Botteri: Magical thinking in Beaverton charter change election
The Beaverton voters' pamphlet for the May 19 election presents a measure that will repeal the city's charter and install a new one, effective Jan. 1, 2021.
The replacement charter will eliminate Beaverton's strong mayor government, moving all executive power the mayor uses to govern to seven members of a new city council. They would hire an unelected city manager to operate the government under their control. The mayor would become a weak figurehead with one vote in the council.
Voters know who runs the city government now — the full-time mayor. Afterwards, their ability to hold the mayor responsible for the government will be lost. They will bear a heavy burden, needing to watch how seven mostly part-time councilors, possibly fighting among themselves, conduct the city's affairs through their manager, who must stand by and await their instructions.
The voters' pamphlet does not display the text of the new charter. A voter must log onto the city's website to find it. Reading the document reveals the loss of several voting powers.
Most disturbing is the scheme for putting current city councilors and those elected in the May primary into new offices with different powers and responsibilities without a new election.
In May, voters will choose councilors and a mayor to occupy offices existing under the current charter. They will decide who is qualified to hold the current positions. But if the new charter is adopted at the same time, those offices will be repealed Jan. 1, 2021.
Those holding offices under the repealed charter will automatically occupy the new offices. The existing councilors will become the city's joint executives with the mayor. But the voters will not decide if they are qualified to hold the new offices. As if by magic, the current councilors get better jobs, and the mayor a worse one. The only vote will be in November for a new sixth council member. Why shouldn't all these others run for election in November as well?
Another assault on Beaverton's voters is a new provision allowing a simple majority of the council to remove councilors and the mayor for "unethical conduct." The Oregon constitution's method for removing an elected officer is a recall election. The voters decide whether the officeholder should be removed. This provision allows the councilors to jump in front of the people and remove an officer before any citizens' vote could be taken.
Also, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission enforces detailed rules of conduct for public officials. The new charter will try to set this process aside.
This proposal comes on the voters with little public discussion and without discernable public support. Current city councilors insisted on rushing this change to the May ballot despite objections of those following the issue. The principal argument offered in support of this change is that running Beaverton government is "too large for one person." So, running this government through an unelected person who is subject to management by seven councilors is better?
City businesses and city employees both oppose this measure. See their voters' pamphlet statements. This is remarkable unity.
Voters should also consult The Times' editorial of March 26, 2020, opposing the measure.
I oppose it because I want to keep my voting rights.
Richard Botteri is a Beaverton resident.
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