City Approves (Unenthusiastically) Most Charter Commission Ballot Questions for November


Michael Kebede Chair of the 2020 Portland Charter Commission; Pamela Plumb, Former  of Portland City Councilor and Member of the Previous Charter Commission;  Tom Allen, former Mayor of Portland and a Former US Representative at Today’s City Council Meeting.

Some Members of the Portland All Star Baseball Team Were Honored by the Portland City Council This Evening.

The Portland City Council unanimously approved the ballot questions and summaries for the November 8th election approved by the 2020 Charter Commission at this evenings meeting – with one exception.

Representing the non-threatening status quo were two former city councilors who testified in opposition to the Charter Commission initiatives.  It’s defeat would continue to permit unelected officials to make city politics with no accountability to Portland voters.  This system also serves as a foil for city councilors who don’t want to be accountable, but want to ‘pass the buck’ to someone who is unaccounable to voters.  What a racket!

The establishment of the  2020 Charter Commission was motivated by the unaccountable and unpopular decisions made by former thin-skinned city manager Jon Jennings.  The current interim city manager Danielle West is following in the footsteps of her predecessor by making unpopular decisions for which she is unaccountable at the ballot box as well.  Her decisions are made from inside her bubble with no public input or accountability wanted or available.

Testifying for the non-threatening staus quo was Pam Plumb who served on the city council and chaired the previous Charter Review Committee that created the mayor’s current role.  In her opinion, it would be a significant mistake to interject the mayor into the direct management of the city.  “The current Charter Review Committee is recommending that we give the elected mayor a larger role in management of the city and eliminate the title of city manager, which I believe would be a serious mistake,” said Plumb. Making the elected mayor accountable to voters is a mistake?

Former Portland Mayor and US Congressman Tom Allen  said he is concerned about an “attempted revolution in city government.”  Allen who retreated from Washington, DC politics after a brief stint there charged that the Charter Commission agenda “will divide the city more than it already is,”  Cheap one-liners by the respected Tom Allen are a disappointment to this blogger.

“This is not a revolution.  It’s a reform,” responded Michael Kebede Chair of the 2020 Charter Commission and an attorney for the ACLU, to the Allen remark. Following the city council meeting, Kebede said that the United States Supreme Court and the US Congress do not represent  the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans.  It is against this bleak back drop that our Charter Commission made eight recommendations that will strengthen democracy in Pprtland.  None of our reforms were decided by a close vote – all of our reforms passed either by a supermajority vote of eight commissioners or nine commissioners or by a unanimous vote.  Under our proposal,the voters would have more power than they currently have.  Under our proposal the mayor can be removed through a council-initiated recall.  The mayor can be fired by a supermajority of councilors.  The councilors can also censure the mayor.  There is no system we studied as a Commission that has more ways to remove or punish a mayor.  This proposal will take power from appointed officials and give it to voters.  Reform, NOT revolution,”  Chair Kebede repeated.

Clearly unenthusiastic about the 2020 Charter Commissin’s agenda, Councilor Mark Dion called for a financial impact statement to be presented by city staff later this month. The City Council doesn’t want to lose its cover; an unelected city manager..

Gender-Neutral language proposed in the Commission’s reommendations was removed from this ballot question out of concern that it will be “lost in all the noise” of this upcomng November election.  Councilors voted to reconsider the language at a meeting next March to become part of the annual Pride Celebration in June 2023.  The intent is to be sure that this addition receives the important attention it deserves.