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This special issue of the Civic Life Update is devoted to the City Charter. The Charter Commission is currently reviewing the charter to make changes to it. And we need input from Portland's diverse communities to make it work! We hope this issue gives you some insight into this process and inspires you to lend your expertise, lived experience, and opinion to help shape our future.
A comic panel showing a person putting a flyer on a bulletin board. A second person is asking a question about it. Person 1: "What's that? Is there a concert or something?" Person 2: It's a town hall meeting for the charter commission. You know, to update the City Charter?" The next panel shows the second person looking confused.
Image from “Charter Review” written by Beka Feathers, illustrated by Aki Ruiz.
Charter Commission's Proposed Changes
This November, Portland voters will likely decide on foundational issues for the City of Portland and its residents: the City’s form of government and elections system.
 
The Portland Charter Commission reached a key milestone on Thursday, March 31, preliminarily agreeing on a package of reforms to advance to voters. All 20 Charter Commission members supported the package, which would recommend three major changes: 
  • Allowing voters to rank candidates in order of their preference using ranked choice voting. 
  • Four new geographic districts with three members elected to represent each district, expanding the City Council to a total of 12 members. 
  • A City Council that focuses on setting policy and a mayor elected citywide to run the City’s day-to-day operations, with the help of a professional City Administrator.  
The City Attorney’s Office will now draft the charter amendments. The Charter Commission hopes to release the drafts in early May and community members will have the chance to give comment on the proposed amendments during a series of public hearings in May. The Commission will take its final vote in mid-June. At that point, at least 15 commissioners must say yes to send the proposal directly to Portland voters for the general election on Nov. 8, 2022.  

Read the latest announcement to learn more!
A person holds up a clipboard with paper. Another person holds up an oversized purple gavel. An icon of the scales of justice is in the background.
What is the City Charter?

A charter is a guiding document that establishes the government system and structure of a city. It functions as our City’s constitution and defines how our City is run. 

Among many things, Portland’s Charter allows Portland to decide how our City government is set up, how we vote for City leaders, the roles of our elected leaders and what they are responsible for doing. It sets the rules for elections, campaign finance, the way taxes are collected, and many more things. 

The City’s Charter can only be amended by a vote of the people. 

Check out Civic Life's free zine,
This is Your Portland, to learn more about your city and how to get involved. Find the zine in multiple languages at: www.portland.gov/civic/your-portland-zine

What is the Charter Commission?
At least once every 10 years, the City Council must appoint 20 Portlanders to the Charter Commission to review the Charter and recommend changes to the Charter. As it had been 10 years since the previous charter review, City Council appointed the current Charter Commission in December 2020. The Charter Commission is an independent body that sets its own scope of work. Charter Commission members are appointed to two-year terms.
Portraits of the 20 Charter Commission members. Text in the top left reads, "Portland Charter Commission." The City seal is in the bottom right corner.
The 20 members of the Charter Commission are working together with Portlanders and the City to shape Portland's future.
If it isn’t Working, how can we Change it?
If 15 or more of the 20 Charter Commissioners agree to a recommendation, that recommendation goes directly to the ballot for Portlanders to vote on. If a majority (but fewer than 15) agree to a recommendation, those recommendations go to City Council. City Council can decide to refer them to the ballot as they are, modify and recommend them, or not recommend them.
The possible paths that the Charter Commission policy recommendations can take to the ballot. Text reads, " The Commission has broad latitude to recommend amendments to the City Charter. If a supermajority of 15 or more agree, the recommendations go to voters. If there's no supermajority, the City Council can accept, reject, or modify any recommendations."
The process for the Charter Commission to send policy amendments to the ballot for Portlanders to vote on. Image source: City Club of Portland
An illustration of a diverse group of people holding signs and chanting.
How can I get Involved in the Process?
Community members will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed package of reforms during a series of public hearings in May, dates are currently being scheduled! The Charter Commission will take its final vote in mid-June to send recommendations directly to the ballot for the Nov. 8, 2022, general election. Whatever recommendations end up on the ballot, the charter can only be changed when Portlanders vote! 

There are many ways community members can get involved and give feedback:
Hear From Commissioners and Partners
Anthony Castaneda, Charter Commission Co-Chair
Melanie Billings-Yun, Charter Commissioner
Sol Mora, Civic Engagement Manager, Coalition of Communities of Color 
Questions?

If you have any questions related to charter review, please contact Sofia Alvarez-Castro at sofia.alvarez-castro@portlandoregon.gov 

Join an Advisory Body!

Joining an advisory body is a way for Portlanders to lend their expertise and personal or professional experience to the City of Portland. As an advisory body member, you will work closely with community members and City of Portland liaisons to impact policies and programs.

Central Eastside Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee - Closes Sunday, April 10
The committee supports and promotes the economic vitality, employment and safety of the Central Eastside Industrial District (CEID) through cooperative, business-supported programs promoting efficient, balanced transportation and parking systems and land use patterns. The primary goal of the committee is to assist, foster, and expand employment and business growth in the CEID. Learn more about member responsibilities and apply here!

Portland Children's Levy Community Council - Closes Sunday, April 10
The Portland Children’s Levy invests in community-based programs designed to support children’s academic success and well-being, and to eliminate inequities in outcomes based on race, ethnicity, income, and ability. The council is being created to advise PCL staff and the PCL Allocation Committee on Levy policy and procedures including community engagement and future competitive grantmaking rounds. Learn more about member responsibilities and apply here!

Portland Utility Board - Closes Monday, April 18
The Portland Utility Board advises the Portland Water Bureau, Bureau of Environmental Services, and City Council on policy and budget issues related to water, sewer, and utilities. Learn more about member responsibilities and apply here!

Portland Historic Landmarks Commission - Closes Sunday, May 1
The Historic Landmarks Commission provides leadership and expertise on maintaining and enhancing Portland's historic and architectural heritage. The Commission identifies and protects buildings and other properties with historic or cultural significance or special architectural merit. It provides advice on historic preservation matters and coordinates historic preservation programs in the City.
 Learn more about member responsibilities and apply here!

Portland Parks Board - Closes Sunday, May 1
The Portland Parks Board advocates for parks to ensure that local and regional parks, natural areas, open spaces, and recreation facilities are advanced in planning and design. The Board provides a forum for public discussion and decision-making about park issues, bringing long-term, citywide perspectives to local issues. Learn more about member responsibilities and apply here!

Cannabis Policy Oversight Team (CPOT) - Closes Sunday, May 22

CPOT provides the Office of Community & Civic Life with diverse stakeholder perspectives on cannabis-related public policies. CPOT’s objective is to discuss and develop policies that support equitable access and outcomes for the cannabis industry, cannabis consumers, and all City of Portland residents. Learn more about member responsibilities and apply here!
Office of Community & Civic Life
1221 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 110
Portland, Oregon 97204
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