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December 6th, 2006 Ian Demsky | News Stories
 

Dissing Her District

Multnomah County Commish Lisa Naito no longer lives among the people who elected her.

     
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For nearly a year and a half, Multnomah County Commissioner Lisa Naito hasn't lived in the district she's representing.

Not that there's anything wrong with that legally, given that the county charter has no provision that forbids a commissioner from moving out of her district after she's elected.

But it sure seems to fly in the face of the spirit of district representation. Multnomah County commissioners must live in their districts for a year and a half before being elected.

"People need to have a sense that the people who are making decisions for, and about, them have common interests with them," says Lew Frederick, a candidate this year in another Multnomah County commissioner district.

"Otherwise, people feel disenfranchised," says Frederick, who ran largely on his 30-year history living in Northeast Portland.

Multnomah County has four districts, each with with roughly 165,000 people. Voters in each district elect a commissioner to represent them on the county board, with the board chair elected countywide. The charter forbids commissioners from moving outside the county or leaving the county for more than 30 days without permission. In Washington County, commissioners must vacate their seat if they move outside their district. District residency is not an issue in Clackamas County, where commissioners are elected countywide.

Naito, who can't run again in 2008 because of term limits, has represented District 3, which includes most of Southeast Portland, since 1998. But public records show Naito sold her 2,985-square-foot home on Southeast Ankeny Street in the Laurelhurst neighborhood for $545,000 in July 2005. She now lives in the Hillside-Northwest neighborhood, in a 3,422-square-foot home she bought in July for $1.3 million on Northwest Cumberland Road, deep in the heart of Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey's district.

In response to a request for comment, Naito faxed a statement to WW that said, "I meet the full legal requirements for representing Multnomah County District 3. ... I will never lose sight of the needs, the goals and the wishes of the people of Southeast Portland. " according to google maps, Naito's home is 4.6 miles (about 11 minutes) away from the border of her district.

 
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