Hundreds speak out at Portland's first community budget forum for the fiscal year

Hundreds show up to the first community budget forum to save their services.

The city has to decide how to spend its budget for the next fiscal year, which could mean cutting services that some would argue are vital in Portland.

At the first of a series of community budget forums Tuesday night, hundreds of people with skin in the game, showed up to support their services.

This year, Mayor Ted Wheeler wants to focus the budget around housing, infrastructure, livability and public safety.

"The cost of providing services has outpaced revenue growth," said Wheeler.

The crowd came with their own ideas; each person's cause represented by their colorful t-shirt.

The Democratic Socialists of America showed up in red, calling to tax the rich to help fund housing assistance.

A group with the blue signs wants to keep funding to help immigrants navigate through the justice system and assimilate to Portland. They're part of the East Portland Action Plan.

Another group in red wants to save the Fulton Park Community Center, specifically for the contra dance community. It services hundreds of people from all walks of life. For some, this is the only place they know.

"Should it close, we actually don't know what we're going to do, we don't have any place to go," said Susan Songer, one of the program managers. "It's not a church but that's what i'd imagine what people would feel if they had a church they were attached to and one day, they didn't have a building anymore."

Folks in neon green spoke out to protect their community centers. Some say there is no "plan B" for hundreds of parents who need affordable after school care for their kids. Year after year, they come back for the same fight.

"I think it's very shortsighted that the city continues to struggle to fund these on a permanent basis," said Bennett Frech, who teaches martial arts at Sellwood Community Center,

The next community forum will be on April 17.

The city will adopt a budget and finalize cuts in June.

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