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The recommendation is the first from the 2021-22 Multnomah County Charter Review Committee.

The Multnomah County Charter Review Committee recently recommended its first change to the county's charter: to make charter language gender-neutral.

The charter essentially functions as a constitution for the county government. Every six years, a committee convenes to study the charter and submit potential changes to voters. The 2021-22 committee has held 10 meetings since its first meeting last September.

The committee voted unanimously Tuesday, April 20, to recommend its first change, which would replace gender-specific terms in the charter with gender-neutral terms. For example, terms such as "chairman" would be changed to terms like "chair."

Gender-neutral language rejects terms that contain bias toward one gender, recognizing that people of any gender can and do hold positions today they may not have been able to occupy historically, proponents say.

Gender-neutral language is already used in the county's code.

The Office of the Multnomah County Attorney will now draft new charter language that reflects gender-neutral terms, said Katherine Thomas, deputy county attorney. Then the committee will review the changes. After the committee's review, the county attorney's office will draft a ballot title and explanatory statement for the amendments. Voters would have final authority to approve the changes.

The committee has until early August to submit a final report containing all of its recommended changes to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. The board can then vote on a resolution to have proposed amendments included on voters' ballots during the November election.

The committee's 16 members participate in subcommittees that receive public suggestions of possible charter changes, conduct research and make decisions about what changes to recommend.

The subcommittees include "community engagement," "government accountability," "safety and justice," and "equitable representation."

Subcommittee members are currently reviewing several potential charter changes, including those that would increase the independence of the county auditor, extend the ability to vote on county offices and measures to non-citizens and provide for an elected public defender, among others.

{obj:62303:Changes to Portland's city charter} are also currently being considered.

To learn more about the committee, attend meetings and provide comments, visit www.multco.us/crc.


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