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Phase I: Form of Government & City Council Elections

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On this page

Commissioners are currently focusing on two issues, Form of Government and City Council Elections. In phase II, Commissioners will focus on additional subcommittees on topics to be determined. To learn more about timeline and process, please read the Learn About the Charter Review process & Meet Your Commissioners. Here you will be able to find all the latest information about the two subcommittees. 

Phase I subcommittee desired outcomes

The Charter Commission defined what it is trying to achieve through its review and reform of both form of government and city council elections. Our desired outcomes and some guiding considerations are here:

  • Participatory and growing democracy with more voices being heard in elections
  • Accessible and transparent government with Councilors who are easy to reach
  • Reflective government with Councilors who look like the community they represent
  • Responsive government with Councilors who understand your community needs
  • Accountable government with Councilors who answer to the people
  • Trustworthy government with Councilors who safeguard democracy

Form of Government

This subcommittee is charged with developing recommendations for the full Charter Commission on Portland’s form of government, specifically:What form of city government should we have? What should the roles of the Mayor and City Council be? Should we have a City Manager? How should bureaus be managed?

Membership:

The following Commissioners will be focusing on Form of Government:Amira Streeter, Andrew Speer, Angela Jones, Anthony Castaneda, Becca Uherbelau, Brenda Ketah, Bryan William Lewis, Candace Avalos, Dave Galat, Debbie Kitchin, Karol Collymore, Melanie Billings-Yun, Raahi Reddy, Salome Chimuku, Steven Phan, and Vadim Mozyrsky. Commissioners Candace Avalos and Andrew Speer will be serving as co-chairs of the subcommittee.

Meeting times:

The Form of Government Subcommittee will be meeting though May 2022, the following meeting have been scheduled so far, please check out events section of the website for meeting information:

  • Tuesday, November 30, 2021, 6-8pm
  • Thursday, January 6, 2022, 6-8pm
  • Wednesday, January 26, 2022, 6-8pm
Research questions:

The Form of Government subcommittee is currently focusing on the following research questions:

  • Legislative Authority: Who should have the power to make the laws?  
  • Executive Authority: Who should have the power to carry out the laws?  
  • Mayor is a member of Council: Should the Mayor be a member of City Council?  
  • Mayor votes with Council: Should the Mayor vote with Council?  
  • Mayor has veto authority: Should the Mayor have veto authority?  
  • Appointment & removal of Chief Administrative Officer and City Manager: Who should be able to appoint and remove a CAO and City Manager?  
  • Appointment & removal of bureau directors: Who should be able to appoint and remove bureau directors?  
  • Policy development: Who should be responsible for developing policy?  
  • Prepare budget: Who should be responsible for preparing the budget?
Progress update:

To date, the Form of Government Committee has:

  1. Determined desired outcomes for our form of government
  2. Established initial research questions
  3. Built an understanding about our current commission form of government
  4. Identified problems with our current form of government and how those problems represent gaps with our desired outcomes
  5. Built an understanding about two alternative forms of government—the Mayor-Council form and the Council-Manager form
  6. Agreed to early reforms (please note these are not full Commission agreements):
    • Increase the size of City Council
    • Remove the role of Commissioner-in-Charge of bureaus from city commissioners and shift the management authority elsewhere
    • Clearly (re)define the roles and responsibilities of the Mayor and City Council

Current work is focused on an analysis of some key areas of tension between the Mayor-Council form of government and the Council-Manager form of government:

  • Where the power center is and who has the authority to influence it
  • The role and purpose of the Mayor, and when and how the Mayor votes or has veto authority
  • The Mayor-Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) relationship and the role of the CAO in a Mayor-Council form, and the Council-City Manager relationship and the role of the City Manager in a Council-Manager form
Key documents:

Check out all form of government related documents here 

City Council Elections

This subcommittee is charged with developing recommendations for the full Charter Commission on Portland’s city council elections, specifically: What should the constituency of city councilors be, e.g. city-wide, district-based, hybrid? How many city councilors should there be? What form of voting should we use to elect city council members?How should we time city council elections?

Membership:

The following Commissioners will be focusing on City Council Elections: Anthony Castaneda, Becca Uherbelau, Bryan William Lewis, Candace Avalos, Debbie Kitchin, Debra Porta, Melanie Billings-Yun, Raahi Reddy, Robin Ye, Salome Chimuku, Vadim Mozyrsky and Yasmin Ibarra. Commissioners Robin ye and Yasmin Ibarra will be serving as co-chairs of the subcommittee.

Meeting times:

The City Council Elections Subcommittee will be meeting through May 2022, the following meetings have been scheduled so far, please check out events section of the website for meeting information:

  • Thursday, December 2, 2021, 6-8pm
  • Tuesday, January 4, 2021, 6-8pm
  • Tuesday, January 25, 2022, 6-8pm 
Research questions:

The City Council Elections subcommittee is currently focusing on the following research questions:

  • Elected offices: Which offices should be elected by the people?
  • Council constituency: What should the constituency of Councilors be? Examples include at-large, district, or a mixture of at-large and district. If the Committee recommends districts, how should districts be drawn?
  • Council size: How many City Councilors should we have to fulfill the work of Portland? 
  • Form of voting: What form of voting should we use to elect city elected offices? Should our system retain a winner-take-all/loser has none approach? 
  • Timing of elections: Should we have a two-round system that includes a primary and a general election? Should local elections be aligned with the presidential general election? Should the length of campaigns change?
  • Expanding democracy: Who should have the ability to vote on Portland’s elected leaders? Who should have the ability to take part in direct democracy ballot measures?
  • Campaign finance: How can funds be raised and spent? What is the role of public financing
Progress update:

To date, the City Council Elections Committee has:

  1. Determined desired outcomes for our City Council elections
  2. Established initial research questions
  3. Built an understanding about our current elections
  4. Identified problems with our current elections and how those problems represent gaps with our desired outcomes
  5. Built understanding about multi-member districts, alternative voting methods including ranked choice and Score then Automatic Runoff (STAR), and the impacts of timing of elections
  6. Agreed to early reforms (please note these are not full Commission agreements):
    • Increase the size of City Council
    • Shift to a form of voting that allows for a result in one election and captures people's preference

Current work is focused on

  • City Council constituency and size, including an analysis of alternative constituencies (at-large without positions, single-member and multi-member districts, and hybrid models)
  • Form of voting, including an analysis of alternative forms of voting
Key documents:

Check out all form of government related documents here 

Engage with a Issue Subcommittee

Don't forget to check out our community engagement section of the website to learn about all the ways to engage with Charter Review. 

Written Public Comment 

Commissioners want to hear from you! Please submit your comments regarding Form of Government and City Council Elections through our online public comment form!

Community Listening Sessions:

The Charter Commission hosted two virtual Community Listening Sessions in November— don't miss our Part II Community Listening Sessions!

The November Community Listening Sessions were part I of a two-part series of listening sessions. The November sessions were an opportunity for community members to learn more about charter review and the issues currently being researched by the Charter Commission (form of government & city council elections) and join breakout rooms to have a community discussion on Portlanders’ lived experiences with City government. 

Missed the Part I sessions? Don't worry! Watch a recording of the session HERE

Part II of our listening sessions will take place in January 2022 and focus on options for reforming our government and elections. Community members are invited to attend either of the Part II Community Listening Sessions. The sessions will have the same content just offered on different days to accommodate more community members. More information coming soon!

  • Tuesday, January 11th from 6-8pm
  • Saturday, January 22nd from 12-2pm 

Contact

Julia Meier

Charter Commission Project Manager