The godfather of Portland politics has come out against a measure aimed at changing the commission form of government.
Former Mayor Neil Goldschmidt last week joined former Mayor Bud Clark in blasting the Good Government Initiative, which would raise the number of council members to nine and anoint the mayor with royal power. The proposal is the brainchild of real-estate developer and political aspirant Robert Ball, who recruited Steve Janik, a lawyer with strong City Hall connections, to draft it.
Last week, city attorneys revealed an error in the wording of the initiative that might keep the measure from being implemented if it's approved by voters in May. Ball and supporters of the measure quickly asked city commissioners to amend the language before it goes to voters.
Only Mayor Vera Katz has signaled a willingness to help the would-be reformers; she forced a Feb. 13 council hearing on a corrected version of the measure. Clark has emerged as a leading critic of the initiative, which he says will strip citizen representation from government.
Goldschmidt says the merits of Portland's unusual form of municipal government, in which elected council members manage bureaus, is open to debate. But, he said, with Ball's initiative, no debate took place. "There was no long citizen process to look at the problems," he says. "Now we're throwing everything in the garbage can and replacing it with something that a lawyer did in his law office. If we're going to do this, let's do it right."