Portland voters have approved transformational changes to their city government, saying yes to a package of reforms proposed by the Portland Charter Commission.
Ballot Measure 26-228 was passing with about 57 percent approval, according to preliminary results the morning after the election.
“Portlanders made history by demanding a government that is effective, accountable and representative,” said Debra Porta, co-chair of the Charter Commission. “Now, a new chapter begins for the City of Portland.”
Over the next two years, the city will phase out its unusual commission form of government and implement a suite of changes:
- Allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference, using ranked-choice voting.
- Establish four geographic districts, with three city council members elected to represent each district – expanding city council to a total of 12 members.
- Allow the city council to focus on setting policy and engaging with community, transitioning day-to-day oversight of bureaus to a mayor elected citywide and a professional city administrator.
This proposal was developed over 18 months by the Charter Commission, a group of 20 community members appointed to review the city’s founding document. Thousands of Portlanders voiced their opinions throughout the once-a-decade process via surveys, community listening sessions, public meetings and written feedback.
Now the City of Portland will begin making the changes approved by voters, in anticipation of hosting the first election with ranked-choice voting and geographic districts in November 2024. Implementation will be led by a city transition team, based in the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer.
Working closely with Multnomah County, the transition team will set up the mechanics of ranked-choice voting and prepare Portlanders for the new system. They will also launch a community-led process to establish geographic districts for city council elections.
Additionally, the transition team will lead the shift to the new roles and responsibilities for elected officials and city administrators – and develop recommendations for improving service delivery.
Carrying out the transition is expected to cost $4 million to $5.9 million per year over the next three years, according to the City Budget Office. After the initial transition, ongoing costs of the new form of government are estimated at an additional $900,000 to $8.7 million per year – the equivalent of 0.1 to 1.4 percent of general fund discretionary resources. Those figures do not reflect potential cost savings from improving service delivery.
Accountability and transparency will be a top priority throughout the transition, said Michael Jordan, the city’s chief administrative officer.
“Portlanders spoke. As public servants, it’s our job to carry out their direction efficiently and effectively while advancing the city’s core values of equity and anti-racism,” Jordan said. “We’re committed to keeping the community informed, and inviting them to get involved, as we build Portland’s government for the future.”
The city is prepared to launch three community oversight and advisory groups: an Independent District Commission to establish geographic districts, a Salary Commission to set salaries for elected officials, and a Charter Transition Advisory Committee to advise on the overall process. Community members will have opportunities to provide input to these public bodies throughout the transition.
In a joint statement, Mayor Ted Wheeler and all four city commissioners – Jo Ann Hardesty, Mingus Mapps, Carmen Rubio and Dan Ryan – said they would work together to ensure a smooth transition.
“Portlanders have set a new course for city government,” the statement said. “In the process, they’ve shown democracy in action. Over the past two years, thoughtful and dedicated community leaders served on our city’s Charter Commission. Thousands of passionate residents voiced their opinions. People vigorously debated the proposal on the ballot. Votes have been counted, and a decision has been made.
Like Portlanders, we as city leaders had a range of opinions about the charter reform ballot measure. But we are united in our commitment to ensuring a smooth transition to Portland’s new form of government – and addressing the city’s most pressing challenges. Throughout this transition, we will continue working together to expand access to housing, make our community safer, improve economic security and respond to the threat of climate change.”