PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Metro has rejected the proposed initiative petition that would redirect 75% of its voter-approved homeless services funding to emergency shelters and enforce prohibitions against camping on pubic property.

The initiative is unconstitutional because it is administrative and not legislative in nature, Metro Attorney Carrie MacLaren told Multnomah County elections officials on Friday, April 8, the last day to make that determination.

MacLaren also said the petition does not include the full text of the existing code language to be amended, a longstanding Oregon constitutional requirement only recently enforced by the Secretary of State.

Nor does the petition have an “ordaining clause,” as required by the Metro Code.

The initiative sought to change the spending priorities for the ballot measure approved by Metro voters in 2020. It imposes a 1% income tax on higher earners to fund homeless services.

The initiative was supported by People for Portland, a nonprofit organization pressuring elected officials to do more to end homelessness.

“Metro politicians are attempting to deny democracy and silence voters. They have invented novel legal theories to keep an initiative off the ballot to do what government has failed to do — provide safe shelter for the homeless and end the deadly camping on our streets. Simply put, it’s not unconstitutional for voters to ask Metro politicians to do their job,” spokesman Dan Lavey responded.

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Lavey did not say whether People for Portland would challenge the decision in court or refile the initiative. Supporters must collect 60,000 signature of valid Metro voters by Sept. 8 to place it on the November ballot.

The 2020 Metro measure was supported by the HereTogether coalition, which released a statement about the decision that said in part, “We appreciate the due diligence that Metro put into evaluating the proposal. The Metro attorney’s decision today is evidence that the measure was always more about politics than good policy. A poorly crafted ballot measure aimed at changing direction a year from now was never going to provide immediate relief for our unhoused neighbors.”

HereTogether is a nonprofit corporation filed in June 2018. It lists hundreds of organizations and supporters on its website here. A political action committee with the same name spent around $1.4 million to pass Measure 26-210 at the May 2020 primary election.

After the initiative was filed, HereTogether defended the Metro measure by saying, “The Supportive Housing Services measure is a dedicated investment in data-driven, proven, permanent solutions while also increasing the number of short-term shelter beds. That work is scaling up now. Draining its funds for a bound-to-fail, shelters-only approach would be an incredible disservice to those who are receiving help and those who still need help — as well as all of us who want to see the Portland region’s homeless crisis come to an end,” the statement said.”

The Metro decision can be found here.

A previous Portland Tribune story on the issue can be found here.