Thank you to everyone who’s taken action to get environmental justice in the City Charter! This month, we made huge progress in this campaign. The Portland Charter Commissioner unanimously agreed to move forward with key reforms to the city’s elections and governance structure. These kinds of changes might sound dry, but they can spur systemic transformation in our city’s democratic process, amplifying voters’ voices and our collective power.
Read on to learn about the Charter Review process, what these reforms would mean for our city, and how you can take action this spring.
What is the Portland 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.
The Charter Review process is a unique opportunity for us to tackle systemic problems, face accelerating issues like houselessness and the Climate Crisis, and fight for the rights we all deserve.
From our friends at the Coalition of Communities of Color: learn more about the Charter Review process.
What reforms have the Charter Commissioners agreed on?
The Charter Commission has reached a milestone agreement to advance these reforms:
- Ranked-choice voting for City Council positions
- Expanding City Council by adding 4 new geographic districts, each with 3 new representatives
- A new governance structure where City Council is focused on setting policies and the Mayor is focused on implementing them
Ranked-choice voting (RCV) allows you to vote for candidates according to your order of preference. RCV gives voters a stronger voice in elections, leading to outcomes more representative of the voter base. Coupled with the reform to create new geographic districts and City Council positions, adopting RCV can create more power for minority voices. Expanding City Council can also increase accountability between Council members and their constituents. And finally, these reforms would create a whole new governance structure designed to make our elected officials more responsive to community needs. In this new structure, the City will hire an Administrator to manage the City’s bureaus, giving Councilmembers more time to legislate.
Overall, these changes would open up more avenues for us to build our collective power and incentivize more accountability from our elected officials.
What’s next? What can I do?
There’s more work to be done! Our City-County Watchdog Team will continue speaking up at Charter Commission meetings. We will continue calling on Commissioners to support these reforms and incorporate environmental justice in Phase II of the Charter Review.
Before these reforms become reality…
- In April, 2022, you can submit written comments calling on Commissioners to incorporate environmental justice in these reforms (check out our latest testimony here)
- In May, 2022, you will have a chance to weigh in on these reforms during public hearings
- In June-August, 2022, the Commission will take a final vote on the reforms
- In Nov, 2022, if approved, the reforms will be on the ballot for us to vote on
These steps are all part of Phase I of the Charter Review process, and will help shape Phase II. That’s why your voice and feedback matters so much over the next few months! More to come on Phase II and how you can keep advocating for environmental justice in our City Charter.
Everyone has the right to live, work, and play in environments that are safe and healthy. So, stay tuned for public hearings in April and May, when we’ll call on you to give public testimony on these reforms and win a new government for Portland!
The 350PDX City-County Watchdog Team
P.S. Want to learn more about the City Charter Review and the City/County Watchdog Team? Contact Brooke (email@example.com) or Indi (firstname.lastname@example.org) for meeting details or for more info about the team.