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.
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.
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.
Portland League members voted to conduct this two-year restudy of city government in May 2017. Members realized that Portland’s voters needed more up-to-date and complete information to decide on possible changes to the City Charter.
The restudy looks closely at many parts of our current government. It examines strengths and weaknesses of the government’s structure and then explores different options for changing it. The goal is to provide useful ideas for how to improve the government so it serves the people of Portland as well as possible.