In August 2020, the City of Portland Auditor’s Office published an award-winning audit exposing the lack of oversight and accountability of Enhanced Services Districts (ESDs), Portland’s local version of what are commonly known as Business Improvement Districts (BIDs).
This audit happened as a result of community members raising concerns about the treatment of unhoused community members by ESD private security. After numerous public records requests it was discovered the City was doing almost no oversight of the district beyond collecting and distributing the funds to the business associations managing them.
Now, nearly two years later, the Office of Management of Finance (OMF), which oversees the ESDs, has officially initiated the public input gathering phase of the audit response.
The audit requires the City to examine ESDs from the ground up and create new City Code regulating governance of ESDs, what programs they are allowed to fund and operate, and fee structure (this includes the possibility of allowing people to opt out of the fee).
Community members opposed to ESDs are showing up to listening sessions advocating for code changes which would weaken the power and influence of ESDs.
The audit of ESDs in Portland has already had significant impacts not only locally but also nationally after receiving a 2020 Knighton Award. The audit was presented at national auditor’s conferences creating precedent for similar audits to happen in cities across the country. For more information (and possible inspiration) about what community members are doing to fight back against BIDs/ESDs in Portland visit: endcleanandsafe.org