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City officials seem to disagree on whether changes require more than one ballot measure.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Portland City HallIs the proposed measure to reform Portland's form of government legal? Two city opinions issued over the past two years seem to disagree.

A measure to change Portland's form of government has been referred to the Nov. 8 general election ballot. It would increase the size of the council from four to 12, elect members in four new geographic districts by choice-ranked voting, and give the mayor authority over all city bureaus with the help of a professional manager.

The City Council will hold a hearing on the measure proposed by the Portland Charter Commissioner at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 29.

In the earlier determination, the auditor's office rejected a proposed initiative petition with many of the same features because it violated the Oregon Constitution's prohibition against multiple subjects.

"2020-PDX01 does but comply with the single-subject analytical framework because it seeks to amend multiple provisions of the City Charter, and not all of the amendment are connected by a single unifying purpose. For example, the operations of City Council is not logically connected to changing the voting system for all elected City officials," read the Portland City Auditor's determination of Dec. 16, 2020.

But a report from the commission seems to say that is not a problem.

"The City Attorney's Office informed the Charter Commission that, under current law, a single ballot measure is legally permissible and defensible as the reforms clearly fall under a unifying principle and are clearly and properly connected; therefore, it is up to the Commission to decide how to present its proposal to Portland voters," the commission wrote in a report that included a new opinion to be presented to the council on Wednesday.

The March 2 opinion argues that the constitutional requirement only applies to initiative petitions, not measures referred to the ballot by the City Council or Charter Commission. It admits the council has always adhered to the single-subject requirement to avoid legal challenges, however.

Anyone opposed to having all the changes in a single measure can challenge the ballot title as unconstitutional in Multnomah County Circuit Court after it is written.

A previous Portland Tribune story with additional links can be found here.

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