Today, a Multnomah County judge ruled that a proposal to change Portland’s structure of government can go to voters as a single package this November, with revised ballot title language. These decisions resolve legal challenges to the proposed charter amendments, which were developed by the 20-member Portland Charter Commission.
If approved, the proposal would allow voters to rank candidates in order of their preference, using ranked choice voting. Four new geographic districts would be created, with three members elected to represent each district – expanding the city council to a total of 12 members. The city council would focus on setting policy, while a mayor would be elected citywide to run day-to-day operations with the help of a professional city administrator.
Multnomah Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bushong ruled against a challenge by the Portland Business Alliance that could have prevented the proposal from going to the ballot as a package. The Alliance argued the proposal violates a state requirement that ballot measures address a single subject matter. City attorneys said that this provision does not apply to ballot measures developed by local governments – and that the proposed changes constitute a single subject matter anyway, because they are closely related.
Bushong ruled that it is not necessary to determine whether the city must meet the single-subject requirement, because the current package satisfies that criteria. “All the provisions in this package of reforms are properly connected to the unifying principle of reforming the structure and operation of city government,” Bushong wrote in his decision.
The judge agreed with a separate legal challenge to the ballot language, saying that the ballot title and explanatory statement could be clearer, simpler and more understandable. The revised ballot title caption and question will read as follows.
Amends Charter: Changes Portland’s government structure and process for electing city officials
Should Administrator manage city government, 12-member Council (three from each district) make laws, voters elect officials using ranked choice process?
The Charter Commission is continuing work on additional topics. Follow their progress at Portland.gov/omf/charter-review-commission.