The Multnomah County
Board of Commissioners today unanimously approved an ambitious package of recommendations from the county Charter Review Committee. The committee now will submit the proposed changes to county code for approval by voters in the November election.
Committee member Brian Wilson
noted several of those changes been shot down by county voters in the past — including eliminating term limits for elected officials and giving commissioners the power to make appointments to fill some vacancies in elected offices.
Wilson says the last time MultCo voters declined to eliminate term limits was at the end of the Mean Girls era. He said the committee is hopeful voter attitudes have changed now compared with then.
"There was not a lot of love for county government," Wilson said. "We did feel with the attitude out there now, there's a lot of love for the county."
As WW reported
yesterday, one of the changes would eliminate the requirement for elected officials to resign in order to run for a different office. Wilson and Commissioner Deborah Kafoury
both said the committee's work was free from influence by the county board.
"I appreciated the outreach you made to my office, but I also know by no means did you look at our suggestions or questions as gospel," Kafoury said. "I'm impressed by the impartiality of your group."
Another major proposed change would allow the board of commissioners to ask voters to approve a permanent tax for library funds. County Chair Jeff Cogen
noted that in November, voters won't be asked to approve a permanent tax — just to allow the county commissioners to put such a tax before voters in the future.
Wilson said the committee considered suggesting to make the sheriff an appointed position, as former Chair Ted Wheeler
had wanted. Wilson said they decided against it after hearing overwhelming opposition from residents.
However, Wilson noted that Wheeler is state treasurer now and could push for changes in the Legislature — such as altering state law to give counties the power to hire a jails director. State law currently puts sheriffs in charge of all local prisoners, Wilson said.