By Grace Masback
WANT Original Content
Portland, Oregon Mayor Charlie Hales and the City Council face a dilemma that is all-too-rare for municipal leaders these days – how to spend a budget surplus. Portland has $49 million in excess funds that can be used to pay for ongoing city programs or respond to one-time general fund requests. The mayor and council have some good nuts and bolts spending plans, including spending $30 million of the surplus on basic services such as safety improvements on key roads, including long-postponed maintenance projects. There are also funds for housing, youth programs in the parks, and $900,000 that will help ensure a $15 per hour wage for employees and contractors. These are all needed uses to help keep Portland “The City That Works.”
Some of the one-time spending proposals have provoked widespread discussion, as local non-profits have lobbied for a piece of the surplus. These range from additional funds for mental health programs to capital improvements for Portland’s streetcar. One proposed expenditure caught my eye – $1.9 million for the 2016 World Indoor Track & Field Championships, which will be held at the Oregon Convention Center next March. A longtime fan of track and field, I am thr illed that this world-class event is coming to Portland and excited by the global attention that it will bring to my hometown.
In 2009, when I was 11, I attended the outdoor world championships in Berlin. I was amazed as I saw Usain Bolt set a world record in the 100 meters. Track’s world championships are true global celebrations like the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup, and next March more than 600 athletes from over 190 countries will compete. TV networks from around the world will originate coverage from Portland, Oregon, sportswriters will sample our amazing food, and the athletes will get a warm (and probably wet) Northwest welcome. It will be a preview of the Rio16 Olympics and the kind of event that can help transform Portland in myriad positive ways.
In addition to the overall impact of hosting such an event, there are specific programs that will connect Portland youth to the championships, including youth competitions on the new, 200-meter indoor track, a pole vault clinic, autograph and Q&A sessions with athletes at school assemblies and classroom visits, and interactive displays and a chance to run/jump/throw in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. Two local non-profits, Self Enhancement Inc. and the Boys & Girls Club, will be affiliated with the event, which will give them much-deserved visibility and promotion.
Yes, I’m a fan of track and field, but I’m also a fan of Portland and I support using part of the budget surplus to make the 2016 World Indoor Track & Field Championships a success. Thanks go to Mayor Hales and the City Council for this initiative.
Photo Credit: Portland2016