A new report calls for diversifying the Portland City Council by junking its commission form of government. It is already dividing the council.
A City Club of Portland report released Feb. 10 argues the city commission form of government is broken, in part because elections for citywide office have failed to provide a city council that reflects the city's makeup.
"A larger council offers more chance to represent diverse viewpoints and backgrounds," the report says.
But the move to create a larger council—as many as eight commissioners—and employ a city manager to oversee city bureaus comes as voters have elected the most diverse Portland council ever.
The City Council has never reflected full racial or gender equality, but City Commissioner Amanda Fritz argues against jettisoning the city's current (and highly unusual) form of government now.
"Isn't it ironic that at the epic moment we have a majority of women serving on the council, the City Club and The Oregonian are calling for a change in the form of government to reduce the authority of the council?" Fritz says.
Fritz says public financing of election campaigns could bring a wider variety of candidates without scrapping the current commission structure.
Jo Ann Hardesty, the first black woman elected to the council, and a supporter of campaign finance changes, disagrees. "I was elected to City Council not because of our form of government, but despite of it," Hardesty says. "I support moving forward with a change to how Portlanders are represented."
Here's how the current City Council compares with the city it represents.
Proportion of Portland residents who live east of the Willamette River: 4 in 5
Proportion of the Portland City Council that does: 2 in 5
Percentage of Portland residents who are white: 71
Percentage who are black: 6
Percent who are Asian: 8
Percent who are Latino: 10
Percentage of city commissioners who are white: 80
Percentage who are black: 20
Percentage who are Asian or Latino: 0
Median age of Portlanders: 36.8
Median age of city commissioners: 60
Percent of Portlanders who are renters: 47
Percentage of city commissioners who rent: 60
Sources: 2018 State of Housing Report/U.S. Census Bureau