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Portland transition: form of government

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The City of Portland is phasing out its commission form of government. Going forward, the city council will set policy and the mayor will oversee city business with the help of a city administrator.

How the form of government is changing 

Under Portland’s current “commission” form of government, a mayor and four city councilors oversee the day-to-day operations of two dozen bureaus and offices, from parks to police and transportation to technology. Bureau assignments can shift anytime the mayor decides to make a change. 

In the new system, city councilors will no longer manage bureaus. Instead, they will focus on developing laws and policies, engaging constituents, and increasing community representation in decision-making. The mayor will have executive authority over city business, collaborating with and delegating responsibilities to a city administrator. 

Portland’s mayor will no longer serve as a member of the city council, voting only to break ties on non-emergency ordinances. However, the city’s elected leader will be able to propose laws – and they will propose a budget for city council approval. 

The city administrator will be hired by the mayor and confirmed by city council to implement laws and manage bureaus. They will hire, fire, and supervise bureau directors, except for the police chief and the city attorney, who will be nominated by the mayor and approved by city council. 

Preparing for the new form of government 

Between November 2022 and December 2024, a transition team based in the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer is leading the shift to a new form of government through four related but distinct projects: 

  • City Organization: Developing recommendations for a reporting structure a new city administrator can manage.  

  • Future Improvements: Developing recommendations to improve delivery of services to community. 

  • Role Changes: Helping clarify and plan for the new roles, responsibilities, and relations of the City’s future elected officials and administrative leadership. 

  • Independent Salary Commission: The public body authorized to set the salaries for the auditor, mayor, and 12 city councilors starting in 2025.  

Each of these projects will require the transition team to work closely with city council offices, bureau leaders, and staff with subject matter expertise. The transition team will also gather information from employees and community in a variety of ways to help inform the revisions and recommendations that require city council approval. 

Throughout this process the City of Portland will receive feedback and recommendations from the Government Transition Advisory Committee, a community oversight group being appointed to make sure that the city implements voters’ direction. 

Get Involved

The City of Portland is committed to transparency and accountability. Stay tuned for more information about the transition.

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