Dear friends and neighbors,
A little over a year ago, we watched, and prepared, as the COVID-19 pandemic escalated quickly from a far-off news story into a direct threat to the health and safety of our own community. And in the months since, we have seen our community stretched to its limits by illness, by financial hardship, and by profound disruptions to our sense of stability.
There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t reflect on how much things have changed, and how those changes have come on the backs of some of the steepest and most urgent challenges that Multnomah County has ever faced.
But I think just as frequently about how the staff and programs of Multnomah County have revealed to our community who we are by showing up time and time again to address those challenges head on, and to walk alongside community members during some of the darkest moments of the last year. Through our public health response, through our shelter system, through direct aid and crisis services.
And there are so many more examples of how Multnomah County has led with our values to continue being there for our community throughout the pandemic.
This morning, I released my FY 2022 Executive Budget to offer a blueprint for addressing the County’s highest and most urgent priorities in the wake of the pandemic. It prioritizes the allocation of resources to our public health infrastructure and to our core safety net services that have been essential to protecting the health, safety and well-being of our community. And while the additional federal stimulus funding that Multnomah County is set to receive seems like a windfall, we will be strategic and intentional with every last dollar to meet the unprecedented breadth and depth of this community's current needs.
At the same time, this budget also looks beyond our most immediate challenges.
As we stand at the doorstep of our recovery from the pandemic, we have the choice — and the responsibility — to take the wounds, lessons and resilience we’ve gathered during this painful season, and to use them to emerge as a stronger, more just and more equitable community. The pandemic laid bare the urgency of confronting the inequities and injustices that stain our community. Now is the time to pursue solutions and systemic changes that can eliminate those disparities.
So my Executive Budget lays the foundation for building up the kind of county that will serve its residents for decades to come by investing in the first stages of the three voter-approved ballot measures that carry the potential to change the lives of thousands of people and transform our community for the better. It also invests in strategies that will alter how we do our work to ensure that our services reach the community and meet their needs in more racially equitable ways.
At $2.81 billion, this Executive Budget is by far the largest that has ever been proposed in the history of the County. But I know that it’s also the most ambitious and forward-thinking budget that has ever been submitted, built on my deep conviction that Multnomah County can be a transformative force for the community.
The budget comes to a vote for adoption by the Board of County Commissioners on June 3, but there’s a lot of work left to do in the meantime. Over the next several weeks, we will receive the most recent financial forecasts from the Budget Office and hold worksessions with every County department.
This is also a participatory budgeting process, so I invite you, the members of our community, to use your voice to tell us about what you care about and what you’d like to see included in the final budget. Please join us at either of Multnomah County’s two virtual public hearings, which will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5 and Wednesday, May 12. Check the County website, Facebook and Twitter for more details as the hearings get closer. The dates and times are subject to change, so please check frequently for updates.
I hope that you will be able to join the conversation during this pivotal point in our community’s story. In preparation, you can review my proposed Executive Budget here and read the County’s summary here.
The COVID-19 crisis has shined a light on the many inequities that we have long wrestled with, but it's also revealed the County’s capacity to find solutions in partnership with our community, and move with conviction toward making things right. I know Multnomah County can, and will, continue to make great strides in the direction of justice, safety and the holistic health of our entire community in the wake of this world-changing pandemic, and beyond.
Please stay safe and stay healthy,
Multnomah County Chair