Devilish details

Portland's youthful charter commission is giving us a chance to vote this November to scrap the city's awful commission form of government. It's about time. And they're also going to let us get rid of the all-at-large City Council, elected citywide, which is also a good thing.

But as I understand it, the changes will be part of a single, jumbo package, and there's some stuff in there that's going to give people pause. One glaring thing is that they're going to expand the council from five members to 12. Why? That's going to more than double a lot of the overhead for junk like "chiefs of staff" and p.r. flacks. Not to mention sheer office space. You can bet the defenders of the status quo will be howling about that.

Then there's the commission's insistence on "ranked choice" voting, where people who voted for a bottom-of-the-barrel loser get to have their second choice counted, and maybe their third or fourth or fifth. This in a city that actually pays unqualified amateurs to run for office, so that there are always lots of losers. Why "ranked choice" has to be in the mix is beyond me. It seems like it's in there to sabotage the whole deal. They should have saved that genius innovation for another day. 

And why only four districts? If you're going to have a dozen bobbleheads bobbing up there, why not have them represent more, smaller districts? For example, North and Northeast Portland are not a monolith, especially if you extend the district all the way out to the east. There ought to be six districts at least, maybe eight or 10.

With all the extra broccoli thrown in, I would not bet on this thing passing. Maybe the voters will decide that anything's better than we have now. But at this point I think it's far from a done deal.


  1. Not to mention that the proposal seems to violate the most basic rule of ballot measures - the single subject rule. This seems like Election law 101, 2.04.055 One Subject Determination.
    City Code Section
    (Added by Ordinance No. 177200, effective February 21, 2003.)

    The Auditor shall determine in writing no later than the fifth business day after receiving a prospective initiative petition whether the petition meets the requirements of Section 1(2)(D), Article IV of the Oregon Constitution.

    If the Auditor determines that the prospective initiative petition meets the requirements, the Auditor shall publish the ballot title as required in Section 2.04.060, including a statement that the petition has been determined to meet the requirements of Section 1(2)(D), Article IV of the Oregon Constitution.

    If the Auditor determines that the initiative petition does not meet the requirements, the Auditor shall immediately notify the petitioner of the determination in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested.

    Any elector dissatisfied with a determination of the Auditor under Section 2.04.055 A. may petition the circuit court to overturn the determination as provided by state law.

  2. as a former chief of staff, i agree with this message.

  3. This referral is probably not considered an “initiative petition”, but who knows?


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