What is the Portland City Charter Review?
Every decade, Portland undergoes a review process to update the City Charter, which outlines the major systems around elections and governance. Portland’s historic issues of systemic racism, wealth inequity, and environmental injustice are baked into how our government functions, lack of accountability between elected officials and constituents, and the silencing of community voices – particularly the voices of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, women, students, working people, people with disabilities, older adults and others. To tackle these issues, the City first needs to address their root systemic causes. The City needs to listen to community voices, create better systems of accountability, and promote a healthy democracy so we can move forward towards a more just, livable future.
Why reform the Charter?
THE PROBLEMS with our CURRENT SYSTEM:
- We simply don’t have enough City Counselors to represent everyone fairly (we only have five representing nearly 650,000 people in the city).
- Our City Counselors have been overwhelmingly white and male, with white men taking three-quarters of the counsel seats since 1995, and less than 10 percent going to people of color.
- We have an outdated “pick one” voting system for City Counselors, which is shown to decrease voter turnout and lead to unfair election outcomes that aren’t representative of the voter base — particularly silencing marginalized voices in the community.
- Our “Commission” form of government isn’t working. Right now, Commissioners run City Bureaus. But Commissioners aren’t elected for their expertise in running specific bureaus, so they often have little to no experience in running bureaus effectively. This makes it very difficult to move city priorities forward.
We deserve better. With some key changes, we can make huge strides in Portland’s governing system becoming a more fair, efficient, representative democracy that prioritizes climate justice.