The League of Women Voters of Portland advocates for or against government action on issues we have studied in depth. Below are links to LWVPDX official statements we submitted through testimony, memos, or letters to governmental bodies and opinion columns in the news media.
Letter to the Independent Salary Commission, with suggestions for their final report and compliments on their thorough process in developing proposed salary levels for Portland’s future Mayor, Auditor and City Councilors – July 7, 2023
LWVPDX Comments on Portland Street Response Policy Changes, June 2023 – These comments express concerns about the way the City Council adopts policy changes for alternatives to policing and the ways the City is addressing the problems of homelessness and houseless individuals.
Letter to Charter Review Commission on support for a charter amendment creating an Independent Portland Elections Commission, with sufficient financial resources and technical assistance from other city bureaus and departments. November 2022.
Letter to the Editor of the Portland Tribune regarding misinformation in an opinion piece published in the Tribune regarding the Oregon’s Constitution’s provisions that apply to voting methods. The League’s letter points out the Oregon Constitution specifically allows proportional representation with ranked choice voting in multi-winner elections as proposed in Measure 26-228. September 2022.
LWV Letter to Judge Michael Simon with comments for the Fairness Hearing regarding the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement- April 2022. The League submitted written comments and testified at the hearing. We took the opportunity to bring up issues of concern to the League including: the lack of city support for the Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing; the Police Accountability Commission’s end date and quorum requirements; Independent Police Review (IPR) transition to new oversight board; support for Citizen Review Committee’s efforts to change its standard of review; body-worn cameras; civilian leadership of Training Division educational functions.
LWVPDX Testimony to the Portland Bureau Transportation advocating that the Portland Pedestrian Design Guide prioritize planting large trees to protect the well-being of all residents and combat rising temperatures in residential communities -April 2022. The testimony said, “Portland’s planning efforts should aim to protect the health and well-being of all its residents and avoid the consequences of a city with fewer and fewer trees and higher and higher temperatures. The Pedestrian Design Guide must ensure that more large trees are required and a priority. The Guide as written values businesses moving out onto the sidewalks at the expense of tree cover, and that is short-sighted.
LWVPDX provided testimony to the Portland Charter Commission Testimony on March 31, 2022, in support of charter reforms that align with our City Government position statement. At the Commission’s meeting, they voted to send a package of reforms to voters, which echo most of the suggestions we presented.
LWVPDX Testimony to the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the Portland Bureau of Transportation expressing concerns about building an extension of the Portland Streetcar line on prime industrial land – March 2022 The League of Women Voters of Portland raised concerns about plans to convert of 30 acres of Northwest Portland’s industrial land to mixed use. Reducing Portland’s supply of industrial land has a negative impact on employment opportunities for Portlanders, especially those without a college education. It also threatens Portland’s ability to protect critical wildlife habitat from being converted to industrial use. This, in turn, makes it more difficult to combat climate change.
LWVPDX Testimony to Oregon Senate Committee on on Energy and Environment, in support of SB 1518 (Local Option to Adopt Reach Code)-February 2022 The League of Women Voters of Portland wrote in support of proposed legislation empowering cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the source by requiring more energy efficient construction within city boundaries. “The League … believes that significant reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be achieved through improving the energy efficiency of buildings. Our building codes, which have successfully protected the public in so many situations, can become an inadvertent barrier to improved health and safety in these times. Fortunately, SB 1518 provides a well-considered and well-designed way to move forward carefully.”
Letter to Police Chief Lovell thanking him for positive steps to improve the culture of the Portland Police Bureau – February 2022 The letter highlighted the relationship developing between the new Focused Intervention Team (FIT) and its community oversight group. The FIT is working to reduce gun violence in Portland and hopes to be more effective by working closely with the community. The letter also pointed to the officer wellness and Public Safety Support Specialist (PS3) programs, among other examples, as steps the bureau is taking to improve the way it serves the public.
Testimony to City Council about the Joint Terrorism Task Force Annual Report – January 2022 League President Debbie Kaye commented that “The freedom to express one’s political views is threatened when people feel they have to look over their shoulders because they fear they may be targets for government surveillance and FBI files.” She pointed out that “state law (ORS 181A.250) prohibits the collection and maintenance of information related to First Amendment activities, unless there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an individual is or may be involved in criminal conduct.” Because of the record of the FBI of sometimes keeping records on individuals who are not suspected of any crime, she encouraged “the city to end its case-by-case participation with the FBI and in the future work with the FBI only when necessary to pursue legitimate criminal actions.”
Testimony to City Council on Amendments to the Settlement Agreement between the U.S.
Department of Justice and City of Portland – January 2022 LWV of Portland Action Chair Debbie Aiona urged the City Council to “sign off on the nine remedies included in the addendum to the agreement.” She also encouraged the council to complete “a thorough public process … before the city commits to purchasing [body-worn] cameras” for police and to assure that the use of these cameras does not violate individuals’ First Amendment rights.
Oral Communications Testimony to the City Council, advocating for allowing public testimony about reports presented to the Council, November 2021. After our Action Chair presented her testimony, the Council voted to allow public testimony on reports in the future. This success was the result not only of this testimony, but also of our efforts over several years.
Joint letter to the Oregon Senate Rules Committee, co-signed by LWV of Portland with ACLU of Oregon, Open Oregon, and the Society of Professional Journalists-Oregon, expressing strong support for transparency in public records and a well functioning state Public Records Advisory Council (PRAC), November 2021. Although this letter was written because of the nomination of Portland Senior Deputy City Attorney Jenifer Johnston to serve on the state Public Records Advisory Council, it did not specifically oppose her appointment. Instead, it strongly supported the goal of transparency to which the PRAC is dedicated and pointed out many occasions when the City of Portland has blocked access to public records that courts and other public officials considered appropriate for public disclosure. It asked the Senate Rules Committee to question Ms. Johnston about her understanding of the council’s mission.
Testimony to City Council Supporting Expansion of the Public Safety Support Specialists program in the Police Bureau and requesting that a portion of the extra funds available through the fall budget adjustment process be used to purchase vehicles and other equipment needed by the expanded team of support specialists – November 2021. The final budget adjustment does include funds for supporting this program.
Testimony to City Council Supporting Expansion of the Portland Street Response (PSR) program – October 2021. The League expressed strong support for expanding the pilot Portland Street Response program citywide. The PSR program includes a staff skilled in communicating with individuals in distress, as well as the capacity to spend time with each person to address their needs and to coordinate with other agencies for follow-up services. Based on an evaluation by Portland State University, we concluded that expanding the PSR program will benefit the community and help reduce the number of calls the police must handle for issues that don’t require an armed officer.
Testimony to Charter Review Commission Form of Government Subcommittee – October 2021. In this testimony, we recommended making the City Council a legislative body, without the commissioners’ current administrative duties. We also recommended hiring a City Manager.
Testimony to Charter Review Commission Subcommittee on Elections – October 2021. In this testimony, we recommended increasing the size of the City Council and electing them in a way that would more equitably represent city residents.
LWV letter to Judge Michael Simon about the Portland Police Bureau’s 2020-2021 failures and progress in complying with the U.S. Department of Justice Settlement Agreement. In preparation for the August status conference on the PPB’s compliance with the DOJ Settlement Agreement, the Portland League sent comments about our observations and recommendations.
LWV Memo with Comments to the Charter Review Commission supporting their consideration of adding a Transparency Advocate and Transparency Commission to the City Charter, June 2021 Portland League President Debbie Kaye sent comments to the Charter Review Commission, encouraging the commission to consider the adding transparency as one of the topics they research this year. She highlighted transparency because it is vital to a healthy democracy. She noted that the League of Women Voters believes governmental bodies must protect the public’s right to know by giving adequate notice of proposed actions, holding open meetings, and making public records accessible.
LWV Comments for City Council regarding the Portland Police Bureau Report to City Council on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, January 2021 The League urged the mayor to allow public testimony when these annual reports are considered by the City Council. We also repeated our support for the city’s decision to withdraw from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). In addition, we requested more information in future annual reports about whether the Oregon Law protecting political speech is followed by the Portland Police when they work with the FBI.
LWV Comments to City Council regarding the Portland Police Bureau 2019 Annual Report and compliance with the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement, December 2020 In a letter to City Council, the League expressed its concern about the Police Bureau’s failure to follow the procedures required by the DOJ Settlement Agreement for engaging the public in the review and presentation of its annual report.
Endorsed Multnomah County and Portland ballot measures on an independent community police oversight board, tuition-free preschool, library bonds, the parks and recreation levy, and public school bonds. As we do with all our advocacy work, we base our positions on ballot measures upon careful studies of the issues.
LWV Letter to City Council regarding the OIR Report on Officer Involved Shootings and Deaths in Custody, September 2020 The League advocated continuing expert reviews of police shootings and in-custody deaths and allowing more public involvement.
LWV Letter to Judge Michael Simon re U.S. Department of Justice Settlement Agreement and continuing oversight by the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing and public involvement, February 2020
Letter to IRS (Internal Revenue Service) about reporting requirements for tax-exempt organizations
On December 9, 2019, League President Debbie Kaye sent comments to the IRS objecting to a proposed rule that would allow certain politically active nonprofits to avoid reporting large donations. There is evidence that this rule could allow large “dark money” donations and that large donations from foreign entities could be accepted and not reported. Our country is trying to combat foreign interference in our elections and this new rule would make it harder to detect foreign dark money.
You can read the letter here.
Letter to City Council Thanking Them for Organizing Community Forums about the Portland Police Association Contract
On November 18, 2019, the League sent a letter to Mayor Wheeler and the City Council, thanking them for their efforts to gather public input on priorities for the Portland Police Association Contract. We expressed our gratitude that they had responded to recommendations from the League and other groups by organizing two community forums, so that the public’s concerns and questions could be heard. We also urged them to continue to involve the public as the contract is negotiated in 2020.
You can read the letter here.
Testimony about Public Engagement in the Civic Life Code Chapter 3.96 Change
On November 12, 2019 the League submitted comments to the City Council about the process for changing City Code Chapter 3.96, which governs the way the Office of Community and Civic Life engages with the people of Portland. The City Council resolution calls for a multi-bureau work group to carry out the next phase of this process. We urged opening the work group’s meetings to the public for observation. We also strongly recommended following up the work group’s proposals with a thorough public process involving a broad group of Portlanders.
You can read our testimony here.
Testimony on Portland Police Bureau Community Engagement Plan
On October 2, 2019, LWVPDX Action Chair Debbie Aiona testified to the Portland City Council and Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw. She urged the PPB to be proactive in its attempts to engage the public. To do this, she offered ideas for improving the Bureau’s outreach to citizens. Among other things, she suggested gathering email addresses from interested members of the public from sign-up sheets at community meetings and using email lists from Police Bureau advisory committees. You can read all of her suggestions here.
Letter about public involvement in the Portland Police Association contract negotiations
On July 30, 2019, the League of Women Voters of Portland sent a letter to the Portland City Council recommending that they involve the public in observing and commenting upon the 2020 contract negotiations with the Portland Police Association. The letter says in part:
In light of the nationwide increase in public interest around criminal justice issues and the scope of important public policy questions addressed specifically in the City’s contract with the Portland Police Association (PPA), we recommend a robust public engagement process leading into the 2020 negotiations. In contrast to the 2016 negotiations, when community members were brought into the process after important decisions had already been made, we urge you to ensure that the upcoming process involves the community so that their input will have an impact on the outcome.
You can read our entire letter here.
Letter about public involvement in decisions about Neighborhood Associations
On July 16, 2019, the League of Women Voters of Portland sent a letter to Office of Community and Civic Life Director Suk Rhee and City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly with recommendations for thorough public involvement in reviewing proposals for changing the City Code governing Neighborhood Asssociations. You can read our letter here. (LWV Code 3.96 committee 7-19)
Testimony to US District Court Judge on Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing
On June 6, 2019, LWV of Portland Action Chair, Debbie Aiona, testified in the US District Court hearing about the City of Portland’s compliance with the US Department of Justice Settlement Agreement on Portland police policies and practices. She said that the new Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing (PCCEP) is a “work in progress” with both successes and shortcomings. The “PCCEP has made progress, but much more needs to be done in order for it to fulfill the community’s expectations and the requirements of the Settlement Agreement.” You can read the League’s entire letter here. The Portland League has followed issues of police oversight for decades. Our advocates were pleased that US District Judge Michael H. Simon agreed with the League’s assessment that the PCCEP still needs more support for its work. As Maxine Bernstein reported for OregonLive.com, “’I think it’s going in the right direction,’ the judge said, of the new community oversight group. ‘I’m not ready to conclude it’s adequate … until I see a record of positive performance.’’’
Memorandum on Community Involvement in Portland’s Procurement and Contracting Process
On May 28, 2019, the LWV of Portland sent a memorandum to the Portland City Council urging that the Council allow members of the public and community groups an opportunity to comment on the City’s procurement and contracting decisions, before the Council gives its final approval. You can read the memo here.
Oral LWV Comments on Open and Accountable Elections (OAE)
Open and Accountable Elections, passed by the Portland City Council in 2016, is approaching full implementation, as it will provide public matching funds for City races in 2020. It is a voluntary program that provides limited matching dollars in exchange for a candidate’s acceptance of contribution limits.
On May 22, 2019, League member Carol Cushman, representing LWV Portland and the coalition of organizations supporting the program, testified at City Council in support of several minor changes to the relevant City Code. She noted that the coalition and the Open and Accountable Elections Commission have been included in the discussions surrounding the changes.
Portland Harbor Superfund Site: Explanation of Significant Differences
In a memorandum to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on December 20, 2018, the Portland League expressed concerns about an EPA proposal that would increase the allowable levels of Benzo(a)pyrene in Willamette River sediments. You can read the memo here. A final decision is expected by the end of 2019.
OIR Group Sixth Report on Police Shootings
In a memorandum sent to the Portland City Council on February 5, 2019, the Portland League strongly urged adoption of recommendations from the OIR Group. The OIR Group is under contract with the Auditor’s office to conduct periodic retrospective analyses of police shootings and make recommendations. We asked the Police Review Board to follow up on the OIR Group recommendations for better training on tactical decisions that could reduce the use of deadly force. We also advocated for 1) allowing survivors or families of victims to request Citizen Review Committee reviews of their cases, 2) interviewing officers involved in shootings before the end of their shifts, and 3) giving shooting victims prompt medical attention. Read the memo here.
City of Portland Membership in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF)
On February 13, 2019, the Portland League was one of many citizen groups that urged the City to withdraw from the JTTF. The City Council voted in favor (3 – 2) of ending its membership in the JTTF. Here is the League’s testimony.