The stuffed goose

As I've been saying for a while now, the pending Portland charter reform package, cooked up by a bunch of well-intentioned but green volunteers, has too much packed into it. I'm not even sure it's legal, given that the state constitution prohibits including too many propositions in at least some types of ballot measures.

I'm not alone in my concerns. It turns out that the opposition is already forming, and they have some money. Current council member Mingus Mapps is leading one group. One of the capos at the Weed tracked him down to explain.

At issue for Mapps’ political action committee, called Ulysses PAC, is the bundling of all reforms into a single ballot question instead of parsing them out into individual questions.

“When I look at this package, I see four, if not more, major reforms packed into this proposal. Some of these ideas I clearly support, some I have questions about, some I think are probably bad ideas,” Mapps says. “Portlanders at least need to have a chance to vote on these ideas separately. Packing them all together literally makes it impossible for me to sort out whether this is going to help the city more or hurt.”

Mapps tells WW there are parts of the measure he thinks are “bad ideas.” He is especially concerned by multi-member districts. “As you layer on these complications after complications…I think it actually might make our government less functional.”

Here's what it boils down to: We need to get rid of the commission form of government. And we need to elect City Council members by district. It would be a real shame if we can't get those two improvements across the finish line.

But we don't need 12 members on the council, and from only four districts. And we don't need "ranked choice" voting. Any of those features of the current charter reform plan could be a fatal flaw. All of them at once are saddling the proposal with much longer odds than it should have, given that nearly everyone agrees the town is heading in the wrong direction.


  1. I don't think the familiar state-level single subject rule applies to things referred to the citizenry of a home-rule city by the city itself. The charter review commission proposes but it's the city that decides whether to refer the proposals to the voters. I will look, but I don't think the city charter has a single subject rule in it.

    I agree that the commission form is a problem that needs to go, but I don't understand the insistence of electing from districts, especially single-member districts, with all the opportunities for gerrymandering that such a system creates and the resulting tendency to protect incumbents from most challenges.

    Electing multiple members with a ranked-choice ballot might surprise you -- it creates a semi-proportional result, which means that more conservative voters in every district would likely elect at least one of the three seats and possibly two from some districts. Meaning that most people in Portland will actually help someone get onto the council who will represent their views.

    1. Having the City Council elected city-wide has led to harm to most neighborhoods. It's time to have at least one council member representing each neighborhood being screwed.

  2. I know Bike Portland might not be a preferred source here, but this is a pretty fair short summary with good links to more info, especially the Sightline summary.

  3. We do need ranked-choice voting. It's been successfully used in other places.

    1. Like where? Somebody's pie contest? No thanks.


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