Beaverton voters will decide May 19 whether they want to replace an elected mayor with an appointed manager as the chief executive of their city government.
The City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night, Feb. 11, to refer a revised city charter at the same time voters will elect a mayor and two councilors for the next four years.
Councilor Laura Mitchell said it's time for voters to weigh in.
"They do vote. They sit down, open their voters pamphlet and say here's my chance," Mitchell said. "I still feel May is the appropriate time to bring this to the voters."
Beaverton is Oregon's only large city where the elected mayor presents the budget, hires and fires department heads, and oversees city operations under a charter approved in 1980. In all other cities except Portland, where the mayor shares executive authority with four elected commissioners, the council appoints a professional manager.
Councilor Marc San Soucie said few people can name the Hillsboro city manager, the Washington County administrator or the chief operating officer of the Portland regional government Metro. Hillsboro named Robby Hammond city manager in August 2019, the county has an interim administrator after Bob Davis retired Dec. 31, and Metro is still seeking a top executive after Martha Bennett became Lake Oswego city manager in mid-2019.
"It is the elected people who make decisions. That is worth remembering," said San Soucie, who is married to Kathryn Harrington, the county board chairwoman. "Whether it's a strong mayor or a city manager, it's still going to be the council that has the decision-making role."
In a public opinion survey released last year, however, 89% of those sampled were able to identify Mayor Denny Doyle with Beaverton city government. Doyle is seeking a fourth term May 19.
"We have been careful about making decisions about a position, not about a person or persons," Councilor Mark Fagin said. "If we wait until November, we clearly would be talking about a person — and that would not be right."
The mayor would remain full time under the revised charter, but the focus would shift to city representation.
The proposed changes also would expand the council by one seat and give the mayor a vote. The mayor and councilors would be limited to three consecutive terms; there are no limits now.
The council voted after three people — Farrah Chaichi, council candidate John Dugger and Amy Johnson — urged the council to slow the process. Several others voiced similar comments at a public hearing Jan. 28. Nike, in a letter signed by senior executive Julia Brim-Edwards, even questioned whether the changes are good for the city — although the world headquarters of the sportswear maker is outside city limits.
"It does feel rushed to me," Councilor Cate Arnold said. "I think we could make it work if we moved it to November."
But she and Councilor Lacey Beaty, who is challenging Doyle May 19, were on the losing end of a 3-2 vote.
Beaty said waiting would give the council more time to consider topics such as campaign finance regulation, which did not come up during the five months of council discussion.
"We would have a few months to get more of that feedback and still get it on the ballot in time," Beaty said.
She was the lone vote against a May 19 referral.
Doyle has said little publicly except to note that charter revision is a council initiative.
"Either way, I cannot win," he said after the council vote.
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