Fritz Wants to Pry More Budget Power from Mayor's Claws

Portland Mercury:

Hoping to loosen the mayor's traditional vise grip on the city budget—while also raising alarms over a little-seen pot of city cash worth nearly half a billion bucks—City Commissioner Amanda Fritz is prepared to push a significant restructuring of Portland's financial apparatus. Fritz, according to copies of a proposed ordinance (pdf) and other documents (pdf) obtained by the Mercury, wants to carve a separate, independent city budget office from the mayor's traditional budget fiefdom: the Office of Management and Finance (OMF). The splinter City Budget Office would handle budget forecasts, labor-contract assessments, and financial planning. And it would be run by a director who could be appointed by the mayor but dismissed only by a majority of the city council. It's the second time in just a little more than a month that a city commissioner has moved to sap some of the mayor's power over all things financial—one of the office's few real powers under the commission style of government. In September, Dan Saltzman won passage of a new rule forcing five-year forecasts to be published twice a year, on specific dates, after Mayor Sam Adams frustrated some of his colleagues by delaying the forecast's release this spring to avoid telegraphing his plans. Both appear enabled by the political limbo that's emerged as Mayor Sam Adams' influence inevitably wanes amid the impending mayoral election. Fritz's ordinance, up for a hearing this Wednesday, is starkly clear about its intent: With Portland’s unique commission form of government, each city commissioner has executive level management responsibilities as well as legislative responsibilities, which mandates the need for direct unfiltered communication with financial planning staff throughout the year and which would be provided by an independent budget office.... Every council member should have access to the information, advice, books and records of the City Budget Office. [ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

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