After the Nov. 8 election, Portland will have either a controversial new form of government or Commissioner Mingus Mapps will have the opportunity to offer a slightly different version to voters next year.
Almost no one is a fan of how governance at Portland City Hall works now.
This year's Measure 26-228 was referred to the ballot by an overwhelming majority of the 20-member Charter Commission appointed by the City Council. If approved, the measure would create a 12-member council with three members elected in each of four geographic districts by a form of ranked-choice voting, in which it would take only 25% to win.
The citywide mayor could not vote or veto legislation. All bureaus would be transferred to a professional city manager, and elected City Council members no longer would be "commissioners," running city bureaus.
Supporters say the measure would create a more representative council while professionalizing the management of bureaus.
Opponents say ranked-choice voting in multi-member districts has never been tried anywhere else before and could have unintended consequences. They also are upset all of the changes are presented in a single take-it-or-leave-it measure, rather than one ballot measure per change.
Mapps, who promised to support charter reform when he ran for the council in 2018, found himself in the opposition camp after the measure was finalized. He now says that if the measure is defeated, he will ask the council to refer a series of measures to the ballot — possibly as soon as May 2023 — that would create seven single-member districts, give the mayor veto power, and still place all bureaus under the control of a single manager. This package of changes is being developed by his Ulysses PAC.
The only professional poll released to date shows this year's measure is likely to pass, with most voters deeply dissatisfied with the council's inability to solve such problems as the homeless crisis.
Supporters include a coalition of liberal elected officials, social justice organizations, and community groups. Their political action committee, Portland United for Change, has reported raising the most money and in-kind contributions to date, $833,158. Major contributions include more than $414,000 from three out-of-town nonprofit organizations that support ranked choice voting.
Opponents include the Portland Business Alliance, former moderate elected officials, and previous City Hall and Portland government employees. Their committee, Partnership for Common Sense Government, has reported raising $198,417 to date. Major contributions include $40,000 from developer John Russell, $25,000 from the Portland Association of Realtors, and $10,000 from Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle.
"It has been inspiring and heartening to see Portlanders from all walks of life and every neighborhood across the city come together for a more effective, accountable, and responsive government and a strengthened democracy that leaves nobody behind," said Damon Motz-Storey, Portland United for Change communications director. "Over 100 small business owners, community organizations, labor unions, neighborhood groups, political science experts and civic leaders endorsed Measure 26-228 from across the political spectrum because we know that Portland needs this change and it will work to get us on track towards a brighter future.
"We are united and ready to stay engaged with supporting implementation and voter education after winning at the ballot," Motz-Storey added.
The opposition, naturally, takes the other view.
"We feel we have accomplished our goals. The Partnership for Common Sense Government, a completely grass roots effort without any paid staff, has worked hard to explain why voters should reject this measure," said Partnership for Common Sense director Chuck Duffy. "We clearly have been vastly outspent in this campaign by the "yes" campaign. They have raised huge sums of money from outside Portland, from interest groups in Maryland, Colorado and Corvallis. We are proud that our funding has come from Portlanders who live and work in this city."