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A Show with a Message

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COMMISSIONER AMANDA FRITZ has been planning this for months—almost since the morning, this spring, when she jabbed at Mayor Charlie Hales (and the rest of her council colleagues) with a 15-minute speech lambasting their approval of a budget that cut tens of thousands in crucial anti-sex-trafficking funds.

And as of press time on December 3, Fritz was finally ready to make good on a promise she initially uttered in a long Mercury profile covering the first few months of her second term ["Can You Hear Me Now?" Feature, July 3].

"They can say no. But they'll have to vote," Fritz told me in late June. "And I can have another presentation on the evils of human trafficking in Portland. So I'll get it. I will. I'll get my money for human trafficking."

And so she shall.

In council on Wednesday, December 4, Fritz was set to have a 90-minute presentation and hearing on the scourge of sex trafficking. At the end of it, she was going to call on her colleagues to approve $250,000 in one-time cash from city contingency money to help make a dent, at least for this year, in a problem that would actually cost far more to eradicate.

City hall sources tell me she's assured to win that money—and that she would have done so even without a hearing that was so long it raised eyebrows when the agenda for this week's council meeting was produced.

In fact, she could have done it last month, quietly and efficiently, when the council voted to approve its latest round of quarterly budget updates.

That's what some sources say they were hoping might have happened—leery of another production wherein Fritz would be seen as showing up Hales and her three other male colleagues, Steve Novick, Nick Fish, and Dan Saltzman.

Of course, it was too late. As Willamette Week reported last month, Fritz had already announced her separate hearing on trafficking by the time, she says, Hales signaled his support for the full amount she was asking.

Or maybe it wasn't too late. Hales' office, for the record, says the mayor will wait until the hearing to make his decision public.

Spokesman Dana Haynes said—politely—that Hales was hoping the hearing would dwell more on details of the programs and less on reminding everyone that pimping and prostitution are the despicable acts that good people already know they are.

"Give us the stats to prove this is a good use of taxpayer money," Haynes says. "If it's going to be one of those meetings where lots and lots of people come up and say, 'Sex trafficking is bad,' I don't know how value-added that would be for electeds."

Fritz told me her presentation would have a bit of both. And she wouldn't cop to any grudge politics.

She'll be talking up proven programs and outcomes vetted through a task force she ran along with the county. But she'll also be setting the stage for next year's budget deliberation, when she'll be back asking for even more money.

How the county and city continue splitting social services funding looms as a major question for Hales and his county counterparts.

To press her case, she'll need a bully pulpit. And some TV cameras.

"It's to keep the public's awareness," she says, "on the fact that we have by no means solved this awful problem."

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