Earlier this summer a historic vote occurred. The 20 member Charter Reform Commission that was unanimously appointed by all of City Council voted overwhelmingly to refer a package of structural reforms for the City of Portland to voters this November. Every 10 years, our City must undergo this constitutionally mandated process.
What’s being proposed are big changes, and all Portlanders are entitled to their opinions on the measure. I personally am still evaluating the proposal myself and look forward to the upcoming public discussion that will occur leading into the election.
However, I am troubled by recent attempts by elected leaders that go beyond simply expressing opinions. Instead, we are witnessing the undermining of 2 years of exhaustive volunteer work by a diverse committee that was unanimously appointed by all of Council.
The City of Portland is struggling to recruit members of the public to serve on volunteer committees, which are important to ensure our work is connected to and overseen by the people we represent. What is currently happening with Charter Reform is a good example of why. As a City, we ask volunteers to do a lot of work and then we either throw that work in the trash or actively undermine their efforts.
I am the only member of the Portland City Council that has previously served as a volunteer on the last Charter Reform Commission a decade ago, which is why I am particularly alarmed at the lack of respect the Commission has received from some members of Council.
Voters should evaluate the measure on the strength of the policy and vote accordingly, but I can assure you that their proposal was thoughtfully created by a group of dedicated volunteers who have performed extensive outreach. The Charter Reform Commission has nothing but Portland’s best interests at heart.
The proponents of charter reform stepped up to make a 2-year commitment and they now deserve an opportunity to make their case to the public without City Council members tipping the scale by releasing a counter proposal weeks before the election.
In this time of attacks on our democracy, the last thing we should be doing is undermining citizen led work. Coming in last minute to disrupt this work undermines trust in government participation. Our government needs to remain by the people, for the people.