PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Portland is the only major city to still use a commission-style government, but that’s about to change.
On Wednesday, the Portland City Council focused on a transition to a new form of government slated to begin in 2025.
Leaders and Portlanders discussed their concerns, including high costs, issues with inclusion and what administrative positions could be important in the new government.
“This plan is just a first step of unwinding the commission form of government that for over 100 years contributed to inefficient and costly siloing of bureaus’ political rather than professional management of city operations,” community leader Janice Thompson said.
Instead of a single board of commissioners representing all of Portland, the new government would split the city into four geographic districts, each represented by their own set of three council members — making up a 12-member committee.
“Voters approved a new charter, not a blank check to expand bureaucracy,” Northwest Portland community member Bob Weinstein said. “I know staffing levels will be up to the new council. The current proposal grossly underestimates the costs of and understaffs the future council.”
Those estimates were initially close to $9 million. Now the City of Portland’s impact statement shows it will cost nearly $24 million to ensure adequate staffing.
“They didn’t take into any account that you will have to alter the organizational structure so that one person can be held accountable for all of city government – not five electeds,” Chief Administrative Officer Michael Jordan said.
The measure would also relieve city commissioners of bureau-management duties and assign the roles to appointed city administrators. One of these concerns is climate change.
“We want to make sure that climate officer position is there in the city administrator’s office that they are on that executive leadership team and they have that opportunity to make sure to work with all the bureaus and services to coordinate well,” Cherice Bock, a policy manager with 350PDX, said.
Other community members, Terri Preeg Riggsby in Southwest Portland, just wanted to make sure they were included in the conversation.
“It completely lacks representation and programmatic support for people with disabilities as well for our aging community,” Riggsby said.