By David Krogh
Portland City Council formally appointed 20 community members to the 2021 Charter Commission on December 3. The Commission will meet throughout a two-year period to identify issues with the current City Charter and suggest remedies and/or modifications.
The Commission members are now: Amira Streeter, Andrew Speer, Angie Morrill, Anthony Castaneda, Becca Uherbelau, Bryan William Lewis, Candace Avalos, Dave Galat, Debbie Kitchin, Debra Porta, Hanna Osman, Karol Collymore, Melanie Billings-Yun, Raahi Reddy, Robin Ye, Salome Chimuku, Scott Fogarty, Steven Phan, Vadim Mozyrsky and Yasmin Ibarra.
Bios and statements for each member are online at the Charter Commission website, portland.gov/omf/charter-review-commission/about/charter-commissioners.
Section 13-031 of the City Charter identifies characteristics to consider in the appointment of Charter Commission members. “The Charter Commission shall be reflective of the City in terms of its racial and ethnic diversity, age and geography.”
According to the biographies of the new members, at least 19 of the 20 members are college educated and approximately 14 of the 20 identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and/or People of Color). Six are Black, six are White, one is Hispanic, three are of Asiatic descent and four are mixed or other backgrounds.
In addition, eight are male and 12 are female. No information was available as to age or geographic diversity, however two members have identified as LGBTQ.
The Southeast Examiner reached out to Julie Meier, Charter Commission Project Manager, and to City Council members for clarification of several questions.
Responses on behalf of the City were received from Ms. Meier.
EXAM: When will the new Charter Commission first meet? Will this be a more or less training session or is it anticipated that charter issues will be raised at that time?
Julie Meier: “The City has a request for proposals out for a facilitator for the Charter Commission. We hope to have the facilitator chosen by the end of January and anticipate holding a virtual onboarding retreat for the Commission in February 2021. The retreat will be a training and orientation session.”
EX: Will the Charter Commission monthly and will the meetings be virtual and accessible to the public?
JM: The Charter Commission will determine its own meeting schedule likely depending on workload and issues to be discussed.
“Meetings will be virtual through Zoom (for the time being) and will be open to the public.”
EX: Was there any City Council discussion about the makeup of the Charter Commission in response to Section 13-031 of the Charter? How is this representative of the general population (or does it need to be)?
JM: “While we know that 20 Portlanders can never fully reflect Portland’s population, City Council wanted the appointees to demonstrate the vibrancy of our City.
“City Councilors considered Portland’s existing and changing demographics when selecting Charter Commission appointments.
“City Council further acknowledged that some voices have historically been left out of City Hall. They were committed to ensuring that historically underrepresented populations would be heard in the charter review process so Portland can live up to its core values of anti-racism, equity, transparency, communication, collaboration and fiscal responsibility.
“City Council committed to appointing a Charter Commission with the insight and connections required to engage our entire community in discussing how the City does its business.”
EX: Overall the membership appears knowledgeable and somewhat balanced. However, will workers in lower wage groups, such as service workers, be adequately represented by this group?
JM: “City Council did consider diversity in education and employment. Charter Commissioners reflect a broad range of employers including large business, small business, public sector, not-for-profits and labor.
Commissioners also reflect a broad range of where they are on their career paths, from a full-time student to folks near the end of their careers.”
EX: The Commission is also supposed to be geographically representative. Could you please verify how many members are from the east side of the river and how many from SE Portland?
JM: “The Charter Commission is geographically diverse with Commissioners who reside in SE, NE, North, the Westside and East Portland. About 75 percent of the Commissioners live on the east side and 25 percent live in SE Portland.
“While Charter Commissioners will be headlining this volunteer effort, the public is encouraged to participate and provide meaningful feedback at every stage of the process – and we hope to hear from as broad a spectrum of Portlanders as possible.”
The public can provide feedback or sign up for updates at portland.gov/omf/charter-review-commission.