Dear Friends and Neighbors,
At Multnomah County, we are moving into one of the most important parts of the calendar: determining our budget for the next fiscal year. It's a months-long process during which my colleagues on the Board of Commissioners and I thoroughly review the best ways to serve county residents.
While our local economy is springing back to life, many people in our community are still struggling to find jobs and an affordable place to live. Vacancy rates in Portland are at a dismal 3% with rents continuing to rise and income inequality is at its highest level in decades. And, because the county has been living on a lean budget for the past dozen years, there is a backlog of capital needs that must be addressed.
This fiscal year, my budget priorities will include a focus on affordable housing, improved mental health treatment options, and attention to long standing capital projects like building a safe courthouse. I also plan to focus on equity with the goal of addressing the health and economic disparities that our residents are facing.
But we can't do this without you. I encourage you to participate in the county's upcoming budget hearings. Lend us your voices. Get involved. Make a difference.
Multnomah County Committees seek your input
Join the Charter Review Committee: Every six years, residents of Multnomah County are required to review the county home rule charter. The charter is the local version of a constitution, essentially creating the structure of Multnomah County government. A committee, appointed by state Senators and Representatives, meet to review the charter and suggest revisions which are put to public vote. An example of a charter change suggested by past Charter Review Committees includes the creation of the Library District (2010).
Click here for more information and how to join the Charter Review Committee.
Join the Columbia River Gorge Commission: The Columbia River Gorge Commission was established in 1987 to develop and implement policies and programs that protect and enhance the scenic, natural, cultural and recreational resources of the Gorge, while encouraging growth within existing urban areas of the Gorge and allowing development outside urban areas consistent with resource protection.
Click here for more information and how to join the Columbia River Gorge Commission.
Looking to get involved with Multnomah County? Click here for current volunteer opportunities.
Deborah Kafoury sworn in for first full four-year term as Multnomah County Chair
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Commissioner Loretta Smith and Auditor Steve March all were sworn into office on Jan. 8.
"I would like to thank my colleagues -- Commissioner Diane McKeel, Commissioner Jules Bailey, Commissioner Judy Shiprack and Commissioner Loretta Smith. We have come a long way together and we have a great, long road ahead," Chair Kafoury said at last Thursday's ceremony.
"Of course, we can't do this alone," she continued, referring to county residents. "We need all of your support. And I know that the future looks bright for Multnomah County and all of our residents."
Chair Kafoury took office in June 2014 after serving as the county's District 1 commissioner. She had previously served as a state representative including two years as Democratic House Minority Leader.
This year, she'll create her first budget as chair and release her first legislative agenda.
In her first seven months as Multnomah County Chair, Kafoury has made affordable housing and homelessness a cornerstone issue, establishing the "A Home For Everyone" coordinating board, a broad representation of stakeholders that will increase transparency, promote accountability and coordinate decision-making and efficiency in service delivery.
Major infrastructure projects that she'll be overseeing include the completion of the new Sellwood Bridge, a new Health Department headquarters and establishing a plan for a new county central courthouse.
Click here for full story.
Commissioners combine physical, public and mental health services to 'treat the whole person'
Multnomah County Commissioners on Thursday, Jan. 15 voted to align the county's public, physical and behavioral health services in a single department. The board directed the Department of County Human Services to begin transferring the Mental Health & Addiction Services Division into the Health Department.
In July, Chair Deborah Kafoury directed Joanne Fuller, Health Department director, to evaluate whether combining services under a single department would help achieve those aims. After many conversations with community members, mental health providers, coordinated care organizations, the chief judge and Mental Health and Addictions Services managers, Fuller's analysis supported creating an integrated health system to better treat the whole person, body and mind.
David Hidalgo, Mental Health and Addiction Services Division director, said the move will allow for earlier intervention with children, and better coordination with school-based health centers, suicide prevention and public and mental health planning. The Division operates the largest mental health insurance Medicaid plan in the state and the Health Department operates the largest Medicaid physical health system in the state. "There is an opportunity here," Hidalgo said.
Liesl Wendt, director of County Human Services, said the shift will allow her department to further focus on poverty, the lack of housing and other upstream issues that contribute to poor health outcomes.
Click here for full story.
Board approves preferred and alternate sites for central courthouse
On Thursday, Dec. 18 the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved preliminary plans and site selection recommendations for the central courthouse project.
The approval directs the project team to perform a deeper analysis of the preferred, county-owned Hawthorne bridgehead south block site. And, in addition, to also analyze Block 128, the parking lot between the KOIN Tower and the Marriott Hotel, as an alternative.
Multnomah County has been working to replace the 1909 courthouse, which experts say will collapse in a strong earthquake and is functionally obsolete. County residents - who are compelled to appear at the courthouse for legal reasons - visit the courthouse more than 600,000 times a year. Because of the building's age and configuration, judges and jurors, prisoners and crime victims must all share the same elevators and walkways.
On Thursday, Jan. 29 and Thursday, Feb. 5 Multnomah County will host an open house where community members can share their opinions or views on the courthouse project. The Jan. 29 meeting will take place in the board room of the Multnomah Building, 501 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., Portland from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The Feb. 5 meeting will take place in the main jury room (Room #130) of the county courthouse, 1021 S.W. 4th Ave., Portland from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Click here for full story.
Chair Kafoury stresses commitment and collaboration at Gresham Chamber of Commerce talk
Chair Deborah Kafoury led a diverse panel of county employees and service providers in a vigorous discussion on some of the core issues affecting East Multnomah County on Tuesday, Jan. 6.
Before Gresham's Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Forum, Kafoury stressed continued commitment and collaboration with community leaders on key services in East County cities and communities.
"I made a commitment if elected as Multnomah County Chair that I will be chair for the all of Multnomah County and I will make good on that promise," said Kafoury at Tuesday's forum.
From access to health services and policies surrounding e-cigarettes to public safety, promise neighborhoods, and families and children experiencing homelessness, Chair Kafoury laid out priorities for 2015.
"Last year in Multnomah County, more than 3,000 children experienced homelessness. We are now poised to remove the bureaucratic roadblocks stifling families experiencing homelessness."
Click here for full story.