Ryan Says He Will Vote No on Two Charter Reform Referrals at Next Week’s City Council but Will Seek Mayoral Veto on May 2024 Ballot

Commissioner Rene Gonzalez’s last-minute plan to alter charter reform appears to be on life support.

City Commissioner Dan Ryan speaks at a Multnomah County function. (Notoya Nakamura / Multnomah County)

A proposal by City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez to alter three parts of the sweeping charter reforms passed last November by Portland voters appears to be on life support after City Commissioner Dan Ryan says he’ll vote no two of them—and wants to move the third referral to the May 2024 ballot to save the city money.

“After speaking with council colleagues yesterday and learning that moving this proposal to the May 2024 ballot will save the city $630,000, I am moving the mayor veto proposed ballot referral to a later council session,” Ryan said in a statement after a contentious City Council meeting earlier this week to discuss the changes. “The work session on Tuesday brought much clarity. I am still steadfast in bringing the mayor veto/council override to the voters.”

Last week, Commissioners Gonzalez and Ryan proposed three changes to the reforms that 58% of Portland voters approved last fall to restructure how the city governs and how it elects officials to office. They proposed shrinking the future City Council from 12 to eight members; electing city councilors by district on alternating ballots so that only one seat per district per year was up for grabs; adopting a different form of ranked-choice voting; and giving the mayor veto powers.

But quickly the plan appeared to fall apart. Ryan hedged on his support, telling WW last week that he strongly supported only the mayoral veto; a City Council work session earlier this week to discuss the changes devolved into harsh criticism of the proposals by Gonzalez’s colleagues and by city staff.

Despite that, the three ballot referrals were to be heard at next week’s City Council meeting for a vote. Any that received at least a 3-2 vote would be sent to a 2023 November special ballot—a move that would cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. (A city program director at Wednesday’s meeting said it would likely cost $630,000 to place the referrals on the ballot; that cost, however, would be lowered if any other jurisdiction placed measures on the ballot.)

Ryan now says he will move his mayoral veto referral to a later City Council meeting with the goal of placing it on the May 2024 ballot.

“This critical addition is paramount in creating essential checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches in our new form of government,” Ryan said, “and I remain resolute in my belief.”

He added that he is “not prepared to support Commissioner Gonzales’ additional ballot proposals” at next week’s City Council meeting.

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