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Mayor Hales preparing to cut YouthPass, WW reports

bus stopOne year after former Mayor Sam Adams used every trick in the book to preserve school transit passes, his successor says YouthPass is on the city’s chopping block.

It’s not clear whether the program would be cut completely, or find funding elsewhere. Ten months ago, Hales told Portland Afoot in a campaign interview that "we’ve got to keep that YouthPass program," though not necessarily with public funds.

In a cover story about substantial cuts across city government by incoming Mayor Charlie Hales, Willamette Week drops a nugget about the jointly funded program of the City of Portland, Portland Public Schools and TriMet that gives free bus passes to high schoolers during the school year:

He says [summer teen internships] won’t be the last student programs he’ll cut.

He already knows which one he’s dreading most.

“It’s the student TriMet pass,” he says, referring to the bus passes for Portland Public Schools high-school students that Adams worked out a deal to keep last summer. “I know the value of that YouthPass, and I respected Sam for fighting for it. It’s going to be really painful.”

 Here’s what Hales told us about YouthPass last March, during the primary campaign:

What if anything would you do to continue YouthPass after it expires in May of 2012?

"We have to do it. Where the revenue comes from to pay for it, whether it’s going to the philanthropic sector and saying ‘Let’s do this’ to the foundations, what public funds we use, I don’t know. … Having the students using the transit system and developing the habits of citizenship based upon using transit is wonderful, and we should never lose it. So we’ve got to keep that YouthPass program."

YouthPass emerged as a state-funded program under Adams’ predecessor Tom Potter, who was looking for cost-effective ways to reduce high school dropout rates. Portland Public Schools then became one of several urban districts in the state to use the state’s Business Energy Tax Credit to support student transit passes.

Then, in 2011, state legislators decided that even though the state would subsidize Portland Public Schools if it used expensive yellow buses to move its students, it was unwilling to subsidize PPS’s lower-cost, higher-benefit TriMet pass program.

Even as Adams twisted TriMet’s arm to support YouthPass through June 2013, the then-mayor’s staff didn’t describe it as a long-term funding solution; the city’s YouthPass money this year had been left over from a one-time budget to improve Southwest Moody Street.

Update: Check out this brief audio clip from contributor Aaron Brown’s winter 2012 interview with Candidate Hales. The future mayor’s statements of support for both Sunday Parkways and YouthPass are effusive.

Photo by Michael Schoenholtz.

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