Audit: Better oversight needed on tax measures
When it comes to pot, arts, affordable housing and street repair, the Portland City Council made a lot of promises. But accountability for making sure those promises were kept often fell short.
That's the gist of a new report released Tuesday by City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero. The report looked at 4 recent audits of spending approved by voters over the past few years:
• Arts Tax: Promises to voters only partly fulfilled
• Recreational Cannabis Tax: Greater transparency and accountability needed
• Fixing Our Streets: Some accountability commitments not fulfilled
• Portland Housing Bond: Early implementation results mostly encouraging
Essentially, the auditor's report states, ballot proposals in those four areas didn't clearly think through the ability to deliver on the commitments proposed and the language put in front of voters wasn't always clear.
Part of that problem is because of Portland's form of government. Promises "can fall through the cracks" when leaders in the city bureaus change and there is "no central monitoring function" once voters OK a tax or bond.
The commission form of government, often referred to as the Galveston Plan, was first introduced in 1901 in Galveston, Texas. In this system, voters elect commissioners citywide rather than by district. Portland voters approved it in 1913 and still operates with six elected leaders for the City Council — the mayor and five commissioners.
Portland is the only major US city with this type of government. Even Galveston abandoned the commission in 1960. Seattle overwhelmingly voted to move away from it in 2013.
Caballero's office had some recommendations:
• The City Council should direct the various bureaus to accurately assess the "administrative burdens" in any accountability measures
• Make realistic comments
• Specify which body will be ultimately responsible for implementing the accountability commitments.
In a letter included with the Auditor's report, the Portland City Council said the "three recommendations are thoughtful and well-reasoned."
You can read the audit here.
KOIN News 6 is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. You can find their story with video here.
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