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CPS: Promoting Innovation at the City of Portland
Author: Center for Public Service
Posted: January 6, 2014

From the Portland Tribune:

Imagine a smartphone app that alerts Portlanders trained in CPR that someone just had a heart attack nearby and needs their help.

Or a way to save time filing your city arts tax form, or city and county business taxes, while delivering a few million dollars in new revenue each year to city and county coffers.

Those are some of the more intriguing ideas proposed for Mayor Charlie Hales’ new Innovation Fund, a $1 million experiment aimed at fostering better, money-saving approaches for the city.

Hales’ Innovation Fund idea gets its first test run this month, when a task force evaluates 24 proposals to spend some of the $1 million cash set aside by the mayor in his inaugural city budget.

Some of the proposals could save the city money, like the Portland Revenue Bureau’s $295,000 plan to create a tax information exchange agreement with the IRS. That would make it easier for Portlanders to file local tax forms each April, and enable the Revenue Bureau to catch people who failed to file their taxes or filed incorrect data.

“The bureau conservatively estimates a compliance increase of 1 to 3 percent for business income taxes and up to 5 percent for the Arts Tax, translating into millions of dollars of increased annual revenue for Portland and Multnomah County general funds, and the Arts Tax Fund,” according to the Revenue Bureau’s proposal for Innovation Fund money.

The Revenue Bureau estimates it could net the city general fund $780,000 to $2.3 million in added tax dollars each year, plus $540,000 for the Arts Tax, and another $577,000 to $1.7 million a year to Multnomah County.

If the five-person Innovation Fund Task Force is more thrilled by the idea of saving lives than saving money, there’s Portland Fire & Rescue’s proposal to spend $108,000 to introduce the PulsePoint smartphone app here. The city would expand its CPR training and outreach to recruit volunteers who want to help save lives. They would then get the PulsePoint app to alert them when someone nearby suffers a cardiac arrest, and also let them know where the nearest defibrillator is.

Some of the 24 proposals sound rather, ahem ... bureaucratic, like the Portland Police Bureau’s $197,000 request for a “UDAP to SAP Interface.”

Others don’t sound that innovative, and more like ideas that failed to make the cut in past budget requests. Many of the proposals submitted by bureau managers freely admit they don’t have clear ideas of how much money they’d save the general fund — if any — though that’s one of Hales’ stated goals for the Innovation Fund.

Some are rather unsexy, but seemingly sound ideas to save money.

City bureaus, for example, print more than 9 million pages of documents a year with laser printers, and shifting to cheaper printers could pay for itself in little more than a year.

Portland Parks & Recreation wants $217,000 to replace 40-year-old boilers that heat the water at swimming pools. Those would cut carbon emissions and pay the city’s money back in 3.5 years.

The city will work closely with professors and grad students at Portland State University’s Center for Public Service, led by former Secretary of State Phil Keisling, to implement the fund and advise the task force.

The Innovation Fund Task Force is made up of:

  • Beverly Stein, program director of Oregon Solutions, and former Multnomah County chairwoman
  • Kayse Jama, executive director of the Center for Intercultural Organizing
  • Pamela Weatherspoon, community relations coordinator for Legacy Health
  • Larry Wallack, dean of PSU’s College of Urban and Public Affairs
  • Tom Simpson, director of government and regulatory affairs for Standard Insurance Co.

Read the full article, which includes a list of 24 innovative proposals: