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Metro Executive Officer Mike Burton: successful transition under way

Metro news release – Dec. 19, 2002
Contact: Marc Zolton, 503-797-1507

Metro Executive Officer Mike Burton says actions he has taken at Metro will realize nearly $500,000 in savings.

Burton proposed the ballot measure in May 2000 to merge the executive functions of the agency and Metro Council in order to create a unified, professionally managed government. Voter approval of Measure 26-10 in November 2000 initiated changes in the regional government’s form that eliminated the Metro Executive Officer position and created the new position of Metro President effective Jan. 6, 2003.

?When I asked the voters to approve a new form of government (in November 2000) for Metro there were several objectives among which were to streamline processes and eliminate duplication,? Burton said. ?The elimination of the executive office and further elimination of duplicative positions, will not only streamline the processes at Metro, but will result in significant savings.?

During his tenure as head of Metro, Burton reduced staffing levels and held down operational costs. The only areas that have seen an increase in staff were related to new voter-approved capital expenditures, he said.

These projects includes a $110 million expansion of the Oregon Convention Center, $38 million in improvements and expansion at the Oregon Zoo, $30 million to build two new buildings for the Expo Center and the $135 million levy to purchase open space and trails.

?All of these project have been successful,? Burton said. ?The convention center expansion project will open in April on time and within budget and we actually exceeded our goal in the open space purchases, buying almost 7,800 acres of land for the public trust.?

In spite of these successes, Burton also had some word of caution for the incoming Metro Council. In his transition report to the Metro Council, Burton warned of the lack of a permanent funding source for parks operations and inadequate resources for the regional government’s transportation and land-use planning.

The report highlighted the lack of a reliable general revenue source beyond the current use of excise tax and the government’s reliance on solid waste operations to generate nearly all of its revenue for other services.

?Without a general fund source available, funding for long-term planning of the region requires constant and careful management,? Burton said. ?Funding for our parks system has been met only through a temporary increase in solid waste fees. Metro must find a permanent solution to this issue in order to maintain and open access to the recently purchased regional open spaces.?

Burton highlighted the need to address the region’s estimated $4 billion shortfall in transportation funding. Burton appointed a regional task force of business leaders to study the problem this fall and they will report their findings in January.

Burton also expressed concern about the condition of the Metro-managed St. Johns landfill and the effort by the city of Portland to construct a trail at the site. Burton said such trail development is unsafe given the current conditions at the landfill site.

?The landfill remains potentially one of the greatest environmental hazards in the metropolitan area,? warned Burton. ?The site has experienced an underground fire and waste continues to leech into the groundwater and the nearby slough. As a result, the state Department of Environmental Quality has yet to approve a final closure plan for the landfill.?

During Burton’s eight-year tenure, Metro’s operating budget grew at a rate 10 percent less than inflation. Burton said his administration had always managed to at least provide the minimum services required despite limited revenues, but he predicted the need for more training for Metro employees as well as increasing needs for new technology.

?I leave Metro with the satisfaction that the last eight years has seen continued progress in meeting our mission and improved management of the agency,? said Burton. ?I have left my successor in a good position to take Metro to the next level, with emphasis on improving services to and cooperation with our local government partners and the public.?

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