Gov. Tina Kotek Is Conducting a Task Force to Fix Portland’s Ills Out of the Public Eye

A spokeswoman for Kotek declined to say why the co-chairs decided to keep the meetings private.

SHROUDED: Gov. Tina Kotek at a 2022 campaign rally. (Blake Benard)

WHAT: Portland Central City Task Force

WHEN: September, specific date to be determined

WHERE: Columbia Square office building

INVITED: U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, Standard CEO Dan McMillan


Last week, a 47-member task force formed by Gov. Tina Kotek to discuss Portland’s many ailments met in a 10,000-square-foot conference room in downtown Portland.

It was not open to the public. Nor will subsequent meetings in the coming months admit the public or the media.

That decision, says Kotek spokeswoman Elisabeth Shepard, was made by the governor and the task force co-chair, Standard Insurance president and CEO Dan McMillan.

“The task force is neither a ‘public body’ nor a ‘governing body’ under public meetings laws,” Shepard says. “It will not make recommendations to or decisions for a governmental entity.”

Shepard declined to provide an explanation why McMillan and Kotek decided to keep the meetings private—though she pointed out most of the task force’s members are “not elected officials.”

The roster is stacked: Along with the Sen. Wyden, Reps. Blumenauer and Bonamici, Mayor Wheeler and County Chair Vega Pederson is a laundry list of state representatives and state senators. Also on the board are Portland business leaders like McMillan, who haven’t mandated that their employees return to work downtown and are likely sensitive to how their criticisms of the city could be perceived if the meetings were conducted in public.

To be sure, every word uttered by an elected official—especially when it comes to contentious issues like homelessness, mental illness and crime—is dissected by the press. But the key positions held by task force members make what they say about the state of Oregon’s economic center all the more relevant to the public interest.

“We’d prefer that such meetings be held in public, or at least the results be released to the public as soon as possible,” says Norman Turrill, the governance coordinator for the action committee of the League of Women Voters of Oregon. “It would be beneficial for the public to be involved.”

Still, Shepard says the co-chairs, Kotek and McMillan, will “provide regular updates to the public” after each monthly meeting.

Because the task force is making no official recommendations to a government body, any policy ideas that do come out of the task force would need to be developed from scratch in public, Shepard says. “Any policy or budgetary recommendations will have to go through a public process at the legislative, municipal or county level in order to be enacted.”

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