Do you think Portland should have a city manager? Should city commissioners be elected by districts? Does the Portland City Council need more members? Should the City Council be primarily a legislative body (and not also an administrative one)?
League members and the public are invited to share their thoughts with the Portland City Charter Review Commission. The commission has decided to focus their initial research on two topics. These may result in ballot measures in the November 2022 election, if they identify the need for change:
the city’s form of government;
the election methods used for selecting city councilors.
After the Portland League restudied our city government in 2017-19, we adopted our current 2020 LWVPDX position. This position features the two topics the commission selected (as well as several other topics). Here is an excerpt from our position:
“The highest priorities for change are to improve citizen representation by increasing the number of commissioners, to institute a city manager, and to establish the city council as a legislative or policy-setting body. We also support electing some or all city councilors by district.”
Transparency is important too
The issue of transparency in city government is also of concern to the League; we offered testimony about it to the Commission in June, and will follow up this topic next year when the Commission returns to study the issue.
How to share your ideas
The Commission accepts written public comment from Portlanders at any time, not only at meetings. Now is the time to share your support for changes in these two important areas! We encourage you to submit a public comment about why these two topics are important to you. If you are a League member, please remember that when you do so, you are testifying as a private individual and not as a representative of LWVPDX. If you agree with the League’s positions, you may quote LWVPDX statements in your testimony as a private individual. Of course you also may offer your own ideas or ideas from other organizations. (Learn more about League testimony guidelines here.)
Three steps to speaking out at this important moment:
Read some background about the Commission’s two subcommittees on Form of Government and City Council Elections.
“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.”Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As we honor the 92nd anniversary of the birth of civil rights hero, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we are reminded of his policy of nonviolent protest. The League’s mission is to promote public participation in government—nonviolently.
We know that sometimes the changes we seek require constant advocacy over time and even may take years to accomplish. However, we also know that nonviolent advocacy is more effective and long-lasting. League members talk with the elected officials who serve in our local, state and national governments. We testify at public hearings. We sometimes participate in peaceful demonstrations. And we write letters, social media posts, opinion articles and press releases to express our views.
The League always bases its advocacy on in-depth studies of the issues—on the facts, the evidence and member agreement on each study’s findings. We also make sure our advocacy conforms to our Principles. Violence and destructive acts often turn public opinion against the stated goals of protesters. But carefully researched persuasion can gradually achieve better government policies and a more inclusive, just and equitable society.
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.
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.
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.