the above article) are perpetually expendable is beyond me. I'm ashamed to be in this department under such circumstances. Besides which, I doubt this "bulletproof" status will last forever. Eventually, they will run out of other non-LE budgets to cut, and I'll find myself on the block just as thousands of others found themselves on the block before me. Might as well try to be, as the Social Darwinists would say, "Pro-active," and get out now.

Does it ever occur to the bigwigs that they do *not* save jobs by surrendering repeatedly to the blackmail of the NIKEs and INTELs and their ever-increasing smug evasion of their own civic and social responsibility ? It's obvious to anyone with half an eye that jobs are not saved when corporations get tax breaks. Instead, the public sector is cannibalized to assauge the ever-growing greed of the corporate private sector, thus accelerating the race to the bottom so beloved by nearly every slick-talking, prosperous, insulated public official in this sorry-ass country, including the so-called Progressives like Linn. This would be true even if companies like NIKE employed the majority of their workforce in the U.S., at living wages. Which, of course, they do not.

I wish I believed in Hell.

WAR...is fantastic! (Hot Shots) 09.May.2005 12:57

Makes me laugh

I can't believe how hypocritical Portland is. You complain about tax dollars not being spent on things YOU care about; but the MAJORITY prefers having safe neighborhoods and better roads as the place to spend our dollars. The girl who wrote this probably drives an SUV which her parents bought for her. Another young misguided American, no, not even American, Portlander who has a sense of entitlement which is unfounded. I'm sure you weren't on the Arizona border last month trying to help illegal immigrants into the US, only to take the jobs the bums in Portland think their too good to do. Who cares about the birdbaths, parks, the dipstick rose garden, handouts, welfare (an illegal socialist program by the way), or where people who don't give a damn thing back to society get their medical care. I don't, and neither should you. One last thing, businesses are the backbone in America, not the government. Therefore, if you cut the tax for a business, the business has more money to grow, hence more jobs and production. WOW...capitalism! Unemployment has decreased everywhere a product in need is made, and somehow they did it without screwing the businesses with the second highest minimum wage in the nation! So why don't the people in Portland quit zoning themselves in, complaining, feeling sorry for themselves, and produce something. Oh yeah, they do, pot smoking whiners.

They Can't Get Us All! 17.May.2005 11:55

Sixpack wabc@mutualaid.org

Anyone that is considering "withdrawing their contributions" should check out this true account of how one woman, Laurel Ann Curtis, fought the shameful abuse of the IRS and WON! "IRS EXPOSED: BULLIES, LIARS, AND THIEVES". The book says its from "Patriot/Law Publications, po box 86507, Creston Station, Portland OR 97206.
Ms Curtis' email(which I haven't verified yet) is:  laurelannec@email.msn.com
I'm not a sales rep or anything like that---I've read this myself and was impressed with this woman's courage, even in the face of prison and/or losing everything she owned. I feel that if a large number of people follow her lead, win/lose or draw, we can put the government on the run. Any activist, Anarchist or Dissenter should be impressed as well. I intend to locate this info, so if you have trouble finding this book, email me at:<< sixpack6t9@hotmail.com>> and I'll send you any info I've found. Make sure your email address that you want me to reply to is in the message, or I won't be able to reply. The secret to putting the government in it's place, is to do so with an intimidatingly large number of team members.
Thanks,
Sixpack