In 2007, Portland voters approved the implementation of a Charter Commission, comprised of 20 Portlanders with each City Council member appointing four members, to meet at least every ten years beginning in 2011. I was a co-chair of the 2011 Charter Commission and had no idea at that time of the incredible potential of this single Commission to ensure accountability, transparency, and equity.
The 2011 Charter Commission was seated on the very last City Council session of 2010. It was identified as the ‘first half’ with the second to be appointed once certain parameters were met, all of which have long since passed.
The potential for creating tectonic changes in the structure of government is the very reason you have probably heard nothing of the Charter Commission the last several years. And I can tell you from my experience as co-chair, that City Council has intentionally created barriers and obstacles that have not only prevented the implementation of the full voter-mandated effort, but also handcuffed the 2011 Charter Commission and completely ignored the requirement that it be independent of City Council influence of any form.
Since the implementation of the ‘first half’ of the 2011 Charter Commission, up to the 2018 election, there has been at least 3 City Council members who approved the original measure to split the 2011 Charter Commission into two separate components still sitting on City Council. However, none of these individuals mentioned the second half of the 2011 Charter Commission or attempted to make happen the very thing they voted on. It takes 3 votes to get something passed on City Council. The votes were always there, but City Council has chosen to ignore that voter mandate.
The mission of the Charter Commission, as overwhelmingly approved by voters, was to review the existing Charter for outdated or irrelevant content and to accept testimony and conduct public outreach on potential additions or changes to the Charter based on that testimony or public requests. Any issue or idea deemed to be of potential benefit or value and worthy of investigation by Commissioners would then be thoroughly researched and vetted by the Commission, including, but not limited to extensive research and public outreach. Once vetted, Commissioners would then decide what, if any, measure should be submitted to voters for approval or rejection. Once the narrative for any prospective measure is complete, the measure must then be approved by 3/4 of Commissioners in order for it to be submitted to voters for approval or rejection.
This could include such things as the expansion of our current City Council structure to include district elected Commissioners, campaign finance reform, police accountability, transparency and accountability of government, and much more.
If elected, I will ensure the 2021 (or earlier) Charter Commission is fully funded and supported. I will also put forth measure/s to ensure that future City Council’s cannot interfere with a future Charter Commission.
This document created by Mark White and made possible by the Mark for Portland 2020 campaign.