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Fritz: Park bond plan gains citizen support

Council sets vote on proposal as people line up to help


After a lot of talk during the past few years, the Portland City Council will finally vote July 24 on whether to refer a Portland Parks & Recreation replacement bond measure to the November ballot.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees the parks bureau, told the Tribune editorial board on Tuesday that she has the support on council.

Fritz says she was encouraged by the 100-plus people who gathered at Cleveland High School Monday night for a Town Hall meeting on the subject, many of them asking afterward, “What can I do to help?”

“The opportunity is too great not to ask,” says Fritz, who took over the parks bureau from Commissioner Nick Fish in June 2013. “I lose sleep at night thinking about the conditions of our workers” at parks facilities like the Mt. Tabor Yard Maintenance Facility, Fritz says.

That site dates to the 1930s, the roof held together by steel cables to prevent collapse. It’s one of several example projects Fritz and parks bureau officials have been talking about publicly lately, to demonstrate the urgent needs.

If the bond lands on the November ballot and is approved, it would take effect in July 2015 and raise $56 million to $68 million for “broken or about to be broken” facilities, says Parks Director Mike Abbate.

It would include some of the city’s most deteriorating playgrounds, bridges and trails, pools, maintenance sites, Pioneer Courthouse Square and restrooms. It would address accessibility issues and include the cost of audits and an oversight committee to monitor the bond spending.

The public and the budget advisory committee would help select exactly which projects are funded after the bond passes.

The existing parks bond — approved in 1994 — is paid off in July 2015. If it isn't renewed, homeowners with a home valued at $150,000 would get back $13 in their annual property taxes.

A poll in late May showed that just 46 percent of likely voters voiced support for a replacement bond measure. But that jumped 20 percentage points after they were told the bond will not raise taxes.

That message is key as the campaign moves forward, parks officials say.

“I’m obviously not good at fundraising,” Fritz joked. “But I’m good at campaigning and grassroots (organizing)."

When Hales assigned her the parks bureau last year, she says, "One of the things he said is, 'You should think about going for a bond measure.'" Last spring, a poll showed that voters were not economically ready to support one, she said. "Now, we're ready."

For more details, and to take a survey to help prioritize criteria for bond projects, visit www.parksreplacementbond.org.