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Voters could decide whether to change the city's form of government at the Nov. 8 general election.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Voters in November will get chance to change the style and shape of government for the city of Portland.The Portland Charter Commission has released its draft amendments for changing the city's form of government. The public has several chances to comment on them during May before they are finalized and referred to the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

The three major changes proposed by the 20-member appointed commission would:

• Expand the City Council from five to 12 members

• Elect the 12 councilors from four geographic districts with ranked choice voting where the top three finishers would win in a single election

• Elect a citywide mayor who is not a voting member of the council to run the city on a day-to-day basis with the help of a professional manager

If approved by the voters, the geographic districts would be drawn in 2023 and the larger council and non-voting mayor would be elected at the November 2025 election. The two councilors to be elected this November would have their terms shorted to just two years but could run in their districts for new full terms. The winners would all take office on Jan. 1, 2025.

"We are eager to hear from the public about these draft amendments, and it is important that Portlanders know this is ultimately up to them. We have assembled these recommendations, doing our best to capture what the public wants. We will keep refining our work, and then voters will get to decide whether to change the way our city functions," Commission Co-chair Melanie Billings-Yun said in the Tuesday, May 3 announcement.

One-time transition costs are estimated as an additional $4.6 million to $7.9 million a year for three years. Ongoing additional costs of the proposed changes are estimated at between $2.7 million to $10.2 million a year.

Comments will be sought in a series of hybrid (online and in-person) and in-person opportunities. Members of the public are also encouraged to submit written feedback by email, mail or by phone.

The hearing schedule is: Tuesday, May 10, 6-9 p.m. (hybrid); Thursday, May 12, 6-9 p.m. (hybrid); Tuesday, May 17, 6-9 p.m. (hybrid); Sunday, May 22, noon-3 p.m. p.m. (in-person). In-person testimony will be taken at the Portland Building.

The deadline for comments is 5 p.m. on Monday, May 30. Finalized charter amendments will be voted on by the commission on June 14. The decision has not yet been made whether the amendments will be submitted to voters as a single measure or multiple measures.

Portland is currently the only major city in America where all members of the council are elected citywide and oversee bureaus assigned to them by the mayor. Critics say this creates siloed bureaus that do not work together to solve problems.

"No other city in the country is asking people who are supposed to be focused on policy, and big vision, to also be managing the day-to-day operations. Portland hasn't increased its size of council in over 100 years, and our city has changed dramatically in 100 years. It's time we invest in our democracy — we should give Portlanders a government that better represents their viewpoints and lived experiences," said Charter Commissioner Robin Ye.

More information, the draft amendments and more details about comment opportunities can be found on the commission's website at portland.gov/omf/charter-review-commission.


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