My View: Time for Portland to level up and be governed equitably
I am born and raised in Portland and have seen our small town grow into the 28th largest city in the U.S. I grew up smiling at everyone I crossed paths with on the street, never honking (like never ever), picking up trash to fight the "litterbugs" and being really proud to call Portland home. That pride remains but the varnish has worn thin and I want us all to take part in bringing Portland into a more inclusive, representative, accessible city that serves us all.
I think for the first time in my life every person I meet is frustrated by the state of the city and one reason for that is that we are trying to manage a large city with an outdated structure that was never meant to be in service to a big city. The management structure we have today, a mayor and five commissioners, was created over 100 years ago in 1913. This structure was created to make decisions for Portland which at that time had a small population with small town problems. Since then, we have tripled our population to become a big city with big city problems but our small-town structure remains. It is time to level up.
While other large cities with the same government structure expanded the number of council members as their populations grew, Portland has not. While other cities changed their structure of government to include experts in positions of authority, Portland has not. I think everyone can agree that our system is broken and needs repair.
The good news is that we can bring Portland into the 21st century on November 9. The Charter Commission 2022 will refer their recommendations to a vote this year and we have the opportunity to see Portland managed professionally as befits one of this country's largest cities.
Our five City Council members are stretched thin and are required to act as if they are policy experts as they manage several bureaus with hundreds of staff. They are required to set policy, budgets, make laws, offer strategic planning and meet with the community to be guided in their work. The same five commissioners who were guided by 150,000 Portland residents in 1913 now need to work with 653,000 residents and perform far more complicated roles. Most importantly, these roles have predominantly been performed by white men from Southwest and Northwest Portland with little to no representation for residents in Southeast, Northeast or North Portland. Our City Council members have no ties to any geographic area in the city and are not accountable to advocate for the unique challenges faced by the many distinct areas of Portland. So let's embrace some informed changes that the Charter Commission 2022 is now considering:
• Expand the number of City Council members so we all have access to our politicians.
• Ensure our elected politicians come from where we live to advocate and address the problems that are in our backyards.
• Hire a professional city manager who is not tied to political election cycles to guide our bureaus strategically to address the problems of our city as a whole.
• Enable voters to vote in one election rather than two elections to shorten the stump cycle, scale back outreach costs to the quadrant they are running in, attract a more diverse pool of candidates and receive a larger mandate from the voters who turn out in greater numbers in November than they do in May.
• Most importantly, show up for the election and vote for change on November 9th.
Go to pdx4all.com to learn more about how November 9th voters can move Portland into a brighter and more inclusive future.
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