"Positive change never emerges from comfort with the status quo," said Charter Commissioner Melanie Billings-Yun. "This is an opportunity to make Portland a city that truly works."
After encouraging community leaders throughout Portland to apply to the Charter Commission and poring over hundreds of applications, City Council formally appointed the 20 Portlanders who will review the City’s Charter – and consider asking voters to make changes.
On Thursday, Dec. 3, Mayor Ted Wheeler and City commissioners presented the community leaders they had chosen to lead this process.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity to engage Portlanders on how our government works and to offer amendments that reflect our community’s evolving needs,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler.
As charter commissioners, these Portlanders will use their community advocacy expertise and diverse lived experience to recommend ways the City of Portland can better serve the entire community. During remarks to City Council on Thursday, many highlighted this as a unique opportunity to reimagine how the City works and make the City more accessible and transparent.
One of the project’s core values has been equity and on Thursday, newly appointed Charter Commissioner Candace Avalos reaffirmed the group's role in ensuring this process uplifts our most underserved communities and benefits all community members.
“I’m committed to ensuring we lead an inclusive, transparent process that brings all Portlanders to the table, to envision a charter that best serves our unique needs as a city," Avalos said.
For charter commissioners, the hard work begins in January. They will get acquainted with the City’s charter, internal rules and administrative systems. With the help of project manager Julia Meier, they will create a plan regarding the issues they will examine and report to Council periodically. Charter Commission members are appointed for a term of two years; it’s up to them to establish a timeline.
Once Charter Commission members have agreed on the recommendations, they will present their ideas to City Council. Recommendations from the Commission that have the support of at least 15 members will be referred to the ballot for Portlanders to vote on.
City Council officials applauded charter commissioners’ dedication in taking on this responsibility and provided advice. Commissioner Dan Ryan reminded the group that they will tackle complex issues and have difficult conversations, but asked that they be patient and listen. "The best products come when not one person gets their way, but the collective body comes up with something no one person on their own ever could have seen," he said.
Many of the new charter commissioners expressed enthusiasm for their fellow members, and said they are ready to take on this challenge together.
"We have to remind ourselves that positive change never emerges from comfort with the status quo," said Melanie Billings-Yun. "This is an opportunity to make Portland a city that truly works."