East Portland Residents File Ballot Petition to Secede from Portland

Residents of East Portland have complained about living in a different city—poorer, less healthy and with fewer services—since their neighborhoods east of Interstate 205 were annexed starting in 1983.

Now some of them are seeking a public vote to make it official, by pulling East Portland out of Portland.

Three East Portland residents filed a ballot initiative petition Feb. 27 to de-annex neighborhoods east of I-205. If they can gather 31,345 signatures by July 2016, the initiative could appear on the November 2016 ballot.

"East Portland is kind of doomed," says Collene Swenson, a chief petitioner. "That's what we feel. They are doing more than they ever have in East Portland right now. But it's nothing new, and it's nothing better. And meanwhile, we're helping fund the iconic parts of downtown Portland."

The ballot initiative petition was first reported Tuesday by the Mid-County Memo. In their two-page proposal, the backers say Portland City Hall has failed to provide East Portland with the same level of services.

Swenson, an insurance claims adjuster, tells WW that East Portland will be able to better allocate its resources to local services—like streets and sidewalks.

"We elect people who don't live in our neighborhoods, who don't represent us," she says. "We can all move to Vancouver, or we can remove ourselves from Portland. Because they can't fix it. We can leave and do that. We can work on ourselves."

The petitioners, who have started a Facebook page, say they plan to make East Portland its own incorporated city. That plan is a last resort.

"We asked Maywood Park and Gresham to take us in, and they never got back to us," Swenson says. "It's harder to make your own city. [But] at some point you have to throw down the gauntlet and make a decision."

UPDATE, 5:11 pm: The office of City Auditor Mary Hull Caballaro has ruled the petition does not meet the requirements of the state constitution.

Chief petitioner Collene Swenson told WW today she expected to have to re-file the petition based on the city's rulings.

"I'll just keep re-writing it and submitting it until they accept it," Swenson says. "We're just really super fed-up."

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