PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When the ideas first came to rewrite Portland’s city charter, representation of minority communities was one of the drivers for the desire of change. 

On Thursday, the commission that has been formulating the changes that will go to voters released its first proposal. It would expand the council to 12 seats over four districts, with the councilors from each.

The city would have a mayor overseeing day to day operations, along with a city administrator. 

“It was pretty clear that Portlanders wanted accountability and to ensure accountability, we felt that the mayor-council form was the best way to achieve that outcome,” said Anthon Castaneda, a co-chair on the Charter Commission. 

Only the mayor and city auditor would be elected city-wide. 

Sol Mora, the civic engagement manager for the Coalition of Communities of Color, says removing city-wide elections makes them more accessible, because of the cost of campaigning across the entire city. 

“It’s really a system that allows minority candidates to get a seat into office and then, minority groups of voters rally together to elect a candidate of their choice,” she said. 

Ranked-choice voting, along with several candidates representing one district, also creates a system where more people are able to run for office, Mora says. 

Castaneda said “when you pair those two things together, you’re able to create a voting system that actually breaks down the barriers for candidates to run for office. The role of the mayor will be very limited.”

The mayor will likely propose a budget, he says, but the policies will go through the council and the mayor will not be able to veto them. 

Castaneda added “if Portlanders aren’t feeling satisfied with the delivery of services through those executive functions, Portlanders can choose to elect a new mayor.”

The proposal is currently being reviewed by the city attorney. In May, the plan will be released for the public to comment on and the Commission will vote on the plan in June. 

If more than 15 charter commissioners vote for the plan in June, it will head straight to voters for the November ballot, after a procedural vote from city council. 

If 11-14 members vote in favor, the plan would go to council and council could then amend the plan. 
Thursday’s vote to approve the preliminary plan was unanimous. 

KOIN 6 News reached out to all members of the current commission for reaction on the new proposal. None said they were available for interviews, but they provided the following statements. 

Mayor Ted Wheeler said “I support the ongoing work of the Charter Review Commission and believe the proposed reforms recommended last night will address many of the challenges currently presented by the commission form of government. I look forward to seeing these reform packages on the ballot so Portland voters can share their voice on this important—and historic—issue. I also want to thank the members of the Charter Review for their hard work and time spent on this critical effort.”

Commissioner Carmen Rubio said “I’m grateful for the service of our Charter Commission members, who’ve spent months looking deeply into these issues. In this next stage, I look forward to learning more and to a robust public discussion about the future of our City.”

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty noted “as someone who served on the last charter commission, I’m excited by this historic moment. As a council we prioritized properly resourcing and appointing a diverse commission, and I want to thank all these volunteers for their incredible work. I trust their expertise that these changes will create a more equitable and transparent City government.”

Commissioner Dan Ryan added “thank you to the Portland Charter Commission for your incredible work on this challenging and urgent issue! I fully support Charter reforms and I look forward to the next steps that will include lively public discussions.”