By David Krogh
The City Club held a public meeting Wednesday, April 10, in the community room at McMennamin’s Kennedy School to initiate public discussion on its recent study, New Government for Today’s Portland: Rethinking 100 Years of the Commission System.
Members voted overwhelmingly to adopt the study and its goals of changing this form of government which originated in 1913.
Commissioners are currently elected at-large and assigned city bureaus to manage by the mayor, regardless of their knowledge or abilities to run multi-million dollar city operations.
This system has often resulted in tremendous waste of tax monies, management problems, and claims of lack of public representation. No other city in the country has a city governing system like this anymore except Portland.
The City Club wants to do exploratory public meetings solicit comments on how to change the current system. To better encourage small group discussions, the meeting was limited in size.
There was an overview of the study and then small groups addressed issues such as: How many total city commissioners should there be? Where should representation districts be located?; What kind of form of governance would work best?
One attendee encouraged a much larger commission size, not only to better represent the many different parts of the city and diversity of residents, but to provide for greater diversity in ideas.
Another attendee suggested that a Council/City Manager form of government might work best as it is the most common form of city government in Oregon (and in the country).
This form allows the Council to hire an experienced city manager to run the day to day business while the Council focuses on city policy and budget issues. In such a case, the Mayor acts more like a chairperson for Council meetings rather than as a chief executive.
The City Club hopes to either influence the City Council to initiate such a change as part of its 2020 charter review process, or, to encourage groups to begin a petition process to put the matter on the ballot for city voters to decide.
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