Portlanders vote resoundingly for change

Portland City Hall in 2008. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Tuesday was a very big night for Portland.

On a night when Republicans and conservative causes overall did much worse than most pundits expected, incumbent City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is almost sure to lose her seat on Portland City Council to newcomer Rene Gonzalez and the charter reform measure breezed to victory.

Here’s how things shaked out (so far):

City Councilor-elect Rene Gonzalez. (Photo: Rene Gonzalez campaign)

Portland City Council: Hardesty supporters breathed a big sigh of relief in the primary back in May when she did better than expected. But her campaign failed to increase its support since then and voters sent a clear signal last night that it’s time for change. As of this morning, Rene Gonzalez holds a commanding lead of nearly 11 points. During his campaign, Gonzalez promised to be much tougher on crime — including enforcing laws against people who live on the street — and he successfully painted Hardesty as an “ideologically driven,” polarizing force in City Hall.

A business owner and lawyer with no political experience, Gonzalez built a broad coalition of support that included endorsements from the Portland Police Association, Smart Growth America, and the Willamette Week. This was the only city council race on the ballot; and with homelessness, crime, and a sense that the City of Portland has been ineffective in tackling big problems, votes against Hardesty can be largely be seen as a referendum on the status quo.

Charter Reform (Measure 26-228): Another sign that Portlanders want big changes was that the hotly debated charter reform measure passed easily with 56% of the vote. If you’ve missed our extensive coverage, here’s a brief summary of what this means: Portland will ditch its century-old form of government for something totally new. We will expand the number of city councilors from five to 12, with three representatives from four geographic districts. A new city administrator position will be created and that person will handle day-to-day operations of the city and will oversee the various bureaus. The mayor will oversee the administrator, will be able to introduce laws, and will have a tie-breaking on council. Ranked choice voting will replace our current single vote system.

The first election with these changes in place will happen in November 2024. For more context on what this change means, check out this article from Rose City Reform author and charter reform proponent Maja Harris.

The win for charter reform came despite a vast effort to defeat it — an effort strongly supported by Rene Gonzalez and Commissioner Mingus Mapps. Mapps had said he’d introduce an alternative version, but said before last night’s vote that he’d respect the outcome. With such a clear mandate for change, Mapps and councilor-elect Gonzalez might feel like they have to reconsider their views on this and other policies because they’ll face fresh elections in just two years.

Governor: Democrat Tina Kotek holds just a 1 point lead over Republican Christine Drazan. This one is going to be a nail-biter, but I’ve seen some reliable pundits say the remaining votes favor Kotek. UPDATE: Race has been called by The Oregonian for Kotek.

Multnomah County Chair: Incumbent Jessica Vega Pederson has received 52% of the vote and has a six point lead over challenger Sharon Meieran.

How are you feeling after last night?

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pigs
pigs
2 months ago

Does this mean that Gonzalez would become in charge of PBOT? I can’t image “a business owner and lawyer with no political experience” making informed non-car centric transportation decisions. 2024 can’t come soon enough with the charter reform.

pigs
pigs
2 months ago

Thanks for the historical context and clarifications. When will we find out bureau assignments?

Buster
Buster
2 months ago
Reply to  pigs

That would likely happen in December or January, closer to when Hardesty leaves office. Or sometimes the Mayor takes control temporarily if they don’t want to rush a decision.

Buster
Buster
2 months ago

I too have heard rumors from multiple people that it will be Mapps.

 
 
2 months ago
Reply to  pigs

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think bureaus are re-assigned after every election. So it’s possible Gonzalez will be in charge, but certainly not a given.

Serenity
Serenity
2 months ago
Reply to  pigs

Yeah…. I can’t imagine that, either.

axoplasm
2 months ago

altogether the local election is turning out better than I expected but not as good as I’d hoped. SUPER glad to see Vega Pederson win so decisively. Very bummed about Hardesty of course. Silver lining is that the incoming crew only has 2 years to make a mess & we can clean it up with a (FINALLY) modern city government in 2024.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
2 months ago
Reply to  axoplasm

Two years and the usual 20 candidates for each of 12 positions and the mayor should give Portland at least 260 opportunities for public debates, soundbites, spam texts, and political theater. And one city manager to rule them all, and in a the darkness, bind them…

soren
soren
2 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

… the incoming crew only has 2 years to make a mess & we can clean it up with a (FINALLY) modern city government in 2024.

The near religious belief that adoption of a new voting system will result in some grand progressive-new-urbanist coalition is fascinating (and kinda anti-democratic). I don’t have a strong opinion on potential outcomes but I do expect implementation of this system to be “interesting”, which will be reward enough for me.

Will
Will
2 months ago
Reply to  soren

You’re gonna need to expand on the anti-democeatic part there.

soren
soren
2 months ago
Reply to  Will

Those who assume that a change in voting system is sufficient to cause a dramatic change in political representation are engaging in anti-democratic ideation. I personally don’t think we will see a large difference in overall representation with this system because it’s a pretty good system#.

#Score voting would have fixed some of the flaws but maybe this will be changed in the future.

PS: I think expansion of the number of councillors will make it more likely that there will be a left-NIMBY candidate that I might vote for so I’m pleased.

Will
Will
2 months ago
Reply to  soren

I’m still not understanding the anti-democratic part. You’ve asserted it, but not explained it.

soren
soren
2 months ago
Reply to  Will

Supporting a particular voting system because one believes it will produce a preferred electoral outcome is anti-democratic ideation.

I think this thinking is misguided because while the charter reform electoral system has flaws* I doubt it will have the huge impact on representation that some expect (see the OP’s post, for example). In fact, I expect we will see quite a few Wheeler-Ryan types elected in 2024. (Capitalist demography is destiny in this increasingly exclusive enclave for the upper-middle-class and rich.)

*exhausted votes, for example.

Damien
Damien
2 months ago
Reply to  soren

Supporting a particular voting system because one believes it will produce a preferred electoral outcome is anti-democratic ideation.

Yeah, I got to disagree with this. I might give you supporting a particular voting system to achieve a preferred political outcome – e.g., trying to pick a method that will elect more folks in one’s political camp. And maybe that is what you’re saying here and I’m just mincing words.

But for me, my preferred electoral outcome – and why I supported the reform (though I, like you, would much prefer a score/rank system…like STAR!) – is simply better representation of the general populace in elected office (emphasis on better – TBD on whether we get anywhere near good). Which will almost certainly not produce some of the political outcomes I’d like, because I recognize most people (in the US, anyway, including Portland) are more reactionary, less rational, and more self-serving than I think begets a sustainable, happy, and free society.

soren
soren
2 months ago
Reply to  Damien

I might give you supporting a particular voting system to achieve a preferred political outcome

That’s exactly what I was trying to say.

better – TBD on whether we get anywhere near good

Yeah…no electoral system is going to fix classism, racism, and other forms of disenfranchisement.

Will
Will
2 months ago
Reply to  soren

Ah! I understand, thanks for clarifying!

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
2 months ago
Reply to  soren

As you’ve stated many times you don’t bother to take the time to vote, so why do you care at all? Just asking for a friend.

soren
soren
2 months ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Ironically, it actually took significant effort to de-register my vote. I do reserve the right to re-register in the future. For example, I might do so if a “left-NIMBY” candidate runs for office.

My unwillingness to vote and my unwillingness to serve on a jury are both matters of conscience. You can tell your friend that they probably don’t want me to go on at length about why I view our legal and electoral system as fundamentally immoral.

X
X
2 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Finally something to laugh about. There’s no Tolkien reference I won’t indulge at least a little.

“Bind them?” Won’t the council have a bit of sway over professional staff? The manager could hardly join the police union after all.

Portland guts its progressive reputation in yet another dimension, electing another white guy. Maybe Chloe and Joann can find spots on the new counsel, running on their experience and significant achievements in communities that know what they stand for.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
2 months ago
Reply to  X

Does the mayor appoint the city manager or is it the whole city council? Who can fire the city manager? Can the city manager hire and fire all bureau staff at will as they do in most US cities, or only certain ones, or are most staff still covered under civil service hiring and firing rules of their unions?

I can easily see Sam Adams appointed as the first Portland city manager (City Administrator) by Mayor Wheeler. I’m sure if there’s a national search, Sauron might apply too…

Todd/Boulanger
2 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Wow! A very interesting night in Portland (that seems to have been overlooked nationally by the tv media)…

I expect Hardesty to be back in round two with the expanded council.

Yes YES!, Sam Adams for City Manager!! A great idea.

BUT, I do caution the supporters of charter reform…that the choice of a ‘weak mayor / strong city manager’ tends to not get great or big things done but just professionalizes management. Most city managers are not around long enough to see incremental improvements reach big objectives. Council manages the city manager…hires and fires them; while the manager manages the department heads etc.

A city that needs massive progressive change (housing, environment, parking reform etc.) needs a strong leader mayor with vision and guts who can buck the unions, NIMBY associations, out of touch car drivers, commerce groups etc. Think Bloomberg, Daley 2, Frank Fasi, etc.

pigs
pigs
2 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

Is that any different from the constant stream of milquetoast centrist candidates that we seem to keep getting in city council?

soren
soren
2 months ago
Reply to  pigs

Is that any different from the constant stream of milquetoast centrist candidates that we seem to keep getting in city council?

What makes you think we won’t get a constant stream of milquetaost centrist candidates with the new system?

pigs
pigs
2 months ago
Reply to  soren

I don’t have any ideation that the candidates will be all that much different, perhaps other than a few “interesting” ones thrown into the mix.

I was pointing out Todd’s thinking that big change won’t be possible with the new system when the current system has failed to bring any bit of meaningful change in the past decade. Glitter on shit is still shit.

soren
soren
2 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

BUT, I do caution the supporters of charter reform…that the choice of a ‘weak mayor / strong city manager’ tends to not get great or big things done but just professionalizes management.

Yeah…I’m OK with the STV RCV (although I think a scoring RCV system would better reflect voter’s wishes) but the very weak mayor and strong city manager with a potentially fractious city council is a recipe for inertia and grid lock.

Bloomberg, Daley 2, Frank Fasi, Hidalgo, Plante, Kahr etc..

Jakob Bernardson
Jakob Bernardson
2 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Big “yes!” for better theater!

I’d take either “Mad Max” or “The Terminator.”

Anon
Anon
2 months ago

Since Wheeler is the Portland Police commissioner and Ryan is the Portland Housing commissioner, I’m not seeing how voting Hardesty out is a referendum on the status quo based on the metrics stated in this article (crime, homelessness).

Hardesty was the only commissioner doing anything innovative, especially getting PSR up and running.

Now we have another conservative in liberal clothing who will only reinforce the status quo of ineffectualism led by Wheeler.

I really can’t see how the Wheeler, Ryan, Gonzalez trifecta is going to be effective in any way. What are they going to do beyond inhumanely pushing people around the city and making things (more) illegal, which won’t do anything to solve the underlying issues?

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
2 months ago
Reply to  Anon

As he pointed out – Hardesty was the only councilor up for re-election. She basically shouldered the burden of the complete incompetence shown by all of the bozos in office.

2 more years of this and we’ll see how well the people in charge during that time fare come election time.

NoPoResident
NoPoResident
2 months ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

Dan Ryan was up for re-election, Rene and Vadim decided to run against Jo Ann instead so he had no one run against him in the primary.

NoPoResident
NoPoResident
2 months ago
Reply to  Anon

Thanks Anon, i came here to say basically this. It is very odd that Jonathan framed her loss as a referendum on the status quo when she is one of the only truly progressive politicians Portland has ever had. She made some transformational changes in her very short time on the council and is the only voice for actual working class people. It is also very interesting that Rene chose to run against her and not Dan Ryan who is the actual commissioner in charge of the housing bureau… I wonder why he did that? His win is just digging our heels into the status quo of criminalizing homelessness and relying on a corrupt police system to protect the rich.

Anyway, i am thrilled for charter reform and so relieved that Tina eked out a win.

Serenity
Serenity
2 months ago
Reply to  Anon

NIMBYS hated having Hardesty in there.

cc_rider
cc_rider
2 months ago

There’s something so funny about getting rid of Hardesty because of homelessness and crime while also voting for Vega Pederson, who is the hand picked successor of the architect of Multnomah County’s homeless crisis Deb Kafoury.

It really goes to show most people have no idea how our government works and who is responsible for what.

Chris I
Chris I
2 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

It’s because most voters don’t understand how culpable the Mult Co leadership is in all of this. They only seem to focus on the mayor and city council.

cc_rider
cc_rider
2 months ago

JM- editorial note, Vega Pederson is not the incumbent, both are running for an empty seat that is being vacated by Deb, and both already sit on the County Commission

squareman
squareman
2 months ago

While I see huge problems with the City Charter reform and voting systems, I welcome doing anything different from what has been done. Hopefully it won’t take another 100 years just to improve or fix the problems with the new system.

Bitter_Barista
Bitter_Barista
2 months ago

While I am glad the charter reform passed, knowing that there are two council members who were opposed to it, I am curious to see what kind of opposition and/or obstruction they will drum up in the next two years. As far as Hardesty, it’s interesting that she was blamed for many of the ills of Portland while being only 1/5 of the council and not in charge of the main issues people were concerned about…

Serenity
Serenity
2 months ago
Reply to  Bitter_Barista

They just used her as a scapegoat for everything they didn’t like about the city.