Thank you to everyone who came out to support Portland's parks at the Community Budget Forums on April 3rd and April 17th along with those who submitted written testimony. On April 3rd PPF's Executive Director, Jeff Anderson, had the opportunity to testify on behalf of the Foundation. Below is the text of the testimony he read from. You can also access the video version of the testimony here (Jeff's testimony begins at 1hr47min).
Community Budget Forum - April 3, 2018
Statement to City Council
Jeff Anderson, Executive Director
Good evening, Mayor Wheeler and members of the Council. Thank you for the opportunity to speak about the proposed 2018-19 city budget.
My name is Jeff Anderson. I’m Executive Director of the Portland Parks Foundation. The mission of the Portland Parks Foundation is to mobilize financial and popular support to ensure a thriving and accessible parks system for a healthy Portland. The Foundation was created by the city in 2001 as Portland’s chief private fundraising partner for parks.
The Portland Parks Foundation is extremely concerned about the ongoing general fund cuts for PP&R in the proposed 2018-19 budget.
Public parks are very likely our most popular city service. 86% of Portlanders rate their parks as good or excellent. More than 9 out of 10 residents use our parks. Parks advance community wealth, community health, and community culture. They are not an expendable amenity. They are as essential as any other service supported by city budget dollars. Yet the City Budget Office’s proposed cuts to parks are disproportionately high. In fact, it appears that 40% of ALL the recommended ongoing cuts target our parks.
Parks are integral to our core character as a city. Parks host major music festivals, diverse cultural events and holiday celebrations, and a variety of events promoting local businesses. A recent study estimates the economic impact of local parks in Oregon at $1.9 billion dollars and over 17,000 jobs. Portland’s a big slice of that pie.
Portlanders routinely give some 470,000 hours per year to volunteering in the parks—an annual value of $5.5 million or more. The City of Portland’s budget should signal appreciation for that contribution and should reinforce—not undermine—the efforts of volunteers. In fact, the city should be looking for every additional opportunity to leverage the good will and private resources that have already contributed so much to iconic parks all over Portland.
We already have a backlog of $430 million in deferred major maintenance for parks. The proposed budget cuts accelerate a downward spiral that the City Council has started with its cuts to general fund support for parks over the past decade. Other cities have found to their sorrow that massive disinvestment in parks is nearly impossible to make right. It’s also a huge deterrent to success in the Parks Foundation’s own work to encourage private contributions to our public parks.
This year the city is projected to have record tax revenues. This is not the time to put parks’ ongoing general fund support on the chopping block. As PP&R’s Budget Advisory Committee letter to you observes, “After multiple years of reductions, the cuts now dig deep into core PP&R services and values, have significant service-level impacts for the public, and further erode employee morale.”
In closing, I urge you to support the public parks the way Portland’s public wants you to. Invest in what makes Portland not only livable, but exceptional. The Portland Parks Foundation stands ready to help. Thank you for your attention.