The Save Columbia Pool Coalition has asked all candidates running for City Council these two questions:
- Would you support funding to keep Columbia Pool open until a viable alternative is available? Funding options could range from operations in the next fiscal year ($400,000-450,000), to repairs needed to keep the building viable for longer.
- Portland Parks and Recreation faces a budget crisis. What solutions do you think are viable to address the larger crisis in the Portland Parks and Recreation budget and ensure that the city can provide year-round pool access to North Portland?
We’ll post their answers as they come in.
Commissioner Pos. 1
- I support keeping the Columbia Pool open, period. Our recreational facilities are of enormous benefit to our communities, for individuals, families, and people of all ages. Theenormous public outcry to save the Columbia Pool is a testament to the immense role communal areas have in our society. The issue facing Columbia Pool specifically is that it’s in need of extensive and expensive repairs. While Portland has suggested an expansion of Charles Jordan Community Center to include a full-service aquatic area, we have yet to see preliminary designs or estimated construction costs. Realistically, in order to keep Columbia Pool open long enough to prepare a viable alternative, repairs would need to continue. With the funding deficit at $6.3 million, it’s hard to see how planning to construct a new facility would save money in the long run. It seems instead that City Council is only extending the issue with no real solution ahead. Alternatively, closing Columbia Pool without any alternative available would be a failure on the part of the city. The only solution is to implement serious changes to the funding structure to make Parks and Recreation more profitable and self-sustaining.
- Portland Parks and Recreation faces a budget crisis. What solutions do you think are viable to address the larger crisis in the Portland Parks and Recreation budget and ensure that the city can provide year-round pool access to North Portland? Large changes will need to be made to ensure future financial improvement for the entirety of the Parks Department. One option is to create an independant parks district that has the ability to tax. Doing so ensures that citizens get the comfort of knowing that their taxes are going directly to the parks in their communities, and has been overwhelmingly supported by the public in areas it has been implemented. Seattle has described their experience as a huge win for the Parks Department. Additionally, an increased commercialization of our parks could lift some of the burden off taxpayers. Bringing in permanent vendors could bring in additional revenue as well as help maintain clean and safe facilities. Trimet does this at some of their busier Max stations very successfully. Creating a small eating area in the park outside the Columbia Pool and renting it to a local vendor would bring a welcome element of warm food and cold drinks for families looking to spend the day. Similarly, the use of advertisements could be a good way to pay for parks while also promoting local businesses, like PGE Park where Portland General Electric paid $1 million to put their name on the stadium. Columbia Pool and other recreational facilities throughout the city could follow suit, allowing branded sponsorships on buildings, fixtures, and equipment.
Commissioner Pos. 2
- Honestly I would not. I would use this money to aid in making Portland a Bee sanctuary city by planting wildflowers and nurturing a mason and Leafcutter Bee culture ( Solitary and non-stinging as opposed to Hive Bees)
- World is facing a Global Bee loss crisis I think we need to devote all funds to Wildflowers, raising different varieties of Bees and discovering new solution and educating children in ways to help.
- Funding options could range from operations in the next fiscal year ($400,000-450,000), to repairs needed to keep the building viable for longer. I strongly support maintaining and upgrading the current Columbia Pool facilities. The Columbia Pool is frequently used year-round in an area of Portland that has a disproportionally fewer parks and recreational than other affluent areas of our city. From the prominence of discussions of equity in PP&R’s 2020 parks vision plan written two decades ago, it is quite clear that Portland’s Parks Board has long been aware that parks and recreation services are unequally distributed around Portland.
A. Fiscal Responsibility – The city council’s decision to lay off employees and close community centers was due to irresponsible fiscal policies. The city had been paying many PP&R “perma-temp” staff at city recreation centers, below the $15.00 per hour wage and not providing benefits to some full-time staff. The city lost an arbitration case and was then required to do right by PP&R staff. The city was required to either increase the allocation from the general fund to PP&R, or aggressively cut costs which resulted in job losses and closure of community centers. Although PP&R may now be treating their workers better, the fact that this happened is an indictment of PP&R’s mismanagement. PP&R must be a bureau that views every one of its staff as an important and worthy investment. I’m committed to finding ways to expand the budget at PP&R and avoiding future staff layoffs or community center closures.
B. Corporate Sponsors – Tax and bond measures take time to develop, put on the ballot and then implement. Corporate sponsorship or partnership with companies like Nike, Columbia, Adidas or Under Armor could provide short term capital funding in return for excellent publicity, opportunities to advertise their brand, etc.
C. Tax Measure – I am always cautious to recommend a bond or tax measure, as it always hurts the low-income wage earners the hardest. The relentless in property taxes are forcing an increasing number of low-income or fixed income home owners to sell their homes and leave the city they love.
However, Portland is renowned around the world for our magnificent parks. I would support a tax on all airline travel to support our parks. This type of tax could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to support Portland Parks and Recreation and critical facilities like the Columbia Pool.
D. Renting Park Facilities – I support promoting the rental of park facilities for private functions. As an example, the Pittock Mansion is available to corporate donors, as part of a package program. Apparently, there is no option for individual donors, nonprofits, etc. to rent Pittock Mansion or many other park facilities at premium prices for special events.
Portland is famous for the excellent cuisine available in our food trucks. Portland’s food trucks could rent a space in the parking lot at Pittock Mansion, or at other busy Portland parks, especially busy summer days.
E. Refresh Parks & Recreation Web Site – PP&R website’s navigation only displays a link to the ‘volunteer’ page after a site visitor has selected ‘about us’ from nine options in the top navigation menu, and even then ‘volunteer’ appears only as the bottom-most of 26 options on a left-hand navigation menu. It’s hard to imagine burying the volunteer program more completely. In my opinion the volunteer link on the PPR website should be one of the most prominent navigation options on the web page.
F. Volunteer Engagement – I believe there is real potential to further increase Portland’s volunteer-powered park services. The volunteer hours have been relatively flat over the past several years, even though our city’s population has continued to increase.
Portland has a growing population of retirees that may be looking for ways to give back to the community. Volunteering with PPR could be an ideal fit for them. Our city also has a steady influx of young people that are moving here for the quality of life and looking to make new friends. Volunteering with PPR could also be a great opportunity for them to build new friendships and put down roots in our city.
Commissioner Pos. 4
- Yes. I grew up in North Portland and spent my childhood using this pool. It is where I learned to swim. This pool was important to me as I grew up as it connected me and my family to our community. It continues to do so. It should be maintained until another option is available. Portland Parks and Recreation faces a budget crisis.
- Parks are one of Portland’s most valuable assets and recognized by nearly all Portlanders as our greatest treasure. Columbia Pool as well as the rest of our parks must be maintained for today and generations to come. While a new pool is being proposed to be built at the nearby Charles Jordan Community Center, Columbia Pool should be maintained until this new pool becomes operational. Funding our future. We must recognize that our PP&R budget is underfunded. Near term there should be a review of parks fees and charges versus comparable municipal operations (e.g. North Clackamas Aquatic Park, etc.) and private services (e.g. day care services, event and facility rentals, etc.) Focus on maintaining PP&R’s value pricing but position closer to market rate. With PP&R’s new higher cost labor contract, professional workforce and clear market advantage and scale, undervaluing parks will only lead to additional funding challenges. Long term, House bill 2001 passed this Spring, which removed all single-family residential zoning, will have a strong positive effect on our city’s revenue. As we transition from single family residences, where system development charges barely cover the infrastructure costs, to a denser housing city, our property tax base and revenues will steadily expand. However, tax and revenue gains will not be meaningfully impacted for 10 to 20 years. Once these increased revenue streams are realized, our city will have funds to better manage our assets and ensure a meaningful budget to better cover parks maintenance and capital expenditure needs. To bridge the gap between our near term and long term future tax revenue gains, our city should renew our Parks Replacement Bond. Our parks are experiencing hundreds of millions in deferred maintenance. Funding a new bond would enable continued investment in one of our city’s most important assets.
We must all work together to find the best path forward.
- Yes, I fully support funding to keep the Columbia Pool open until a viable alternative is made available.
- The City’s model for funding parks is broken. The Bureau relies upon user fees to fund operations, but at the same time tries to keep fees low so every Portlander can afford to use our parks. Meanwhile, our parks need substantial new investments. Over the next 15 years, maintaining our current level of service will cost $1 billion. Expanding Parks services to equitably meet the needs of all Portlanders would have $2.5 billion over 15 years. Here are some strategies we can use to raise those funds:
- I would support the creation of a “parks district,” that has the power to raise and collect its own parks-specific taxes.
- I would support a “Parks Bond.”
- Partner with the Parks Foundation and the private sector to raise funds for the Parks Bureau.
- Parks deserve more general fund dollars.