By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,592)
About 25 opponents of the proposed closure of the India Street Public Health Center stood on the steps of City Hall yesterday afternoon prior to a workshop for the Portland City Council. The proposed closure of the facility on the east end was part of the budget recently presented by City Manager Jon Jennings recently. The workshop provided an opportunity for Councilors to quiz parties about the planned transition of services from the east end to Park Avenue. The Council will vote on the package on Monday, May 16th -with or without the closure included. Public testimony will be taken at the meeting.
Word of the closure brought harsh criticism from Figurehead Mayor Strimling and helped bring out into the open what has become a contentious relationship between the City Manager and the Figurehead.
The Figurehead’s criticism of the City Manager brought an immediate backlash from Councilors who had supported him in his election last November – primarily Councilor Jill Duson. In return, the City Manager responded that he had better things to do for the residents of Portland than to bicker with the Figurehead; calling it “leadership.” The proposal also prompted an outcry from those opposed to the closure of the Clinic – motivating the Figurehead to call for a clarifying meeting on the proposed transition. Services would be transferred gradually to the Portland Community Health Center, Leslie Clark, CEO.
District 1 City Councilor Belinda Ray supported the city manager’s proposal originally. But at the workshop yesterday she announced her intention to introduce an amendment next week to retain the needle exchange program and HIV/STD testing at the India Street location. Currently, the Portland Community Health Center does not have a space for the needle exchange program; it would have to find a suitable space for that purpose. Following the workshop, Ray emailed mhn.com that she has been working closely with the City Manager on the amendment. Jennings supports the amendment as well, Ray wrote. The amendment is currently being written by the city’s legal department and will be ready for the city council meeting on Monday, May 16th.