Change Portland’s Government!

We have a new Position!

The Board of Directors of the Portland League has approved a new – and dramatically different – advocacy position on Portland’s City Government.

The position is the result of a thorough two-year study of Portland’s government, which led to the report shown at the left. After publishing this report, the study committee presented a panel discussion. Then, groups of League members discussed the findings and agreed upon key changes needed for Portland’s government.

The League’s new City Government position calls for major improvements in the government’s structure and also in the way voters elect the City Councilors. Here are some of our recommendations, which we will use during the City Charter Review process in 2021:

  • improve citizen representation by increasing the number of commissioners
  • institute a city manager
  • establish the City Council as a legislative or policy-setting body
  • elect some or all city councilors by district

You can read the entire new League position by clicking here.

During their two-year study, the study committee read more than 30 source documents. They also interviewed 15 government experts and city officials. Then they wrote their report, The City That Works: Preparing Portland for the Future. You can read the this report here. You may view the video of the panel discussion of Portland’s government here.

Thanks to City Council

When our government does something well, we thank them!

Promoting public involvement in government is part of our mission! In July, the League asked the Portland City Council get input from the public when they set priorities for the Portland Police Association Contract. The contract is being renewed in 2020. The Council responded by holding two community forums to learn about the public’s concerns. We are pleased and grateful that they have begun a process to inform and involve the public.

So we sent a follow-up letter thanking them. We also urged them to continue to engage the public. You can read our July letter here and our November letter of appreciation here.

We have also made some suggestions for improvements in the Portland Police Bureau’s new Community Engagement Plan. You can read our post about that here.

Thorough Public Process – Key to Code Change

Part of the League’s letter

On November 12, 2019, the League submitted comments to the City Council about the process for changing  City Code Chapter 3.96. This part of the City Code governs the way the Office of Community and Civic Life engages with people in Portland.  Action Chair Debbie Aiona also testified  at the Council’s November 14 hearing.

The City Council resolution calls for a multi-bureau work group to carry out the next phase of this process. The League urges opening the work group’s meetings to the public for observation. We also  recommend following up the work group’s proposals with a thorough public process that includes a broad group of Portlanders.

You can read our testimony here.

Promoting Public Involvement

Promoting public involvement is central to the Portland League’s mission. We believe our democracy works best when the public is involved in decision making.

Letter to City Council

On July 16, we advocated for more public involvement in the process of changing city code. (Click here to see our earlier post.)

Now, we are urging our City Council to involve the public when the City negotiates the next Portland Police Association (PPA) contract. 


Our July 30 letter says in part:

…we recommend a robust public engagement process leading into the 2020 negotiations. …we urge you to ensure that the upcoming process involves the community so that their input will have an impact on the outcome.

Portland is a stronger and more vibrant place when its people can bring their skills, knowledge, and lived experiences to the policymaking process.

You can read the entire letter here.

A Related event

The Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform is sponsoring a forum about the contract.  Here are details.

  • Community forum on the Portland Police Association Contract
  • Monday, August 26 from 6-7:30 PM
  • Maranatha Church, 4222 NE 12th at Skidmore.
  • A 20-minute presentation on background; then community input.

Preventing More Gun Deaths

Stag-15 assault rifle used in the 2012 Clackamas Town Center mass shooting: shown by Paul Kemp, Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership, for LWV of Portland event

We are saddened by the recent mass shootings in El Paso,TX and in the “Oregon District” of Dayton, OH. There have now been 251 mass shootings in the US this year! But mass shootings are only part of the problem. We also have too many gun suicides and accidents. Preventing gun deaths is a priority for the League.

Gun Safety Advocacy

The LWV of Oregon has been advocating for better gun safety for many years. Responsible gun owners DO support practical measures to prevent gun deaths. LWVOR advocated for the passage of Oregon’s current laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who are identified as a danger to themselves and others. We also support secure gun storage and requirements to report stolen guns. The following appalling statistics show how urgent this issue has become in the US.

Some sobering Statistics

According to the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, 486 people in the United States died of unintentional gun injuries. 23,854 people committed suicide with a gun and 14,542 people were intentionally killed by gun injuries. About 10 percent of these deaths were children. Among U.S. adolescents and young adults 10-24 years old, gun homicides are the third leading cause of death; gun suicides are the second. In 2010, 15,576 children were treated for gun injuries in U.S. emergency departments, and 1,970 of them died. The medical cost of treating gun injuries in children alone was over $330 million in 2010

Studies have found that adolescents’ risk for suicide increases as their access to firearms increases. Suicide attempts in children are more likely to be successful when they have access to lethal weapons: 90 percent of suicide attempts with guns are successful, compared to less than 5 percent of suicide attempts using less lethal means, like medications or sharp objects. The risk for unintentional injury and suicide in children is reduced by 73 percent when guns are kept locked, and by 70 percent when they are kept unloaded.

Stolen guns represent a significant factor contributing to gun violence. More than 237,000 guns nationwide were reported stolen to the National Crime Information Center in 2016, a database maintained by the FBI. That represents a 68 percent increase in stolen weapons reported to the FBI since 2005. In addition, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has estimated that 500,000 guns are stolen annually from residences, many of which are never reported. A 2010 study by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that, per capita, states without lost or stolen reporting laws are the source of more than 2.5 times as many crime guns recovered in other states as states with a lost or stolen reporting requirement.*

2019 Gun Safety Bills

In the recently completed 2019 Oregon legislative session, House Bill 2013 passed and is now law. It closed loopholes in the law to prevent people from possessing guns, if they are likely to harm themselves or others. The LWVOR also supported  Senate Bill 978, which unfortunately died in committee. It would have required secure methods of storing and locking guns and prompt reporting of stolen guns. Here is the League testimony supporting these bills. HB 2013 Testimony. SB 978 Testimony.

More Information

The League of Women Voters of Portland held a Civic Panel Discussion on Gun Safety in 2017, which is summarized in our Gun Safety Highlights Video here.

*Statistics quoted from the Oregon Legislative Staff’s Background for 2019 Senate Bill 978, a gun safety bill that LWVOR strongly supported.