PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In 5 weeks, Portland voters will get to decide whether they want a new city charter, remaking the way the city is governed.
But City Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who said he “will vote no on the charter reform proposal that will appear on the November ballot,” unveiled an alternate plan he will officially seek to get on the ballot in May 2023 if voters say no to the one crafted by a citizen committee over a year’s time.
“There are some things in this proposal which are good. There are also elements of this proposal which are highly problematic and very unusual,” Mapps said at a late Monday afternoon press conference.
The proposal on the November ballot would expand the current council from 4 commissioners to 12 commissioners in 4 districts. A mayor would oversee the city but with less power as a city manager would oversee city bureaus and handle administration.
Mapps told KOIN 6 News during the summer that he doesn’t think four districts is enough and rank-choice voting is “a radical departure from what Portlanders are used to.” Mapps prefers separate items on the ballot.
On Monday, Mapps said his plan is similar in overall structure to what’s on the November ballot: a city council that focuses on setting policy, a mayor elected city-wide to run the day-to-day operations with the help of a professional city administrator to oversee the bureaus.
The biggest differences in Mapps’ proposal are the mayor would have veto power, the city would be divided into 7 single-member districts (instead of 4 multi-member districts) and regular ranked-choice voting that requires at least 50% of the vote to win (unlike the 25% required to win in the November ballot proposal.)
“They will make Portland city government work better and they will make City Hall more democratic,” Mapps said Monday.
But at a press conference earlier in the day. supporters of the current proposal said this is a last-minute power grab.
“This measure was created by the people, for the people to give our communities more choices to better capture and amplify their voices,” said Tamia Dreary, the vice president of the NAACP Portland.
“I’ve watched city council people be assigned to bureaus for which they have no real life or professional experience to be successful at managing,” said Hope Beraka, the owner of Think Real Estate. “I’ve watched bureaus point fingers at each other and I’ve watched all the mayors throw them all under the bus. It’s madness.”
“We need a city structure that promotes elected leaders to be public servants, not continued self-promotion and backroom deals,” said Sandy Chung, the executive director of the ACLU Oregon.
Mapps defended himself. He said he’s been pushing for charter reform for the past several years.
“This is not a new topic for me,” he said. “This is, frankly, my life’s work.”
To be clear, Mapps’ plan will not be on the ballot in November. It would only possibly come before voters if Measure 26-228 is not passed in the November general election.
Mapps’ political action committee, Ulysses PAC, has more information on its website.