Endorsements, money and strategy: A look at the charter reform horse race

Portland City Hall, October 8th, 2009. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Aaaaaannnnnnnd…they’re off! Endorsements takes the lead out of the gate, one length, two lengths. Here’s come Money! Money breaks out of the pack. It’s Endorsements, Money, Endorsements, Money, neck-and-neck heading into the final curve. What’s this? It’s Strategy! Strategy is closing the distance …

There’s nothing like a good horse race, and Measure 26-228 (the charter reform measure on November’s ballot) is the one to watch. Sometimes a race is so interesting it cuts through campaign talking points and sound bites to reveal the true underlying power struggle. This is one of those times.

At stake is how Portland governs itself and elects its local officials. In previous articles, BikePortland covered the broad issues and history which have brought Portland to this juncture, and we have explained the nitty-gritty of how ranked choice voting in multi-member districts works.

This post limits itself to describing how things stand with the campaigns—endorsements, money, strategy.

Endorsements

Nowhere is the difference between proponents and opponents of the charter reform measure more obvious than in the (lack of) competition for endorsements.

Portland United for Change (PUC), the lead proponent of reform, has rounded up the endorsements of 50 civic, community and union organizations—the Portland branches of the League of Women’s Voters, the Urban League, the ACLU, the NAACP, Common Cause…The City Club, Apano, the Street Trust, Verde, OPAL… the Portland Association of Teachers, Service Employees Union Local 49, LiUNA (Laborers’ International Union of North America) Local 737.

And the other side? Partnership for Common Sense Government (PCSG)? Their web site does not list any endorsements by civic groups. It’s a shutout. Their supporters are all individuals—retired politicians and city staff—and also influential and wealthy Portlanders.

PCSG was founded early this summer by defeated City Council candidate Vadim Mozyrsky, and former Mayor Bud Clark aides Chuck Duffy and Steven Moskowitz. I wanted to contact them to ask about endorsements and fundraising, but wasn’t able to find any contact information on their web page. That in itself answered most of my questions.

Communications Strategist Damon Motz-Storey of Portland United for Change, explained that the reform opponents are “used to being on the inside of halls of power, with access and connections, but they don’t have much of a base,” which might partly explain the endorsement asymmetry.

But it also seems that PCSG might be getting out-hustled by the younger group of politicos at PUC.

Money

As of September 27th, Portland United for Change outperformed Partnership for Common Sense Government in the money race.

PUC has reported $205,000 cash and in-kind contributions and, according to an email from the group earlier this month, another $200,000 in pledges for a total of roughly $400,000 in cash, in-kind support, and pledged donations.

Their top contributors are Oregon Ranked Choice Voting, FairVote, Building Power for Communities of Color, Northwest Health Foundation, and North Star Action Center. The top donor, Oregon Ranked Choice Voting, contributed $50,000.

PCSG has raised less than a fifth of what PUC has, or about $38,000. PCSG lists few expenditures, which might be why their web page is rudimentary and there isn’t anyone home to answer the phone.

What is going on here?

There is a third political action committee (PAC), the Ulysses PAC, formed last year by City Commissioner Mingus Mapps. The Mapps and Mozyrsky PACs originally looked like a good cop/bad cop team. Mozyrsky’s Partnership for Sensible Government would directly oppose the measure, while the Ulysses PAC would host public forums featuring specialists to educate Portlanders. This would allow Mapps to position himself above the fray, as a moderate just trying to help the public.

The Ulysses PAC reported raising roughly $150,000 in contributions. Their top donor is Schnitzer Properties LLC, which gave $25,000. And they have numerous expenditures, mainly to strategists and consultants.

Vote Splitting Strategy

The Ulysses PAC educational forums do not seem to have happened. The main opposition strategy now appears to be to split the pro-reform vote with an alternative proposal which the Ulysses PAC will release next week. The goal is to tempt voters to reject the current ballot measure in favor of the alternative, which Mapps promises to put on the Spring 2023 ballot.

With the Ulysses PAC releasing their alternative plan just a couple of weeks before the November ballots are mailed, little time remains for debate, analysis or discussion. Obstruction of a two-year public process looks like the point of this 11th-hour timing.

It is noteworthy that the Charter Reform Commission performed extensive community outreach and listening sessions, including 81 public meetings, 34 policy discussions with community organizations and 111 briefings and presentations.

The Ulysses PAC developed their proposed alternative draft in-house with the help of the opinion research firm DHM Research. DHM conducted two focus groups of ten people each, and also some polling.

In other words, the current ballot proposal is the product of an open process. The proposal waiting in the wings is the work of a select group of people and their consultants.

Where’s the critique?

What has not been forthcoming from the opponents of Measure 26-228 is a substantive critique of the Charter Review Commission’s work.

The commission’s decision to propose a Ranked Choice Voting method with multi-member districts was informed by an analysis of Portland voting and demographics by a nationally-acclaimed research group, the MGGG Redistricting Lab.

The MGGG research is at the core of the voting proposal, yet opposition never mentions it. If there were substantive criticism, it would be addressing this research head-on. Particularly since the research evaluated the scheme that the Ulysses PAC has proposed—7 to 9 districts with a single-winner seat—and shows that it will not do the job of increasing representation.

Instead, the opponents rely on spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD)—it’s too complicated!, voting shouldn’t be rocket science!, 25%!!!, extremism!

The takeaway

That is a snapshot of where the campaigns are today. On Monday, the Oregonian reported results from a new Portland Business Alliance poll showing that 63% of Portland voters planned to support the charter reform ballot measure. But the whole race could escalate in the next few weeks, with an influx of money resulting in television ads and mailers a couple weeks before ballots are due.

Going into the final stretch, however, the proponents of Measure 26-228 look to be several lengths ahead of their opponents.

Disclosure: Lisa Caballero was an early donor to the Ulysses PAC and also donated to the Mingus Mapps city council race.

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Champs
Champs
2 months ago

Multi member districts remain the poison pill for me.

I want to be optimistic but I’m not sure about quality when we’ve failed to produce decent runoff elections. Considering the city’s repeated rejection of “fluoridation chemicals,” it is hard to rule out anybody as the third-ranked candidate getting a first-class vote at City Hall.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago

I think Champs was saying that the system is sure to elect some whackos (the third candidate) if they only need to convince 25% of voters to support them.

In your example, I don’t think the city will work better electing two people with opposing extreme views along with an environmentalist who has to support the stronger of the two in order to secure votes for their environmental agenda.

Steve
Steve
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Have you read how the proposed rank choice voting will work? A candidate with only 25% of voters supporting them will not get a seat, unless there are only three candidates.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve

25% + 1, actually, just as it takes 50% + 1 to elect someone in the two-person races we have today.

If there are 100 votes, and three candidates each have 26 votes, they’ll win. The fourth candidate, with only 22 votes, will lose.

Karl Dickman
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Can you walk me through the math here, because I’m not sure I’m understanding it. Let’s say there are 300,000 voters in Portland to make the math easy. If you have 12 equal districts with majority voting, it takes 12,501 voters to win a seat (300,000 / 12 * 50% + 1). Under the charter reform proposal, it takes 18,751 voters to win a seat (300,000 / 4 * 25% + 1). Wouldn’t needing more votes to win reduce the number of whackos?
I think this is true for any number of seats, not just 12. For example, let’s say you have competing proposals where the city council stays at 5. In one proposal you have 5 wards elected by majority vote. It would take 300,000 / 5 * 50% + 1 = 30,001 votes to win a seat. In the other proposal you have 5 commissioners elected at large using STV. It would take 300,000 / (5 + 1) + 1, or 50,001 votes to win a seat.

Sigma
Sigma
2 months ago
Reply to  Karl Dickman

This comment perfectly encapsulates why I am leaning no. You shouldn’t have to show people multiple equations to demonstrate how their votes will be counted. And that’s not Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt; it’s just a bad proposal.

cc_rider
cc_rider
2 months ago
Reply to  Sigma

You shouldn’t have to show people multiple equations to demonstrate how their votes will be counted.

Something being mildy compicated isn’t a reason to reject. Besides, voters don’t actually have understand it if they don’t want to take the time to understand it. What’s complicated about ‘rank your first, second, and third choice’?

squareman
squareman
2 months ago
Reply to  Sigma

Most voters don’t even understand the Electoral College. This is still cleaner than that.

Karl Dickman
2 months ago
Reply to  Karl Dickman

Or to put it another way, the charter proposal is identical to an 8-ward, majority winner system. 300,000 / 8 * 50% + 1 = 18,751 votes to win a seat. 8 wards seems totally reasonable to me. Bend, for example, has 7 councilors for just 90,000 people.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  Karl Dickman

Can you walk me through the math here

We don’t have a 12 district system or a 5 ward system. The way we do things, it would take 150,000 voters to elect the whacko. We haven’t had too many of those, fortunately, but we have elected plenty of duds.

In addition to the number of votes required for election, the close scrutiny of candidates that’s possible when there are just 2 on the ballot makes it much easier to figure out if one is a dumpster fire than when there are 15 candidates on the ballot and no one has the time, inclination, or resources to go deep on all 15 in each of multiple races being run in parallel. That’s assuming that voters don’t get overwhelmed by choice and give up without voting, which is one explanation for why primary turnout is lower.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago

RE Endorsements: It’s interesting to see that the non-profits have largely lined up in support of the proposal and those with experience actually managing the system against.

This presents a clear message: Non-profits expect to gain power under the new system, while elected officials (many of whom are no longer involved in politics) see it as a recipe for dysfunction.

Damien
Damien
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

The clarity here is the bias you show, Watts, when you extend the benefit of the doubt to one group (those currently in power) and and cynical lens toward the other (those trying to rebalance power).

I’ll do the same, in the opposite direction: The “clear” message I take is non-profits* wish to expand representation, whereas those with experience managing the current system – in other words, those for whom the current system works just fine – are against it. And it’s easy to see why: When you are primarily represented, expanding representation feels like a loss (and relatively speaking, it is).

Do you have reason for your bias? I do. I’ve interacted with some of the named opponents personally, and their judgement is, to be as polite as possible, not good.

*I’m using this somewhat rhetorically, as I actually also know that some of these named non-profits aren’t good-faith actors (looking at your, FairVote). The difference is, I only know one or two of them not to be, whereas I can’t speak for the rest.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  Damien

Many/most of those endorsing the opposition are not in power, nor are they seeking power. That’s why they hold more credibility with me.

My bias (if you would call it that) is that I think Portland’s non-profit ecosystem, while filled with well-meaning people, is wasteful and generally (though not universally) ineffective.

I have also interacted with many on both lists, and I haven’t met many on either list I would characterize as not being good-faith actors, but I don’t think the non-profits are necessarily working in the broader public interest, and many are no less political actors than politicians themselves.

Damien
Damien
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Many/most of those endorsing the opposition are not in power, nor are they seeking power. That’s why they hold more credibility with me.

This only holds true if you hold a narrow view of power – some of those folks while not in a seat of elected power themselves, today, are certainly well-connected to those that are. There’s power in that, too.

My bias (if you would call it that) is that I think Portland’s non-profit ecosystem, while filled with well-meaning people, is wasteful and generally (though not universally) ineffective.

We could easily say the same about most elected officials past and present.

…but I don’t think the non-profits are necessarily working in the broader public interest, and many are no less political actors than politicians themselves.

Are you really prepared to make that statement against that entire list there? I have zero doubt you are 100% correct about some of them. I’ve already pointed to one myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to deride the entire con list either. Rather, to your original point – the only clear message here is the self-interpreted one.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  Damien

the only clear message here is the self-interpreted one.

Yes, of course. I was offering my interpretation, which I think is clear and unambiguous. It’s hardly surprising that others will interpret things differently, as you apparently have.

Fred
Fred
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

There’s another possibility: The former elected officials are invested in the dysfunctional status quo. They liked it, even though it didn’t work for Portland, and want it to continue.

idlebytes
idlebytes
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Elected officials like Mapps and the Mayor oppose it because it dillutes their power. Non-profits probably appreciate that since they don’t have nearly the capital to buy favor in city hall like groups like the Portland Business Alliance does.

As it stands PPB and PBA only really have to have a couple members in their pocket to keep the status quo on most issues.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

I think your take is overly cynical, and is undermined by the fact that Mapps is promoting an alternative that would dilute his power just as much. The mayor stands to have as much or more power in the new system.

idlebytes
idlebytes
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Mapps hasn’t released an alternative but based on what he’s said so far I don’t believe it’s going to dilute his power from a 1/5th vote to 1/12th. If I recall correctly what he really wanted was the city manager and removal of his responsibility to head bureaus. I think changes are important but I don’t think he wants them for the right reasons. Basically a person to blame if things go wrong and less work for him. He’s been pretty good at doing nothing so far and taking credit for other peoples work just because he voted on it.

Also the proposed system would remove the mayor’s ability to vote except as a tie breaker so he does indeed loose some power.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

taking credit for other peoples work just because he voted on it.

That’s how politics works, and I assure you that no reform proposal could change that.

the proposed system would remove the mayor’s ability to vote except as a tie breaker

Losing the right to vote when your vote would not tip the balance is a symbolic loss. The mayor would still get a vote when it is meaningful. If anything, not having to take sides on most issues would be politically helpful. The mayor could always express support for things even without a vote if it were politically advantageous.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago

This is an extraordinarily biased story, as has become increasingly expected from certain supporters of the deeply flawed charter proposal. Examples of the bias include:

1.You say that the Partnership for Common Sense Government (of which I am a member) supporters are all individuals—retired politicians and city staff—and also influential and wealthy Portlanders. You omit the fact that some wealthy individuals have donated large amounts to the pro-campaign, either directly or through their foundations. Furthermore, many are neither influential nor wealthy.

Moreover, while you mention groups supporting the measure by name, you fail to mention that the largest donor is from out of town, and another is out of state. Both are more interested in changing how we vote to a radical single transferable vote (STV) version of ranked choice- that has been voted in by the public in only one of 19,500 jurisdictions in the United States- than in good governance.

We are proud to have the support of people who actually know how city government works, and how to best address the current crises of homelessness and crime/public safety.

2.You say that the Charter Reform Commission performed extensive community outreach. If you read the proposal from the commission’s contractor, as well as the now scrubbed reports on the commission website, you will find that the outreach was geared to a limited number of groups, some of the very groups that you indicate support the charter. You will also find that relatively very little outreach was made to neighborhoods and neighborhood associations. 

3.You say “What has not been forthcoming from the opponents of Measure 26-228 is a substantive critique of the Charter Review Commission’s work.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. We have made numerous presentations throughout the city, making our concerns known. And since you were on our website, you know they include:

A. Costs: The proposal to triple the size of the council, hire more staff,etc. is estimated to cost as much as $43,800,000 to implement and then to operate over 3 years. As our website says, “This significant increase would result in no additional direct services for citizens.” And does nothing to address the homelessness and crime/public safety crisis that citizens in Portland actually care about.
If for example, you ask Portlanders whether they want to spend funds to make sure that our fire stations are fully staffed (Portland Fire and Rescue is now understaffed), or enlarge city hall by tripling the size of the council, I think you will find most support public safety and our first responders well above bigger city government.

B. Accountability: We believe having 3 representatives in Eugene-sized districts provides less accountability than smaller single member districts. We also think that, despite the commission stating that an “accountable government” means that “there are checks and balances on Council law-making, the proposed charter in fact has absolutely no check and balance on “Council law making” because the commission opted not to provide for a check on potential misuse or abuse of the power of the City Council via a mayoral veto (with council override).
In most large cities, including Seattle, San Diego, Denver, Anchorage, Los Angeles, and New York City (some of which the commission referenced in their reports), the mayors all have veto power.

C. Confusion: The proposed charter proposes the use of STV ranked choice for councilors, an untested form of voting in multi-member districts in the United States. As our website notes, “there would be no primary election to narrow down candidates. Instead, based on current trends, voters in a district might have to rank from among as many as 30 candidates.” 30 candidates down and 30 rankings across means 900 bubbles.

Moreover, the proponents don’t like to mention any negative features about STV. Here’s just a couple:

  1. In a district with 3 seats, a voter will have at most only 1 vote counted for one of the candidates, not 1 vote counted for each of the 3 candidates- and that is only if they rank all candidates. We do not believe it is democratic that a citizen cannot vote for a candidate for each seat in an election for people who supposedly will represent them.
  2. Also not mentioned is ballot exhaustion, which means that votes are not included in the final tally. This occurs when a voter does not rank everyone, and the candidates they have ranked have been eliminated, or if a voter ranks more than one candidate the same, and so on. Research shows that huge amounts of votes become exhausted. For example, in San Francisco’s 2010 election, after 20 rounds of tabulations, 53% of ballots had been exhausted, so that more ballots were “thrown out” than were counted.

The proponents- and I recollect you as well- promoted a video to show how the system works. We are thankful for bringing it to our attention, because it clearly shows how complicated and confusion the vote counting will be: (youtube.com/watch?v=lNxwMdI8OWw&ab_channel=MPRNews).

4.You say that “the MGGG research is at the core of the voting proposal, yet opposition never mentions it.” That is completely false. We have frequently mentioned MGGG. In one instance, we showed sample maps for 5,7,and 9 member districts that MGGG had developed for Portland. We are concerned that the Commission opted not to have maps developed for the multimember districts, and are asking people to “vote for it in order to now what’s in it.”

We quoted MGGG when it stated in an article that agrees “the mechanisms by which the winners are calculated are numerous and can be quite complicated.” We believe that, if there is to be confidence in election integrity- an important issue these days in our fragile democracy- voters will not only need to know how to vote- but how their votes will be counted. We think there should have been a selection of one of the “numerous” mechanisms to calculate winners prior to the election, not afterwards.

Finally, you state that you “wanted to contact them (PCSG) to ask about endorsements and fundraising but wasn’t able to find any contact information on their web page.” Our webpage does have a both Facebook and Twitter links. If you had truly wanted to contact us, it would have been quite simple for you to send us an inquiry via a message through either or both, or other available means.

In closing, while you reference a portion of the poll featured in a recent Oregonian story, you omit information about how support for the ballot measure plummeted when people heard criticisms, as well as the fact that 60% said they would support an alternative. 

John Horvick, the pollster, was quoted in a Willamette Week story that the poll the 20 percentage point decrease in support for the proposal after people hear critical information is “larger than we typically see’ in similar polling. That means voters are malleable: ‘To me that says, people are starting from the position of being upset with the city, but they’re not unmovable. They’re open to hearing another side.”

And they will hear from another side!

Steve
Steve
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

Single member districts result in a ward boss system and a “not in my district” mentality that leads to a decrease in affordable housing and services to low-income and other vulnerable people.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve

I respectfully disagree. Regarding housing, Oregon has state statutes that would address that- overrides local control. And representatives in small districts would be more in touch with low income and other people in need of services than in huge Eugene-sized districts.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago

Lisa:

I was not commenting on your facts about donations. I was commenting on your obvious bias throughout the article, e.g. in this case somehow implying that groups that support the charter (many of whom were insiders in the process to begin were more important than individuals who oppose, who then you who you implied were all wealthy. When you know if you looked at Orestar that there are wealthy people supporting both sides of the issue, and outside groups supporting only supporting the pro-side with huge donations.

I am very familiar with the CRC efforts. Again, the listening sessions were not inclusive by design, i.e. neighborhoods and neighborhood associations were not even mentioned in the contractor’s proposal, never mind work.. And the amount of public comment is not the important thing. It is what was done with it. For example, the Commission solicited public comments in May on its draft final plan. They received hundreds of comments, overwhelmingly opposing: multimember districts; no veto for the mayor; and no single vote- people wanted to vote on the key amendments separately.

How many changes were made in response to the public comments from individual Portlanders? None. Comments were solicited just so the commission could say they did so, not because it would be considered. I was a public official for many years, and have never seen such a sham public process as was concocted during the development of the flawed charter proposal.

Regarding, MGGG, one of their reports admitted that there was very little data upon which to base conclusions, so that they would use theoretical models. That’s why we oppose a radical change in voting to something untested in the United States. And again, we have responded to false biased information attacking the Ulysses proposal before it even is known. Such midnight hour attacks are not surprising, since they came from the same advocacy organization that promoted the MMD’s years before the commission even started- and was then swallowed hook, line, and sinker. No surprise.

Finally, we do reach out to reporters and news organizations. And they do to us.

Terry
Terry
2 months ago

Where is the criticism of their finding that RCV with MMD results in fairer representation? Similarly, no opponent has addressed the finding that single member districts (like the Ulysses proposal) do not increase representation.

And there’s your bias. Where is the proponent’s analysis refuting that RCV with MMD creates a “free-for-all” of responsiveness and constituent service like in Cambridge Mass, or “extremely problematic” accountability like in Baltimore, per Oregonian?

The question for voters is whether the (marginal) improvements in representation (the conclusion of MGGG computer models, not real-world experience) are worth the very real downsides that you don’t even bother to mention. Sure, I get why the proponents would obviously avoid talking about downsides and over-emphasize the upsides, but please acknowledge that your piece here is telling only half the story. I mean, “Where’s the critique?” Call me next time. I’m happy to talk.

squareman
squareman
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

We are proud to have the support of people who actually know how city government works, and how to best address the current crises of homelessness and crime/public safety.

Bang-up job so far! /s

Damien
Damien
2 months ago
Reply to  squareman

I’ve seen first-hand how folks like Weinstein and Duffy “know how the city government works” (I was a member of their neighborhood association), and little rings to me as a bigger endorsement than their opposition.

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: Look at who opposes this, and you’ll see who the current system works for.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago
Reply to  Damien

“I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”

Margaret Thatcher, London Daily Telegraph (1986)

Damien
Damien
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

Color me absolutely unsurprised that you’d quote Thatcher.

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: Look at who opposes this, and you’ll see who the current system works for.

squareman
squareman
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

Yikes. Quoting Thatcher now. Yeah, showing your true colors and not helping your cause there.

Damien
Damien
2 months ago
Reply to  squareman

I’m glad I’m not the only one to appreciate this (and posted as such, but it looks like it went to moderation limbo). It is very on brand.

In the interest of shining a relevant light on what could simply appear to be jabs at Weinstein’s character, let’s remember that this article is about endorsements. Endorsements are basically outsourced judgements, so I think it’s entirely relevant to question the endorsement/judgement of an individual who (and this should be particularly salient to BP) came to a neighborhood transportation meeting to claim that a neighborhood diverter that would personally inconvenience him driving his car would increase carbon emissions, and that we should ban scooters. Pro car, anti scooter (I know scooters themselves are seen as a mixed bag on BP, but I’d hope any regular here would admit that one of those is much worse than the other for just about any goal/outcome for cycling).

Less salient to BP readers, Mozyrsky: The lone voice in the commission’s voting method subcommittee to opt for RCV over STAR. That in of itself isn’t the worst thing, though his pro/con slides about the two were basically FairVote misinformation. Later, he was the lone voice of the whole commission to opt for plurality over any alternative – a position shared by no one serious in the voting space. This may not be obvious if you aren’t a voting systems nerd like I am, but he might as well have said that he prefers that 2+2=5. Not great judgement relevant to this very measure.

Finally, there’s Duffy, who I view as downright malicious when it comes to challenging power. When a friend of his on his NA was (attempted to be) called to account for breaking a NA bylaw, Duffy charged the young woman who filed the grievance as attempting to carry out “a Stalinist purge” (it was literally just a formal complaint because the guy broke a bylaw). He and this other individual, along with other NA folks who I can best describe as giving off huge “gentleman’s cigar club” vibes effectively pushed out the whole transportation committee for, well, basically supporting neighborhood diverters (full disclosure, that included me. Also, the aforementioned young woman is quite dear to me). Duffy was vehemently against Eudaly’s 3.96 code change, which I was too, initially, though over time I came to see that if there was a good argument for it, Duffy (and his NA) was its poster child.

So yeah. Not very keen on the judgement from the “no” side. I do not question their motives or their sincerity, but I do sincerely believe their desired outcomes are good for them, not Portland (and yes, I also believe they confuse those two, sincerely. This is very typical of those for whom the system in place already works).

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  Damien

The lone voice in the commission’s voting method subcommittee to opt for RCV over STAR.

Not trying to make a point here, just asking: if the subcommittee on voting methods had only one member supporting RCV, how did that method come to be the one the commission supported? Did they just ignore what their subcommittee recommended?

Any why are there non-profits (and for profits?) supporting particular voting systems? That just seems bizarre. Who funds them, and why?

Damien
Damien
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Did they just ignore what their subcommittee recommended?

Essentially, yes.

Not trying to make a point here, just asking: if the subcommittee on voting methods had only one member supporting RCV, how did that method come to be the one the commission supported?

I wish I had a clear-cut answer. Some of is polling – they polled the public and respondents responded by saying they view “ranking candidates in order of preference” simpler than “scoring candidates”. I imagine respondents were envisioning a method of ranked-choice where you hand-write a number/rank next to candidate names, as opposed to our reality, which is going to be an exponential scantron/Sudoku puzzle. 20 candidates = 400 bubbles, etc. It remains by fair my least favorite aspect of this measure.

Any why are there non-profits (and for profits?) supporting particular voting systems? That just seems bizarre. Who funds them, and why?

That’s the $65 million dollar question (probably not literally that much, but I think it is in the millions). In the beginning, and certainly to those donating in good faith, it’s a simple recognition that plurality voting is the worst. Ranked-choice is simply the most well-known alternative, so it picks up momentum. Momentum means money, and eventually enough money that now it has to be self-sustaining. I’ve interacted with FairVote operatives and they are just as slimy as any big industry lobbyists, probably because their jobs depend on it. I was just as surprised as you seem to be that there could be so much tribalism in such an esoteric, tiny corner of politics. But there is.

And at the end of the day, almost any flavor of ranked-choice is better than plurality. It’s just really too bad that we were so close to STAR, which is almost objectively better in every way a voting method can be objectively better than ranked-choice (there are many ways one can only be subjectively better, and some objective criteria are mutually exclusive, meaning one has to make a value judgement on which criteria is more important).

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  Damien

In the abstract, I completely agree with your final paragraph, and I understand the math behind it (or, if I’m being honest, I did a few years ago).

However, when applied to the real world, I find things less clear, and the mathematical models demonstrating superiority don’t account for human foibles. Too much choice can be paralyzing; too many candidates make researching them hard; ordering things is cognitively difficult (especially if you don’t have much of an opinion); people who bogged down and lose momentum on complex ballots vote less; simplicity and transparency* are huge virtues in times when people are able to get traction with bogus claims of fraud.

I share your sense of dismay that the Commission did not choose a better election method. I am a firm believer in “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”, but I’m just unable to convince myself that the proposed system will produce better outcomes than the current one. The benefits are speculative, but the costs (including the literal costs of the proposed system) are definite.

It boils down to a question of risk tolerance and faith. I don’t gamble, and I’m temperamentally atheist.

*Since I was challenged on this word before, let me clarify that even if a process is completely open and above board, if people don’t understand what’s happening, it’s not really “transparent”.

Damien
Damien
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

It boils down to a question of risk tolerance and faith. I don’t gamble, and I’m temperamentally atheist.

This is perhaps your clearest articulation of being a conservative*, and why I often disagree as a progressive*. All change, all progress is a risk and gamble.

Best case scenario I see: Someone in power recognizes that ranked-choice for Portland elections isn’t actually legal under the Oregon law that states all votes must be summed up by county – Portland spans three counties, and ranked-choice requires that all votes have to be centrally counted**. I’m not a lawyer or election official, so maybe folks in power will disagree or won’t care – that said, I know folks from the Equal Vote Coalition (the folks behind STAR voting) asked several different county officials and they all agreed that it wouldn’t be legal. And then we get another bite at the voting system apple and maybe go with STAR after all.

An unfortunate and more likely scenario is the same ruling as above, but defaulting to plurality and staying there.

Worst case scenario, it isn’t struck down and is found wildly unpopular, poisoning the well for future reforms for some time.

Straightforward middle scenario, it isn’t struck down and is just “okay” – performs better than plurality, works well with 3-maybe-10-tops candidates, and only mildly annoys people when we start seeing onerously exponential ballots. Maybe we can replace with STAR after a few cycles if it annoys enough.

*I use these terms here in the purest sense, stripped of all the political connotation America heaps on them: Conservatives think the system is good enough or that changes risk more harm than benefit. Progressives think the system is not good enough or that changes are more likely to benefit than harm. To conserve or to progress.

**There was some hand-waving that Washington and Clackamas county together only add a thousand or so voters into the Portland pool, but I’m not sure why that matters from a legal sense – either everyone is in one county or they’re not. STAR, like plurality, can be summed up by county without centralization, giving it yet another advantage here. To their discredit, the charter commission was told of this, and…well, hand-waved and pressed forward.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Damien

One can be a progressive and not want change that makes things worse, as I think charter reform will. That said, I don’t identify as a progressive (mostly due to the baggage associated with that label, but also because I don’t like labels), but friends keep telling me my policy objectives put me squarely in the progressive camp. I do understand that the scope and framing of issues here on BikePortland leads me to respond in ways that do not always make that apparent.

There’s always another bite at the apple — anyone can put a charter reforming proposal on the ballot any time they want (as with any issue), and Mapps is promising to do just this in May.

I’m not sure how we get to STAR; we’ll either see the “this sucks, well poisoned” scenario, or a “we just changed, why change again” situation, especially from those who don’t really understand the system(s) and/or don’t care (i.e. most people). I don’t really see “this is working ok, but let’s try something better” as a compelling message. Probably best case (for STAR narrowly) is the proposal narrowly fails, whetting the appetite for another try, and STAR makes it into the new proposal.

I agree that the county line issue is a bit of a wildcard, and it’s hard to see how it plays out. My guess is that “we’re almost following the law” is not going to be a strong argument, but you never know.

Mont Chris Hubbard
Mont Chris Hubbard
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

if the subcommittee on voting methods had only one member supporting RCV, how did that method come to be the one the commission supported? Did they just ignore what their subcommittee recommended?

The main objection from the broader commission to STAR was that it is untested, not used anywhere, novel—that’s what led them to propose RCV/STV. More than a little ironic, huh?

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  squareman

Are we at the point where we can only accept political wisdom from those whose views we agree with?

squareman
squareman
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

No. But Bob made the argument and I’m not buying it. I don’t owe him any rebuttal (plus Damien is doing a better job than I would have, using the words I didn’t feel like articulating).

Regarding the Thatcher quote, I wouldn’t call it wisdom. It was her being dismissive of her critics of the time – an early version of “owning the libs” if you will. And as a head of state, she should have been concerned about understanding why those constituents weren’t happy. It’s a “let them eat cake” sort of reference.

As I predicted back then, when too many people believed Reagan and Thatcher were the best heads of state either country had seen, time plus results have not been kind to them. Much of their executed platform policies have come to bite their countryfolk in the ass over time. They both did some solid things, but they also both did some terrible things. And in my book, their bad outweighs the good that they did – by far.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  squareman

 Reagan and Thatcher … time plus results have not been kind to them.

Not sure about Thatcher, but I think the general view is, given the various Republican presidents who followed, Reagan (and even Bush Sr.) look pretty good in retrospect. Trump even made Bush Jr. look competent. Time tends to round the sharper corners off past presidencies; by Trump standards, Reagan was an altar boy.

Reagan essentially ended the Cold War (for a time, anyway), which for those of us who grew up under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation, looks pretty good in retrospect. I also remember the many bad (and awful) things he did, but over time it is the big things that history remembers.

qqq
qqq
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

Great quote, but why is it relevant here? Where was the personal attack?

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago
Reply to  qqq

see the above. Lol!

J_R
J_R
2 months ago

The proposal on which we will vote in November is not the version that I would prefer. I don’t care for the large number of council members (I’d prefer 7), or the three from each district approach, nor do I care for the ranked choice voting, but the existing commission form is so bad, I will definitely be voting in favor. The assignment of bureaus to individual commissioners with a “keep your hands off mine and I will let you run yours” attitude has made this a truly disfunctional system.

Sigma
Sigma
2 months ago
Reply to  J_R

I hear that, which is why I *really* hope Mapps puts out a detailed alternative with a guarantee that it will be on the ballot in 2023, and that it is promoted heavily. In that case I will be a definite no this fall.

I’m also thoroughly annoyed with the charter commission. They took a slam dunk case and made it unnecessarily complicated, creating controversy where there was none. Seriously, I’m old enough to remember previous charter reform efforts, when people would go to the mat in favor of the commission set up. This time I don’t think I have seen a single person, even anonymous internet people, defending the status quo.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  Sigma

Not sure if it’s been said here yet, but I don’t think this is simply a matter of the charter commission “creating controversy where there was none.”

I think what a lot of people aren’t talking about is that, in my opinion at least, much of the pushback has to do with who is on the charter commission — not just the substance of their proposal. I feel like this thing is scaring people and drawing a lot of opposition in large part because the people who came up with it aren’t the typical old, white, center-left and conservative-leaning power-brokers folks are used to making major decisions around here. (strikes me as having some similarities with the Metro 2020 Transportation Measure and the group that put that together and the pushback it got)

Watts
Watts
2 months ago

I’m not hearing many attacks on the committee’s composition, but leaving that aside, and leaving aside questions of people’s appearance, do you think the commission reflected Portland’s political/intellectual/viewpoint diversity? Is such diversity important in a process like this?

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
2 months ago

I mean, I have no idea who is/was on the charter commission. I don’t really care. I only care about the law they are proposing. I care that I was really excited to get rid of the commissioner form of government and what we got is instead a complete sh*t show of a ballot measure that sounds to many people like it’s going to turn our city government into an even more dysfunctional clown show

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
2 months ago

Thanks for your comment, as well as allowing this to be a fairly open forum where people can agree or disagree on an issue.

Speaking for the Partnership for Common Sense Government, I can say that all of our concern is with the substance of the proposal- especially the combination of single transferable voting on top of 4 huge, not yet defined multimember electoral districts- not with who was on the commission.

Bull
Bull
2 months ago

Oh please with the idea that the opposition is to the background, age, ethnicity or gender of the committee. No one wants bigger government and overly complicated voting structure. They just want more effective government. The reform committee failed to K.I.S.S.

Damien
Damien
2 months ago

Appreciate the continued coverage on this, Lisa. As I’ve stated before, this is an easy yes for me. I might even put up yard signs for it (which would be a first for me, though perhaps mostly because I’ve only recently owned a yard). I’ve yet to hear any convincing arguments against, those that oppose it are lead by folks whose judgement I have a negative view of, and the Mapps’ alternative is a) not as good b) doesn’t exist yet and c) has no guarantee it ever will exist or will pass council or show up in ballots someday.

Vote yes!

Jakob Bernardson
Jakob Bernardson
2 months ago

This entire business becomes surpassingly bizarre.

The exceeding obnoxious Melanie Billings-Yun, once listed as co-chair of the Charter Review Commission and point-person for television interviews, has mysteriously disappeared from the Commission’s web site. She was a superb flim-flam artist, never answering a question straight, bamboozling both Laural Porter and Ken Boddie, excellent experienced questioners, with evasively artless ease. She claims provenance from Harvard, London School of Economics, wonderful achievements throughout the vast continent of Asia, TED talks.

Evidently a hired gun.

No need to stick around once the contract was complete.

Beneath her pay-grade.

Who was paying her, anyway?

Probably the same entities that have raised nearly a half-million dollars to finance the election campaign.

This reeks of a professional confidence scam. Voters in the City of Portland as lab-rats. Probably she vetted the Commissioners herself. Anyone familiar with the political scene in our city can only marvel at the obtuse collection of young dingbats populating the Charter Review Commission, utterly atypical of Portland activism.

Have you considered this possibility, Lisa?

(Yes, JM, there are plenty of us old, white, center-left, not conservative-leaning and certainly not power-brokers who have put in years of bird-dogging City Council to see that it works for us.)

Damien
Damien
2 months ago

From JM’s post above:

I think what a lot of people aren’t talking about is that, in my opinion at least, much of the pushback has to do with who is on the charter commission — not just the substance of their proposal.

It seems like you read Jonathon’s post, referred to it, and then made it a point to be Exhibit A.

cct
cct
2 months ago

And Soros! You left out Soros!

/s

RipCityBassWorks
RipCityBassWorks
2 months ago

I really hope Portlanders don’t screw this up. This is a rare opportunity to address the dysfunction in our city government – all 3 previous attempts have failed, leaving us stuck with the incredibly outdated and corrupt commission system. This isn’t my ideal proposal, but it is definitely close enough and I respect the results of the very public process that built this proposal.

Fred
Fred
2 months ago

I agree, Rip. Having read every comment, I come away with an overwhelming feeling that it’s like arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Portland city gov’t is so broken that we cannot wait for the ideal, perfect system to come along that will fix every possible problem. Yes, the new system will create new problems – all new systems do. But nothing can be worse than what we currently have.

I’m voting yes in November. We have a historic opportunity to make a change for the better – let’s not blow it.

Ryan
Ryan
2 months ago
Reply to  Fred

This is exactly how I feel about it. Well said.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  Fred

 But nothing can be worse than what we currently have.

Words very often regretted.

Fred
Fred
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I will take the chance of regret, and I recommend others do also.

We know what we have, and we know it simply doesn’t work for Portland anymore – if it ever did.

Every time a city vehicle passes me on the street and I see the city logo with the motto “The city that works,” I want to vomit.

Jakz
Jakz
2 months ago

It’s clear that if the charter reform passes, it will result in a major shakeup of Portland’s leadership class. It will become harder to influence the outcome of elections by backroom deals and targeted donations. Some honestly value the stability that a quasi-oligarchic system provides. They’re entitled to that opinion.

But don’t be fooled by the crocodile tears of the currently powerful and connected, and don’t buy the supposed reforms they’re selling. Their interests are in maintaining power, and their preferred reforms conveniently do just that.

one
2 months ago

I ride my bicycle year round, and I AM VOTING FOR THIS FANTASTIC CITY REFORM MEASURE. All tree parts are HUGE improvements over the current system. There is big money against this measure. And I am 100% for passing this measure. It is the most important measure in my lifetime.