Commissioner Lori Stegmann's prepared remarks after voting to approve the 2023 Budget.
I am sorry I could not be there in person to vote on this year’s budget, as I am recovering from COVID which is a sign of the times that we live in and is a contributing factor to what will be one of the largest budgets we have ever passed.
But the good news is, this additional one-time only funding from the American Rescue Plan has enabled us to better prepare for the future and build community resilience.
Starting with $300,000 of which will go to the CROPS farm in Troutdale that is managed by Mudbone Grown. The CROPS farm build out is an extensive effort to build a hub for community access to fresh culturally appropriate food, and for culturally specific training of new farmers with a focus on Black and African immigrant farmers. With this additional funding, we will be able to achieve our goals to address the ongoing issue of food insecurity through partnerships with the Health Department’s REACH (racial and ethinic approaches to Community Health) program to increase prescription-CSA (community supported agriculture) and institutional food purchases of local, culturally appropriate, organically grown produce.
Providing basic needs has always been at the core of the county’s mission and ensuring that our community has enough food to eat is paramount which is why it was also critical to fund $150,000 for food security. This amendment to the Department of County Human Services supports the enhancement of food pantries and food security efforts across the County. This funding will help providers meet those increased needs in our communities.
I am pleased we are able to address some of our current needs, but we must also plan for the future. For the last five years, I have been leading the development of the Vance Project in Gresham where nearly 90 acres will be redeveloped into a community asset. This collaborative effort will bring family wage jobs, housing, community space, a resilience hub, and a new location for Animal Services to one of the most low-income neighborhoods in Oregon.
This $250,000 amendment to the Department of Community Services builds on the work of the master-planning process completed earlier this year to define three distinct areas of the property: the park/open space concept, the zoning/comprehensive plan alignment, and infrastructure analysis. These specific areas of work allow us to explore immediate and short term next steps, jurisdictional alignment, and identify resources for future phases of the work on the Vance Properties.
Transitional housing expansion
And, to address housing and recovery needs, our budget includes $84,600 for transitional housing with a focus on substance abuse recovery and addiction services. This augments our resources to provide a focus on housing, recovery, workforce development, and stability for residents. The pandemic has severely undercut efforts to address substance abuse and relapses. And we have seen significant increases in Fentanyl overdoses. Experts in the mental health field point out that young adults, racial/ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ community members, and those currently living below the poverty level, face greater challenges finding help for their substance abuse issues. It is a systemic vulnerability that has worsened since COVID-19. And I am pleased we are investing in more opportunities for these individuals.
And finally, I want to thank my entire team, Jennifer Lewis, Layan Ammouri and Rebecca Stavenjord. One of the things I appreciate most about my team is their willingness to engage in challenging and sometimes unrewarding, behind the scenes work, while always striving to preserve and maintain the important relationships that we have with our fellow board members, our employees, and partners. Our work here is not about individual wins, it is about servant leadership to the communities we serve. That is a commitment my team and I have always prioritized which has enabled us to lead in a way that I am incredibly proud of. And for that, I am deeply grateful for each of them.
It has often been said that our budget is a moral document and I believe that to be true. And while we have each brought forth individual amendments, collectively the budget reflects this board’s values. And I am grateful and honored to serve with a board, who always strives to do the greatest good for the greatest number of our residents.
Thank you to my colleagues and their dedicated teams, especially their chiefs of staff who worked so hard to get us to a balanced budget. And to Chair Kafoury and her entire team, I want to thank you for leading our County through one of the most difficult and challenging times. And while this is your last budget, your legacy leaves our county in a stronger financial position than ever that will enable critical policies and programs to meet the needs of many.
To our employees, managers, directors and volunteers as well as our contractors and partners and Christian, Jeff and Eric and their teams, who will deliver on the promises made today I thank you. You are the heartbeat of the county and without you we simply could not do this important work.