Experts, community groups react to changes to Portland government proposed on 2022 ballot

Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 6:23 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Experts and community groups say changes to Portland’s city government structure are needed now more than ever.

This past week, The Portland Charter commission voted overwhelmingly in favor of asking Portland voters whether they want the city to adopt a mayor-council form of government as opposed to the current commission form of government.

The current city council is made up of a mayor, and four commissioners that oversee city bureaus.

In November of this year, Portland voters will decide whether they would like the city to transition to a mayor-council form of government, with an elected mayor, and 12 elected city councilmembers, and an appointed city manager. The city councilmembers would represent four districts with three councilmembers from each district chosen through a rank-choice voting process.

Jack Miller, a political science professor at Portland State, says the city’s commission form of government is outdated.

“120 years ago, 100 years ago, even 60 years ago that was a good form of government when you have a city that isn’t very large and the city government isn’t very complicated,” Miller said. “Portland really hasn’t been that big and complicated of a city until the last couple of decades.”

Miller says in recent years, the city has had to deal with an influx of new residents and a growing housing crisis, just some of the problems he says a larger city council solely tasked with debating and drafting policy will be able to address.

Rapid population growth has a significant impact on infrastructure, obviously we have a very visible houselessness problem. There’s also just the problems that increase traffic stress on things like water and electricity.”

Another argument for these changes to city government is increasing the diversity amongst local lawmakers. Hacienda is a Portland organization that works closely with members of the Latino community with a focus on affordable housing. Ernesto Fonseca is Hacienda’s CEO and a Portland resident. He feels the current system isn’t working.

“It is in my view a disservice to the greater city of Portland that we don’t understand the different neighborhoods we have,” Fonseca said.

Fonseca feels it is vital that as Portland grows, there is a government that accurately reflects the city’s diverse population where different communities’ needs are taken into account.

“You are magnifying again those issues you tend to see, let’s say in Northeast Portland, Cully, or North Portland or Southeast.” Fonseca said. “Our communities are very different, so we need that representation to be more focused on different neighborhoods.”

If changes are passed by Portland voters in November, the new city council elections would be on the 2024 ballot, with the new government being sworn in in January 2025.