Seven Elected Officials Pan Proposal to Alter Charter Reform Measure

Influential state legislators are adding to the chorus of disapproval.

Sen. Kayse Jama. (Blake Benard)

Seven elected officials in the Portland area today panned an idea floated by City Commissioners Dan Ryan and Rene Gonzalez last week to alter the charter reform measure passed by voters last November.

That measure, approved by 58% of Portland voters, is set to radically transform Portland’s government and elections in 2025. But last week, The Oregonian first reported that Gonzalez and Ryan were eyeing a number of substantive changes to the measure. The proposal drew immediate criticism from progressive groups that ran a successful campaign for the original measure.

Now, a number of state lawmakers and other regional officials are joining the chorus of disapproval.

“We are deeply concerned that a rushed countermeasure will lack meaningful public engagement and ultimately undermine the will of the voters,” wrote state Sens. Kayse Jama (D-Portland) and Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), state Reps. Khanh Pham (D-Portland) and Maxine Dexter (D- Portland), Metro Councilors Duncan Hwang and Ashton Simpson, and Portland Public Schools board member Michelle DePass. “This is a time to trust our democratic process and fulfill your promise....We urge you to stay focused on a smooth transition.”

The signatories added that various attempts to contact city commissioners about the proposals—both phone calls and letters—have gone unanswered.

Gonzalez and Ryan floated a number of changes that the City Council will discuss Tuesday in a public forum.

The changes include shrinking the 12-member council to eight members, swapping in a simpler form of ranked-choice voting to replace the method chosen by the 20-member Charter Commission last year, and giving the mayor veto powers.

None of the city commissioners has offered a hard stance on the proposals, and all have said they’re open to discussion. Commissioner Carmen Rubio is the only one that said she had “concerns” about shrinking the council size and adopting a different form of ranked-choice voting than the one that Portlanders approved as part of the measure last fall.

Ryan has since backed away from all but the mayoral veto, saying he’s undecided on the other two proposals. Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who earlier this month launched his mayoral campaign and unsuccessfully fought the charter ballot measure last fall, says he’s consulting the City Attorney’s Office about whether voting on the proposals would present a conflict of interest due to his mayoral run.

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