New charters and elected body take effect in Portland, Oregon

New charters and elected body take effect in Portland, Oregon

Voters approve drastic overhaul of City Hall in progressive Portland

A new progressive city charter and elected body has taken effect for Portland, Oregon and the state’s other progressive cities, with a new slate of three new commissioners who will oversee a newly empowered and more equal voice for the people, according to supporters and opponents.

The charter commission voted to give the commission members the power to issue bylaws. In turn, the charter commission will be responsible for creating a new way of organizing city government—a charter—and for determining how Portland will spend the new revenue generated by the charter. Voters will have a say in how the city chooses spending strategies, but they will not get to have a referendum on the new charters. The new charters and governance structure are the result of a public charter campaign that started a year ago, when the progressive charter campaign formed with the support of the Progressive Change Institute and the Oregon Public Interest Research Group. The campaign will use a $450,000 gift from the nonprofit group to run voter education efforts. The charter campaign has also received $300,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a $250,000 gift from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through the Knight Foundation Institute for Public Leadership.

The new charter will be voted on in the November general election, after the November municipal election, and a majority of voters will have to approve the new charter for the initiative process to begin.

“The new ordinance that will govern Portland will have a public petition component, and we think that citizens-driven process will lead us to a more democratic and representative government,” said Ken Berkey, executive director of the Citizens’ Police Review Commission. The charter commission will appoint nine members to the nine-member commission of five, who will serve four-year terms. Voters were given the option to vote yes or no on the charter, but they will not have to go through the initiative process.

The commission’s new members are:

Jared Polis – District 1

John Ryskamp – District 2


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