Mapps will work on his own charter reform proposal

Source: Friends of Mingus Mapps

Mingus Mapps drew the charter reform battle lines more clearly yesterday when the city commissioner announced he would craft an alternative to the proposal put forward last month by the city appointed Charter Review Commission. In an email to supporters Tuesday, Mapps laid out a path to challenging the commission’s plan.

It is a deft political move by Mapps on an issue that is a snoozer for those who do not follow local politics closely.

The city charter is our “constitution,” it is the document that describes how Portland’s government is organized and how we elect the city council. As such, it touches every issue facing the city today, from policing to housing affordability to transportation. It affects how the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is run and how it sets its priorities. If you have a gripe — and as a comment moderator I know a lot of BikePortland readers do — the charter reform debate should be important to you.

Mapps made charter reform a a central issue in his 2020 city council campaign, and the former political science professor has been outspoken about the need for charter reform, “Portlanders deserve a modern city council.”

As BikePortland recently reported, some of the changes which the Charter Review Commission has put forward for the November ballot are broadly supported — including by Mapps: elections by district, a larger city council, and the replacement of Portland’s current Commissioner form of government with a City Manager system.

But their proposed system of voting, ranked choice voting with multi-member districts, is controversial. This would divide the city into four districts with voters in each district selecting three council representatives using a ranked-choice method. The system allows voters to rank their preference for multiple candidates, and its supporters point to research that shows that it approximates proportionality by better securing representation for non-majority viewpoints.

Heat map showing People of Color (POC) voting age population (VAP) for citizens and non-citizens from the MGGG Redistricting Lab’s analysis of Portland City Council voting.

This is one of the elements of the current proposal with which Mapps does not agree, calling it “an untested experiment not used by any other city in the United States.”

Mapps proposes to put forward a draft alternative proposal in October, a month before the election, and commits to “leading a City Council effort to submit this as a referendum in early Spring 2023” if the voters were to reject the Charter Commission proposal in November. Prior to that, Mapps will be polling the electorate, organizing focus groups and hosting forums and debates on alternatives to the current proposal through the Ulyssess PAC, a political action committee he formed last year to support charter reform.

Source: Charter Review Commission materials.
Charter Commissioner Candace Avalos

His “draft alternative proposal” will give voters who might be skittish about the ranked-voting, multi-member district aspect of reform the possibility of still enacting the reform’s more broadly popular elements. The job of the Charter Commission becomes making voters comfortable with a more complicated algorithm for tabulating votes, and will involve outreach and education.

In a recent interview published by Rose City Reform, Charter Review Commissioner Candace Avalos talked about the reasoning behind the commission’s proposals, saying

We thought it was important to present a vision to voters. This is a big bold change, and we want voters to buy into this with us. For it to work as we intended, you’ve got to accept the whole vision. You can’t piecemeal it.

Mapps’s task is simpler, he just needs to stoke fear and uncertainty and position his draft as a more moderate alternative.

Things are heating up, and it’s not just the weather. Stayed tuned as BikePortland follows this issue.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

67 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jonathan K
Jonathan K
2 months ago

I really don’t understand all the hand wringing about election methods.

Single transferable vote w/ multi member districts is used in Scotland, Ireland, Australia, at both local and national levels. There’s no reason it wouldn’t work here. It’s not that complicated. Nor will it drastically change the ideological composition of a 12 person council compared with a more traditional method.

It is marginally better though.
1. It dilutes the power of special interests. In a “normal” race, ad buys and programming can often shift results by a few percentage points with a decent level of confidence. That’s just not possible in multi member districts. It’s extremely hard to predict who will come out on top, and investments become much more of a gamble. That’s objectively a good thing.
2. Multi member districts allow many constituencies to be represented. It’s THE reason European countries have many political parties while we have two. It makes for a stronger, more resilient democracy.
3. Large districts mean councilors are insulated from NIMBY lobbying. Ideally, the district drawing criteria should specify that all districts should have similar socioeconomic profiles. But even worst case, four large districts is far better than twelve small districts.

I think Mapps and the PBA would prefer a simple system of twelve small districts where they can easily identify the moderate candidate and funnel money to ensure that candidate’s election. Such districts would also be more amenable to NIMBY lobbying.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on the method used to select the city council. It can always be tweaked later if necessary. The change to government structure is what matters, and the changes proposed here are all good. Vote yes.

soren
soren
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan K

Nor will it drastically change the ideological composition of a 12 person council compared with a more traditional method.

No it won’t. Portland’s government will continue to be captured by investors, owners, and the all important USAnian corporate “person”.

I do suspect that multimember districts will make Portland even more localist and NIMBY. After all, who else but busy-body well off white people has the time and money to mount a campaign for a far less meaningful council position.

Disclosure: I will not vote in this election or likely in any future election in the USA. I refuse to participate in this fundamentally immoral system.

Frank Perillo
Frank Perillo
2 months ago
Reply to  soren

Where is the better system Soren? Maybe we could learn from them.

soren
soren
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Perillo

There are only two political organizations that are allowed general access to the ballot and both have always been completely dominated by oligarchs since the founding of the USA. Just about any multi-party pluralistic democracy is an improvement on the USAnian anocracy.

Lisa Lee
Lisa Lee
5 days ago
Reply to  Frank Perillo

Soren has never lived in a truly dysfunctional nation. Maybe a few years down in Guatemala would instill a deeper appreciation in the gentleman?

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan K
  1. I think it’s fair to be concerned about a confusing election method (single transferable vote in multi-member districts) that is not used in the United States; Cambridge Mass is the only jurisdiction out of 19,500 in the country to use STV, and that is for an at-large election. I have attached a Cambridge sample ballot for 19 canndidates. Now imagine if you will a ballot for a Portland multi-member district where 30 people are running; that is plausible here, as we just had 20+ run for 2 seats. That would mean a ballot with 900 bubbles! Plus more bubbles for write-ins.
  2. I disagree about STV diluting special interest power. The facts indicate STV in multi-member districts will promote special interest slates of candidates, and that’s why it is used in some foreign elections that are partisan. One commission member said that if she could have done so in her 2020 race, she would have banded together with other candidates. Call it a coalition, a slate, or a band. The fact is that an ordinary citizen would not stand a chance in the proposed election.
  3. The proposed system- with no primary and a huge list of candidates- will favor incumbents in addition to the slate candidates. Moreover, with only a 25%+1 needed to win, it will be difficult to ever get rid of an incumbent. That’s why Seattle just put a proposal for a public vote to use instant runoff ranked choice to narrow candidates for a seat to 2, and then have the 2 face off in a general election. And that;s why Alaska- for state and federal offices- is using a hybrid where all candidates regardless of party run on the same primary ballot, with the top 4 then going into an instant runoff ranked choice general election.

I agree with you that the change to government structure is what matters, and that is why there should have been separate votes on that and a radical change in voting methods.

Cambridge sample ballot.png
Will
Will
2 months ago

Mapps should know that this system was tried in many cities in the US during the progressive era. It was successful in increasing minority representation, electing socialists, decreasing political party machine power, and decreasing patronage. Hence, it was widely attacked by the national parties, groups that benefitted from patronage, and racists, and all but Cambridge, MA eventually converted to other systems.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
2 months ago

We really need a commission form of government but I think the charter review commission blew it with their all or nothing approach. These should really be 3 separate ballot initiatives. I’d personally only vote for the commission form of government and not the extra council members or ranked choice voting. As it currently stands id have to vote no unfortunately

pigs
pigs
2 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

You might have less accountability with a multimember district, but they are significantly better at achieving proportional representation, not as prone to gerrymandering, and produces more diverse candidates.

Marjorie J. Simpson
Marjorie J. Simpson
2 months ago
Reply to  pigs

Not true. States and the federal government have been moving away from multimember districts because they have been proven to be discriminatory and silence the voices of both minorities and minority viewpoints. For instance, look up the 1967 Uniform Congressional District Act, passed during the time of the Civil Rights Act to mandate single member districts for House elections because multimember districts were discriminatory. Google the story about how Baltimore switched to single member districts in 2002 because of the lack of accountability and all the problems they were having there with multimember districts.

The combination of multimember districts with proportional rank choice voting has not been tried anywhere in the United States, so Mapps is right about it being an experiment. There are a couple cities that have tried at-large proportional rank choice voting (not proportional, not single-winner rank choice voting as in NYC). Easpointe, MI tried it in 2019 because it’s substantial Black population (45% of the electorate) was not being elected to city council. They had two positions open, and two Black and two White candidates ran for office. Guess what, the two White candidates won.

There’s a lot of peddling (pun intended) out there about how multimember districts will solve all election woes, but there’s no evidence you can point to, and history just doesn’t bear that out. Of course, Candace Avalos, who covets a future position on city council as a result of these charter changes wants you to think otherwise.

jk
jk
2 months ago

NYC’s school boards have run on this system for about 60 years. Minneapolis switched to RCV last year, but does not have multimember wards.

Jonathan K
Jonathan K
2 months ago

Marjorie — the details make all the difference. In many of the historic US multi member districts, voters got a separate vote for each seat. So, for example, a state with five at-large representatives would have five head to head statewide elections. In this type of election, a 60% majority can easily claim all the seats.

Not sure if that was the case in Baltimore or not. But it makes a huge difference.

In multi member districts where each voter just gets a single vote, minority candidates will win seats. Reallocating votes above the threshold required for victory makes sense since it reduces opportunities for gaming the system. But multi member districts with a single vote are a good thing even if votes aren’t transferred.

Will
Will
2 months ago

Marjorie, you also have to consider that winners in multi-member congressional districts were still being chosen by first-past-the-post voting methods. Like Block Voting in Baltimore, this did lead to serious racial disparities. But the goodness or badness of a multi-member district is directly related to what the voting system is within that district. Look up the Fair Voting Act in Congress. It’s sponsored by, among others, Earl Blumenauer and Ro Khana and proposes to move congressional districts and voting to exactly the form that we would adopt in Portland (multi-member, Single Transferable Vote).

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
2 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

Meant to say we really need to reform the current commission form of government. But yeah these should be 3 separate ballot initiatives

Fred
Fred
2 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

Whew! Thanks for the clarification, Jay – I was about to blow a gasket when I read your comment “We need the commission form of gov’t.”

The current commission form of gov’t is precisely what we DON’T need. It has gotten us into our current mess. As so many commenters have said here over the years, one big reason we can’t seem to have even basic cycling improvements is … our dysfunctional city gov’t.

RipCityBassWorks
RipCityBassWorks
2 months ago

Mapps is a grifter: he literally ran on charter reform, failed to participate in the very public process, and then threw a tantrum when the result didn’t benefit business interests enough for his liking. Now Mapps is trying to undermine the whole thing just so that we are stuck with the terrible commission system for an indeterminate amount of time to the joy of the PBA. I for one will be voting yes in November.

Peter S.
Peter S.
2 months ago

Yes, but it’s not like he has to actually follow through on said proposal should he successfully torpedo the current commission’s plan, nor that that proposal would be successful.

And given that this man’s whole schtick is to never work against the political interests of the Tim Boyle’s and Jordan Schnitzer’s of the world, there isn’t any particular reason to be confident in his commitment to “reform”.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago

Actually, no one is “stuck” with the commission system if the council puts an alternative on the ballot next year. There is no need to ait for another charter commission.

Fred
Fred
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

This is the part of Mapps’s proposal that I don’t understand: why should one person’s vision of city gov’t trump a years-long participative process?

I’m voting for the charter in November! We can’t waste another minute *hoping* for the someone’s ideal system to come along.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago
Reply to  Fred

“Why should one person’s vision of city gov’t trump a years-long participative process?”

Maybe because the years-long charter commission ignored public comment that disagreed with the approach the commission decided to take early on. Take a look at public comment (on the Charter Commission website). In May for example, while comment was mixed on rank choice voting, there was overwhelming opposition to only 4 districts with 3 members each, a mayor with no veto power so there would be unbridled legislative power, and to the package vote (even among many supporters of ranked choice).

How many changes did the charter commission make in response to public comment: ZERO. That tells me they were merely giving lip service to public process and public comment, but never had any intention of making changes based upon that.

And it will not be Mapps’ vision only on an alternative. There are many people who believe that the charter commission proposal is seriously flawed: Costly ($43,800,000 in frst 3 years for tripling council, unaccountable, and confusing (try explaining single transferable voting).

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

Actually, no one is “stuck” with the commission system if the council puts an alternative on the ballot next year. There is no need to ait for another charter commission.

And the mayor could unilaterally put it into place today by taking all the bureaus for himself. Just like he did early in his term, when everything worked so much better. It was so much better, right?

Bueller?

clay
clay
2 months ago

My read of this is he says outwardly his concern is STV is “experimental,” but his real underlying concern is diluting the power of his council vote by 75% by adding new members. I bet any proposal that he puts forward (presuming he does anything at all, which isn’t a given) does not include expanding council seats.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago
Reply to  clay

He has already said he favors expanding the size of the council. Check out his recent newsletter. He also supports single member districts and a change in commission form of government so that council members no longer run departments.

Peter S.
Peter S.
2 months ago

Oh good. A proposal for change from a man whose entire political career is built on changing nothing.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago

It is important to note:

1. the Charter Commission has proposed a form of ranked choice voting called single transferable voting (STV) which is used only in one small city in the U.S., Cambridge, Massachusetts, which has at large elections- rather than divided into electoral districts. For Portland, STV will require only 25%+1 to win in a 3 member district. All other jurisdictions in the country use instant runoff ranked choice- which requires 50%+1 to win, and which is proposed for the mayor and auditor here- and generally in single member districts- no multi-member districts anywhere else in the U.S..

Generally advocates of STV don’t say “single transferable vote,” instead for some reason just saying “ranked choice.” Whether intended or not, this seems to result in voters thinking the proposal is for the more commonly used instant runoff ranked choice voting.

2. the Commission and supporters don’t seem to tell you this:

In an at-large election, your vote will be tallied in each race you vote in. For example, if you just voted in the Portland Council race in which 2 seats were open, and you voted in each, your 2 votes were tallied- either for a winner or a loser.

Similarly, if there was multi-member districts with 3 members, and the seats were designated A, B, and C, you would have 3 votes tallied if you cast a vote for a candidate running for each designate seat.

STV is an entirely different animal. In the proposed 3 member districts, if you want to vote for more than one, you have to rank the candidates. You can’t say I want 3 votes to go to candidates X, Y, and Z if they were equal in your mind.

And then, at the end of the day, if you ranked all the candidates, your vote would only be tallied for one candidate, not 3, even though there are 3 seats.
Does that sound fair to you? It does not to me.

Finally, regarding the decision of the Commission to lump their patchwork- all of the good, the bad, and the ugly- into a single proposal to be put before the voters with no choice- forcing people to swallow or reject the whole package, a quote from a recent letter to the editor is spot on: “I can’t follow the logic of the three proposals being so closely interdependent that they cannot be pulled apart into separate measures. And I am troubled by the concept that they can’t trust the voters to choose between the three ideas and find our own version of the way we want our city to be run.”

Full disclosure: I am a member of Partnership for Common Sense Government. Check us out at at https://www.facebook.com/CommonSenseGovPDX and/or https://www.commonsensegovpdx.com/.

Jonathan K
Jonathan K
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

Bob, can I make a case for single vote systems (transferrable or not)? To me, it seems that they are fairer than the alternative. If the number of votes each person casts matches the number of seats up for election, the majority faction will win all the seats. If support is split 60-40 between Party A and Party B in a three member district, Party A will win three seats and Party B will get zero. With a single vote system, Party A would win two seats and Party B would win one. That’s fairer and more representative of the electorate.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan K

Thank you, Jonathan. We simply disagree on what is fair. If there are 3 candidates, I think I should have 3 votes count if I want to vote for 3- rather than being forced to rank candidates (even if 3 are equally attractive to me) and then have only one vote count. And while I realize that you said transferable or not, the method selected by the commission transfers votes from winning candidates above the 25% +1 quota to other candidates. That strikes me as very unfair and wrong.

And I also think that’s why the commission decided to have a single vote on their package of proposed amendments- they knew most people wanted to get rid of the commission form of government, and were perhaps concerned that a radical change in how votes are counted might not pass if the people were given a choice on the various elements of the package.

The Commission wants STV ranked choice voting, but no choice for the voters.

clay
clay
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

What you’re describing is bloc voting, and everywhere it’s used it creates inequitable, majoritarian representation. That’s just the fundamental mechanics of it. So if you think people who are politically a minority (even a large, 50%-1 minority) deserve no voice in council, bloc voting is for you. But you have to understand that many people think this leads to further marginalizing people who are already marginalized, and the polarization and other social and cultural ramifications that induces.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  clay

Don’t forget that political minorities exist on the right as well.

jk
jk
2 months ago

Mapps is 100% wrong that no “major city” has used this proposal. My hometown, NYC, has used RCV for its Community (School) Board elections for about as long as I’ve been alive, and it’s been a rousing success in creating representative boards:

https://www.equitabledemocracy.org/nyc-school-boards/

Minneapolis, a city comparable in size to PDX, switched to RCV last year

https://vote.minneapolismn.gov/ranked-choice-voting/details/

Ginny
Ginny
2 months ago
Reply to  jk

Yes, RCV is used in some major cities BUT not in conjunction with multi-member districts–so Mapps is correct.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago
Reply to  jk

The RCV used in New York- where RCV is used for mayor and council elections too- and Minneapolis is instant runoff ranked choice voting, where winning candidates need 50% +1. And it’s used in single member districts. And it is what the commission proposed for the mayor and auditor here.

This is a far cry from the single transferable vote method proposed for council members in multi-member districts, where an artificially low “quota” of 25%+1 is established for winners, with votes in excess of the quota being given to other candidates.

jk
jk
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

While I was mistaken about the MN system—thanks for the correction!—you referred to the NYC municipal government when I was talking about the system for Community [School] Boards in NYC. To quote the link I posted:

“The New York City School Boards adopted Proportional Representation. And it’s this electoral system that should be of importance to racial justice advocates and electoral reformers alike.

“The proportional representation electoral system used the single-transferrable vote, ranked choice voting, and multi-member districts to elect board members. While this might sound complicated, it was used for 30 years and the results were easily understood: equitable representation.”

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago

One should not ignore that the proposal from the Commission is costly. The commission’s own estimates indicate that as much as $43,800,000 will be needed in just the first 3 years alone to transition to, and operate, a city council that is 3 times the size of the current council- solely for the budget of councilor offices, staffing and election expenses. And then nearly $9,000,000 per year in ongoing costs. This significant increase would result in no additional direct services for citizens.

I think many Portlanders, if given a choice, would support directing such expenditures to public safety- including bike safety as well as violent crime, homelessness, and other critical issues facing the city, instead of a huge increase in city council costs.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

Wonder how much the City could save by divesting itself from all the property they own or lease that are mostly empty because most of the employees are working from home? Some of the departments in the State are starting to or already have down sized their footprints.

Will
Will
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

How much money will it cost to move to single-member districts? To move to an open primary and top 4 instant runoff?

clay
clay
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

Representation is a public service. Portland has one of the lowest population to councilor ratios of any US metro. This strongly limits how much councilors can be responsive to a constituency and reduces the likelihood that any one councilor will give a hoot about the opinion or need of any given Portlander. Expanding council is a necessity in and of itself.

JR
JR
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

By this argument, we’d be better off with just a president and no congress. Representation seems like a pretty good use of tax dollars.

JaredO
JaredO
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

Just to be clear: that’s about $13/year per Portlander. If it results in more representative, equitable, better government, not captured by the special interests it’s a pretty wise investment. Portland’s budget is in the billions of dollars a year.

J_R
J_R
2 months ago

The most important thing is to get rid of the commission form of government. It is frankly a disaster. Anything that keeps us from getting there, such as competing proposals for the districts or voting procedures, is not helpful. My cynical self worries that maybe Mapps is using his proposal to complicate the issue and retain the current commission. Sort of like how the beverage industry tried to avoid expanding the bottle bill with the ads trying showing people puzzling over which containers (milk, wine, etc) would be covered.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  J_R

Intractable problems will still be intractable under a strong mayor form of government. But the grass sure looks greener over there!

I would probably support moving away from the commission form of government (if we could just vote on that), but I really don’t believe most of “Good News” evangelists are sharing.

nic.cota
nic.cota
2 months ago

I’m gonna be honest: I just want elected officials to not act as city-managers at a revolving door frequency for bureaus they have no experience or desire leading.

clay
clay
2 months ago

I wish Wheeler would give Mapps a bureau assignment or two so he had something to focus on besides absolutely everyone else’s business.

Sigma
Sigma
2 months ago

The commission form of government has to go. I haven’t seen anyone make a serious defense of it recently, so it looks like Portlanders finally agree on that one.

Reading through this thread, I see multiple people posting thoughtful and informed comments, and they don’t seem to agree on what exactly is being proposed. That’s a huge red flag for me.

One other thing that’s not getting a lot of coverage: why only 4 districts? They will be so big, it might as will be at-large. And which sextant get screwed? Do North and Northeast get lumped into one giant district? Are you going to say that someone can adequately represent St Johns and Irvington? Albina and Roseway? I might support this if it had 12 districts with one member each. 4 gigantic districts is not really that much of a change from what we currently have.

clay
clay
2 months ago
Reply to  Sigma

Honestly, since the proposed voting method is STV, it should be at-large. And I think the Charter Commission added large districts because districts are hugely popular with people and they knew all at-large seats wouldn’t fly. The problem with fine-grained districts is it says that what defines a voter above all else is where they sleep at night. I think that is rarely the case, beyond the standard slate of NIMBY concerns. Most of our problems and needs are city-wide in scope, or at least covering a large part of the city. Giving geography first class representation in governance makes all those other cross-cutting concerns harder to address.

Also, if geography is an important, defining characteristic of some portion of the electorate, STV and other forms of proportional representation will bring those to light. PR allows voter coalitions to form based on each voter’s own assessment of what’s important to them and which candidates they anticipate will best express those values. If a neighborhood is being threatened with, say, a toxic waste plant being sited there, that’s a specific geographic population a candidate can reach out to in order to gain their vote. At-large PR encourages that to happen.

Damien
Damien
2 months ago

This is an easy yes for me. Jonathon K’s comments illuminate the benefits, and they and others have done a great job rebutting some of the objections raised here to this proposal. I’ll put forth my more cynical take: I look at those against it, including folks like Bob Weinstein and Chuck Duffy (having interacted with both on multiple occasions during my neighborhood association days) and various business interests and recognize this as a battle to preserve entrenched power. And it’s no wonder – these proposals are designed to redistribute power more broadly and equitably, which necessarily means reducing the power of the stereotypical neighborhood association demographic.

I would’ve much preferred STAR voting, but from what I’m gathering, STV+multi-member districts actually does away with a lot of ranked choice voting’s disadvantages, so this is one I’ll not let perfect be the enemy of good.

Vote yes.

Will
Will
2 months ago

1) Proportional representation was used in many cities during the Progressive Era. It was enacted to fight Machine Politics. I’ve attached a sample ballot from Ireland below. It’s pretty simple, even when there are many candidates. That said, anyone who’s done standardized testing in the last 30 years won’t be particularly intimidated by filling in a few bubbles.

2) There’s a lot of research into Progressive Era use of PR (NYC even had mutli-member districts and STV). The major summary findings is that after it’s introduction blacks and Socialists got elected, Machine Party discipline was significantly weakened, and special interest groups (usually labor or business) were unable to extract patronage from the new councils. That is to say, it worked well. But those changes obviously rubbed the National Parties/business orgs/labor the wrong way, and the election of blacks certainly didn’t sit well with white Americans.

As to slates, people run on slates regardless of voting system. When I lived in Santa Cruz we had folks run on a slate in at-large elections. Only 1 of 3 of them actually won a seat. Slates can empower everyday citizens if they run as a slate, but nothing about our current system, or any other system, is conducive to ordinary citizens running and winning.

3) PR STV systems do show an incumbency bias, but it’s far lower than plurality/majoritarian systems (you can read a paper here: https://tinyurl.com/c2uyfyy4) like what we currently have in place. Name recognition matters, and that won’t be changing any time soon.

Rob W
Rob W
2 months ago

Today Commissioners have a staff of an administrative assistant, a policy director, a communications person, and perhaps a constituent services person. Often there are several policy staffers under the director. Occasionally you will find a chief of staff or program managers connected to bureaus.

I have heard, but I can’t site a source, that the 12 new commissioners would each have a staff of 2. Probably an administrative assistant and a constituent services person. They would not need policy staff because they are not responsible for policy in the bureaus.I don’t understand, say for the East Portland beyond 82nd district, how 3 constituent services people work.

According to the Charter Commission, after it passes in November, they come back with a further election in Spring 2023 to add details: policy and code changes.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a request for larger staffs = budget for each commissioner. There are 4 commissioner office suites in City Hall, so maybe each of the 4 districts gets one? We will probably have to remodel them to equalize office egos and window seats.

You can think of the 12 person council as a legislature. Except there are no committees to write laws. So the legislation would be written by the mayor or lobbyists. A casual read of council agendas today are that they spend most of their time approving specific expenditures and the budget.

So as I understand, the responsibilities of each commissioner are to read and understand the documents they are given to vote on, vote, receive complaints from their neighborhood and try to get the bureaus to fix them, and maintain a campaign and outreach calendar. Maybe they will add pork barrel projects to the budget and engage is some good old horse trading?

Probably the best outcome would be bureaus with constant geographic services: PBOT, Parks, Housing/JOHS, BES, ONA, and police would have dedicated neighborhood ombudspersons. They could be driven by the Neighborhood Associations and the commissioners.

One would assume all the bureau citizen committees will continue and be effective adding an additional representation system.

DC Lundquist
DC Lundquist
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob W

People citing a less than 50 staffers being added to the city dole as some reason to oppose MORE democracy baffle me. Multi-member districts will enable regular people to consider running for office on slates, in ways that right now it is not possible. Mapps hates this because he’s too busy worrying about diluting his own influence and having someone able to call him on his shit.

Rob W
Rob W
2 months ago
Reply to  DC Lundquist

The point I am making is that we need a clear vision of what we are getting staff-wise before the vote.

Today we have 4 commissioners with 7-8 FTE each, that is about 32-36 FTE. 12 commissioners with 2 FTE each is 36 total. That’s fine IMO.

If we don’t nail it down now, we could have each commissioner with an additional policy person or 2, their own communication person, and who knows what else. That is an additional 48+ FTE.

Tim
Tim
2 months ago

I might be wrong but…it seems that Commissioner Mapps is being vilified here because he is a (gasp) moderate?

Damien
Damien
2 months ago
Reply to  Tim

I might be wrong but…it seems that Commissioner Mapps is being vilified here because he is a (gasp) moderate?

On another BikePortland article, another commentator did an excellent job pulling up Mapps’ original candidate platform regarding reform and putting that next to the Charter Reform’s proposal: They’re basically the same. Ah, but now that push comes to shove and the proposal threatens to limit his power and those that donate to him, it’s about-face time. He definitely deserves flak for that.

Ginny
Ginny
2 months ago
Reply to  Damien

I’m afraid I missed the earlier Bike Portland article comparing Mapps’ platform and the Charter Commission’s proposed reforms, so I went back and looked at Mapps’ platform on charter reform at https://www.mingusmapps.com/charter-reform . After doing so, I don’t think Mapps has flip-flopped.
–His platform indicated he favored districts, a larger council, the end of the commission system, and hiring a city manager.
–His platform was silent on using ranked choice voting (RCV) in multimember districts and on relying on a single ballot measure for the entire package. That silence is not particularly surprising or suspicious, since those ideas were not being floated when he was running for office.
–Mapps recent announcement indicates he still supports districts, a larger council, the end of the commission form of government, and hiring a city manager.
–But he has made clear he is not on board with the Charter Commission’s proposals for using RCV in multimember districts and using a single ballot measure.
Not only does Mapps appear to be honoring his platform positions, but it is a stretch to say his platform was basically the same as the Commission package (unless, of course, one considers the use of RCV in multimember districts and a single ballot measure as largely unimportant elements of the reform package.)

Damien
Damien
2 months ago

It’s true, the method of voting and district makeup wasn’t a thing pre-Charter proposal, which it usually isn’t except in the wonkiest of democracy discussions (I spend a lot of time in those) – I’ll concede that. But it’s also the part that challenges entrenched power structures the most (by broadening representation), so I remain cynical to Mapps’ opposition.

Ginny
Ginny
2 months ago

Thank you, Lisa, for your informative and provocative charter reform articles. They are fostering lively debates on a crucially important issue.

Roberta
Roberta
1 month ago

Thank you Lisa for tracking this. I’ve been getting confused and deeply disappointed in buried polls etc.

Thats the difference b/w a policy hack and a policy wonk. Wonks don’t bury poll results. Wonks change positions with new data. I’m still listening and open to continuous improvements.

R/N not comfortable with such a large change. Prefer incremental improvements . We already have a majority POC council. Do we have a problem to fix now?

IDK if a large council would be easy for transport advocates to advocate for our needs. We would have to lobby more people with the same resources.

Damien
Damien
1 month ago
Reply to  Roberta

We already have a majority POC council. Do we have a problem to fix now?

This is the same argument Hardesty has used in her own cooling toward reform (which started before the current proposal was out, to be fair). I’d point to the list of US Presidents as an example that just because there was a non-white one recently, doesn’t mean it still isn’t a white man’s game. 60% of the Portland primary electorate voted for white men over Hardesty. I suspect the current makeup of the Portland City Council had a lot to do with the charged national Black Lives Matter energy and won’t sustain.

That all said, I’d also say skin color isn’t the only diversity of representation we need, and I don’t think it’s really possible for 5 to adequately represent over 600 thousand.

IDK if a large council would be easy for transport advocates to advocate for our needs. We would have to lobby more people with the same resources.

I don’t have real data on this one way or the other, but I suspect it would be in the advocates’ favor – the smaller the voting pool, the more impact constituents can make. I’ve been able to have 1:1 conversations and be recognized by my state officials (who have significantly smaller constituent populations than our current city council), whereas that’s never going to happen with one of our city council folks.

Bryan Morris
Bryan Morris
2 months ago

This is so Portland. After a situation gets bad enough, a commission of experts is hired to study the problem and come up with a solution. They do so and immediately every special interest group and local politician who feel like their particular interest might suffer attack the commission’s recommended remedy and come up with their own plan that protects their turf at the expense of actually dealing with the original problem. In the end, nothing changes and the original problem remains. Rinse and repeat.

Bernard Jakobson
Bernard Jakobson
2 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Morris

Yes, Bryan. I have followed Council since the Goldschmidt era, and that is pretty much how things have gone.

The basic strength of our system of commissioners is that it is just about as simple as local governance can be, and can be easily comprehended by citizenry. It functions well when we elect good councilors and a good mayor. When we do not, we get what we have now.

Here is what I would do if sitting in the Mayor’s chair.

I would let the four councilors wrangle among themselves about who gets what bureaus to oversee. Then I would assign them formally. Only if they could not agree would I choose who gets what bureaus.

I would take no bureaus for myself, thus vastly easing my workload. With that amount of leisure I would stroll about City Hall poking my nose into whatever I pleased, an eminence gris ensuring all other noses were applied to appropriate grindstones.

One can make good argument for a system with city-manager, so I would hire a staffer of great administrative ability and experience to assist in my peregrinations, a semi-quasi CM.

There is one great authority any mayor has, which seems not to have been mentioned either by the Charter Review Commission or in these comments: by state law the mayor must prepare a city’s budget. This is a monster club for any mayor to wield.

Effectively we do have a strong mayor system, if only the occupant of the center chair at Council were intelligent and determined enough to make full use of its inherent powers.

Our present system is excellently versatile!

But all ought to be alarmed by biographies of members published by the Charter Review Commission! A chief qualification for all was ability to be “excited,” with extra points for cohabiting with dogs and cats. Even in comments in BP’s threads on the subject emotive terms abound, pejoratives like “outdated” versus encomiums like “modern.”

Per accidens anti auctoritatem!

Simpliciter a dicto ad dictum secundum quid!

One excessively youthful member remarked of her group’s efforts, “This is our gift to the City.”

Self-involved much? Learn some logic. Learn some Latin.

*** Moderator: deleted paragraph ***

Have a nice day!

Deborah
Deborah
1 month ago

I attended one of the charter commission meetings and I’m voting no.

Lisa Lee
Lisa Lee
5 days ago

I’m unclear on why we don’t just copy whatever system exists in Seattle or something? Do we need to reinvent the wheel?