Metro Attorneys Find People for Portland Ballot Initiative Unconstitutional for Second Time this Month

It “appears to be the same proposal” with minor changes, Metro says.

For the second time this month, Metro’s attorneys determined that a ballot initiative proposed by People for Portland that seeks to reroute hundreds of millions of dollars of housing services funds approved by voters in 2020 does not meet the requirements of Oregon’s constitution.

Metro’s argument was the same this time around. Under the Oregon Constitution, initiatives and referendums may propose legislative changes, not administrative ones, so the rules for distributing the money can’t be changed via a ballot measure. The new initiative also failed to include the full text of the Metro statute that would be amended, as the state constitution requires, Metro said.

The new initiative was named MetroInit-03 by the Multnomah County Elections Division.

“MetroInit-03 appears to be the same proposal as MetroInit-02, except that petitioners have now included an ordaining clause as required by section 35 of the Metro Charter,” Metro attorney Carrie MacLaren wrote. “I therefore reach the same conclusion.”

An ordaining clause is a preamble to a piece of legislation or initiative. In this case, People for Portland added, “The people of Metro ordain as follows:” atop their initiative.

The addition of those seven words remedied one of the three problems that Metro lawyers found with the original ballot measure. The other two remain, Metro said.

The measures put forth by People for Portland would reroute 75% of the 2020 Metro housing tax dollars to building emergency shelters and beds. That tax is expected to raise about $250 million a year for homeless services.

The proposed measure would also require cities to enforce their own anti-camping ordinances to be eligible for long-term funding, force an annual audit of all spending, and seek to prevent conflicts of interest on the oversight board.

A spokesman for People for Portland said he would comment tomorrow.