Portland Charter Review Commission

Summer Updates

Every ten years, the City of Portland appoints a commission to review its Charter. The City Charter is the organizing document that structures the City and its leadership.  LWVPDX is following the Charter Review Commission, which  has been underway since late spring. Several of our board members are attending the public meetings. We are seeking ways the League can contribute to the discussions, considering our long-term commitment to improving local governance.

The Charter Commission identified early that two critical topics needing research by subcommittees are Portland’s form of government and City Council election processes. These are both areas important to LWVPDX. Our expertise was recognized in a presentation by Charter Commission Project Manager Julia Meier when she presented a chart from the LWVPDX’s 2019 study report on city government.

These two topics will be the focus of the first phase of subcommittee work, which aims to be completed in time to submit charter amendments to the November 2022 election. Three other topics (service alignment across bureaus; growth of democracy; transparency and accountability) will be researched in the second phase of subcommittee work, which will work toward amendments for later elections.

President offering testimony at June 2021 public meeting by zoom
LWVPDX President Debbie Kaye testifying to the Charter Review Commission

At the commission’s June 28 meeting, LWVPDX President Debbie Kaye provided testimony in support of the Charter Commission considering how to include transparency of city functions in their review (testimony by zoom pictured above). The League joined the Society of Professional Journalists, ACLU-Oregon, and Open Oregon in signing a joint letter proposing a new city position of Transparency Advocate to help ensure city bureaus are open and accessible to the public and to organizations such as news media that rely on public information.

The Charter Review is an exciting time to make a long-term difference to improve how our city operates, identifying key ways to make City Hall more responsive and more effective in implementing the changes Portlanders want.

To learn more about the Charter review process from the city, click here. You can sign up for email updates from the Charter Commission at this website. Oregon Humanities has shared a helpful comic strip by Beka Feathers and Aki Ruiz that makes sense of the process.

Please contact board member Audrey Zunkel-deCoursey to learn more or share your perspectives on the City Charter Commission.

Let’s pass the For the People Act

please contact Oregon’s senators

THE FIGHT HAS JUST BEGUN. THE SENATE NEEDS TO AGREE TO DEBATE THIS BILL WHEN IT IS INTRODUCED AGAIN. AS VOTERS AND CITIZENS, WE CAN KEEP PUSHING. OUR VOICES COUNT. 

Thank Senator Merkley for sponsoring this important legislation. Ask him to keep pushing for it. Call 202-224-3753, or email from: https://www.merkley.senate.gov/contact

Urge Senator Wyden to speak out and vote for it! Call 202-224-5244, or email from:  https://www.wyden.senate.gov/contact/email-ron

on June 22, Senator Schumer asked for a vote on S1, the For the People Act. Even though Republican senators filibustered it,  supporters can try again. We need to persuade the Republicans that debating and voting on this bill will benefit them too. All Americans will benefit from passage of the For the People Act. It gives all eligible voters the freedom to vote easily, securely and according to their values. It helps all political parties, and also voters who do not belong to any party. Making voting accessible to all eligible voters is not a partisan value; it is an American value.

We want a government that works for all of us—that gives us all a say and puts our needs ahead of special interests. The #ForThePeople Act is a sweeping reform package that addresses everything from voting rights, to campaign finance reform, to redistricting. The House of Representatives has passed this bill.  Demand that the Senate also makes a bold show of support for our democracy and the #ForThePeopleAct. Call 202-224-3121.

Ask your Friends and family To contact their senators too, by calling 202-224-3121 or with the direct number. (See below)

If you have friends and family members in Oregon, please ask them to contact Senators Wyden and Merkley too.

If they live in other states, please ask them to call or email their senators. They can find their senators on this US Senate website: https://www.senate.gov/senators/

Improving Police Oversight

Speaking out again for better community oversight of police

The Portland League has sent testimony to the City Council, supporting Commissioner Hardesty’s proposed charter amendment on police oversight. The City Council will discuss this proposal on Wednesday, July 29, at 3:30.

Below is an excerpt from our testimony. You can read the whole statement here.

Although we recognize that it will take more than a charter change, this proposal has the potential to bring us much closer to the type of system envisioned by the majority of Mayor Katz’s workgroup in 2000. That workgroup called for an independent civilian agency guided by a community board with the power to investigate complaints of police misconduct, compel officer testimony, and make policy recommendations to the police bureau and city council.

In addition, the League’s testimony recommends building on the successful parts of our current oversight system. We also believe that improving the current system requires input from the community.

A LOT is happening!

So many important things are happening at once! Here are links to the posts and pages about them:

Demanding Equal Rights for All

From Protests to Progress

In beautiful and mostly peaceful Portland, we have experienced many weeks of civil protests. First, demanding an end to police brutality and systemic racism. Then, also resisting unwarranted and unwanted federal intervention. And finally refocusing on demands for racial justice and police accountability. Portland and Oregon are fortunate to have many politically active and informed citizens. We need our governments to listen and to act.

Fortunately, our local, regional and state governments have paid attention to our concerns. Elected officials have begun changing some important policies and laws. We want the federal administration to also take our concerns seriously. Federal action is needed to speak out against racism and to begin healing the the years of suffering that racism has caused. (See our newer website post about ways you and the League can enact real change.)

It is a ridiculous fiction that Portland is under siege by anarchists. We regret that a few of the demonstrators have set fires, thrown fireworks and damaged statues and stores. It is also very disturbing that a counter- demonstrator was attacked and killed. However, compared to the history of lives ruined and lost to racism, the amount of damage and violence in the weeks of protests is minor. Without federal interference, it would have been even less.

What is Portland really like?

While crowds gather downtown nightly, our quiet neighborhoods are filled with signs of support. Yard signs in gardens and chalk messages on sidewalks support the demands for changes in laws and policies.

Portlanders are friendly, kind, law-abiding and interested in government. Far from being anarchists, we are politically engaged, with a high voter turnout. In the recent Primary Election, record numbers of candidates ran for office. Portland citizens participate in our government not only by voting, but also by attending town halls and issue forums. Many volunteer to work on political issues with various  nonprofits, like the League.

What the League is doing

For decades, the League of Women Voters has worked for equal rights for all Americans. We emphatically support Americans’ constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful protest, easy access to voting and equality of opportunities for jobs, housing, education and health care. We fight for justice in our courts and in law enforcement.  We celebrate the diversity of America.

Most Oregon League members are not Black, Indigenous, or other people of color. But we seek to be reliable and effective allies.  We are calling for the changes needed to bring more justice and equality to our city, state, and nation. We seek to overcome the effects of racism in Oregon and in the US, which have harmed people of color.

As many have observed, this is a challenging and difficult time. Our country is facing the kind of crises that cry out for changes in attitudes and in government actions. The League is working to help enact these changes. We do this through advocacy in the US Congress, the Oregon Legislature and before the Portland City Council. Delegates to our national (LWVUS) Convention approved the resolution quoted below and the Portland League has approved a study of Police Accountability to identify the improvements needed.

Resolution approved at the 54th National LWVUS Convention – June 27, 2020 .

We Resolve First, That the League advocates against systemic racism in the justice system and, at a minimum, for preventing excessive force and brutality by law enforcement. We also call for prompt actions by all League members to advocate within every level of government to eradicate systemic racism, and the harm that it causes;

We Resolve Second, That the League help our elected officials and all Americans recognize these truths to be self-evident; that Black, Indigenous and all people of color (BIPOC) deserve equal protection under the law; and that we demand solutions for the terrible wrongs done, so that regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, and gender identity or sexual orientation we may truly become a nation “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.