For years we’ve heard that Portland is becoming an unlivable city, where far too many people cannot afford to live in the place they work. The fiscal year 2017 budget proposed by City Manager Jon Jennings and heralded by the majority of the City Council continues this trend of gentrification through slashing public health funding by nearly a million dollars.

I wouldn’t use a political buzzword like “gentrification” unless it were absolutely necessary, which it certainly is in a city where market-rate apartments go from $1,300 to $1,700. Perhaps a thought exercise might help those sitting on the City Council understand and empathize with those who are not as fortunate as they are.

This thought exercise centers on a single mother who works for one of the many fast-food chains operating in Portland, earning the citywide minimum wage of $10.10 an hour while working 40 hours a week. If we keep in mind that the national average age for a fast-food employee is 29, we’ll see that this is a very plausible scenario.

Say we’re generous and it costs only $1,200 a month for a two-bedroom apartment to house her and her two children. That leaves our single mother with $416 a month to cover groceries, health care, utilities and any surprise expenses.

Unfortunately for this single mother, the City Council opted to spend $1.27 million of taxpayer money on a luxury golf course and adjoining restaurant, as opposed to investing money in subsidized housing or direct public health care.

She might take solace in the recent endorsement of the budget proposal by the Community Chamber of Commerce. Perhaps one of the wealthier citizens moving to the city might take pity on her with their property tax money.

But in reality, the proposed budget is a part of what appears to be a concerted effort to push the working poor and homeless out of the city by not affording them basic health care or affordable housing.

The excuse provided by Jon Jennings, the city manager, is ultimately unsatisfactory. The loss of grants for public health and refugee services (worth around $801,000) do certainly create a challenge for the City Council. And yet, the budget Jennings proposed somehow managed to increase the police allocations by over a million dollars.

While I believe many residents would be thankful for what we can assume will result in increased policing during an ongoing drug crisis, we also should realize that law enforcement will not solve this issue alone. Most people don’t choose to commit crime because of some moral defect – they do it because of lack of opportunity.

The budget’s reorganization of city parks, recreation and facilities management has also resulted in an increase of nearly $2 million in a foolish attempt to further beautify the city. This is the perfect example of the City Council’s misplaced spending priorities.

The argument cannot be framed as having to make difficult decisions that just happen to harm Portland’s poor – not while the City Council increases other portions of the budget by millions of dollars. It’s clear the City Council does not serve the majority of its citizens – not while they pander to those who don’t worry about how they might afford health insurance or paying rent.

It’s farcical to expect that the public-private partnership between the city and the Portland Community Health Center will simply be able to absorb the India Street Public Health Center’s clientele, while still providing the same standard of care with a million dollars less in resources.

India Street serves a diverse population of people who are best cared for by remaining with service providers they trust. To offload those clients onto the Portland Community Health Center is a mistake that will likely result in reduced access to care and lower quality of care.

The challenge of striking a balanced budget should be important to every Portland taxpayer and voter. The budget Jon Jennings and his cohorts intend to pass could lead to the deaths of our most disadvantaged citizens, while beautifying a city already seen as a destination spot by millions. It is painful to watch any governing body choose to serve the interests of the few over the needs of the many.

Keeping in mind future elections, I must ask the City Council how much the lives of its citizens are worth. Is the death of one Portland citizen worth having marginally prettier parks and a few less potholes?