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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 23, 2007 1:30 PM. The previous post in this blog was Blazers win!. The next post in this blog is An equal opportunity offender. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

News from the sticks

I haven't heard much about last week's far-east-side debate between Mayor Tom Potter and Commissioner Randy Leonard on the topic of the proposed Portland charter reforms. One reader writes:

Randy insisted that, under the new form, the mayor would only need to get TWO other votes on the council to get his way. Randy insisted that was too much power. I don't know what cog he slipped. Clearly, the mayor only needs two more votes NOW. But Randy kept saying it over and over.

Potter was equally clueless. His main point was that City Hall would be more accessible to citizens, rather than special interests, under the new form. Huh? One phone number instead of five provides more access? Portland Business Alliance paying for the campaign?

Bottom line, they are both clueless. And all the talk is b***s*** anyway. Look at the vote on the couplet. Form of government be damned, full speed ahead for the developers.

Wonder if anyone else attended that debate and could provide a different perspective....

Comments (25)

i've heard people say "let's fix the system, don't choose the strong mayor system."

okay. who's going to do that fixing? more simply, who's going to *enforce* that fixing?

the Commissioners have the power. to a man, they're loathe to relinquish it. to a man, they cite the main reason for opposing change as "too much decision making power given to one person."

which commissioners, exactly, are standing up to take blame for the SoWa development fiasco, for example?

to me, thats key to the problems of the current system--nobody's to blame. for anything. ever. it's "the other Bureau's" fault. we "didn't get the memo." the "other guy didn't vote for it." and so on.

and, enough platitudes about i get who i vote for. i believe it's actually less about "who" than the "how" of the system. the system *encourages* walls between the supposed wise council of leaders.

enough.

This is one illustration of why the Charter changes shouldn't be on the May ballot of an off-year primary. Ballots are due this week, and hardly anyone knows about or understands the issues.

The argument outlined above was on selling public property. Under the current Charter, 4 of 5 Council members must vote to declare the land surplus, then 3 of 5 must vote to sell it to a particular buyer at a particular price. Under the proposal in 26-91, only 3 of 5 have to vote to declare the property surplus, then the Mayor alone would decide who to sell to at what price. That's where the "too much power" comes in.

What a poorly packaged set of proposals. I can't see it having a chance of passage, although a few "Reform City Hall" lawn signs have cropped up over our way.

Reform City Hall? I thought Sam Adams was going to "shake up" that building. As the kids say, ROTFLMAO.

i don't see a clear benefit to either current alternative.

what *does* confuse me is--why is it automatically considered "too much power" for the mayor to have sole decision-making power on specific issues?

from those opposed, i haven't heard an alternative for fixing the chronic problems that exist in the current system other than "yeah, it has flaws."

i keep reading the same arguments in opposition, which seem ( i think) to boil down to worries that the mayor would rub his/her hands together in glee and proceed to destroy the city.

what i'd like to see is a strong argument *for* the current system--why it deserves preservation. saying it's good because the current alternative is "really bad" isn't a strong argument.

and--given the current state of affairs in Portland, i'm hard-pressed to to find that strong defense of the council system.

As someone who works for the Federal Government, I can confidently say that adding layers to the system, ie. an Administrative Officer, in the name of increasing accountability and efficiency won’t guarantee either of them.

what i'd like to see is a strong argument *for* the current system--why it deserves preservation. saying it's good because the current alternative is "really bad" isn't a strong argument.

Excellent point. Now sit back and think about why Bush won the popular vote in 2004.


Excellent point. Now sit back and think about why Bush won the popular vote in 2004.

fraud?

Fraud...No. Because the alternative was worse.
But I do have to agree with you on all the rest of your points.
For me its removing amateurs from running multi-million dollar bureaus and turning that part over to a professional who can be fired for poor performance.

By the way, the Parkrose debate is being rebroadcast on CH 30. Times at:

http://toomuchpower.org/2007/04/24/catch-the-tom-and-randy-show/

Thanks, Chris. We'll pop some popcorn.

Under the current Charter, 4 of 5 Council members must vote to declare the land surplus, then 3 of 5 must vote to sell it to a particular buyer at a particular price.

I thought it was the other way around. 3 of 5 to declare surplus (a simple majority), but 4 of 5 to actually sell (a super majority) -- the premise being that it should be (1) easy to undo a declaration of surplus and (2) very difficult to actually sell something.

Yeah, current Charter on sale of surplus property: "Favorable vote of at least four-fifths of all members of the Council shall be necessary for any ordinance authorizing such sale, disposal or exchange."

It's the designation as surplus which only requires a simple majority (although I don't recall offhand if the rules ar slightly different on designating park land as surplus).

But anyway, yeah, the bit above which your reader tries to use to make it seem like Randy didn't know what he was talking about is WAY out of context. He made that argument in the conteext of a mayor, under the new proposal, no longer needing to get a 3/5 vote to declare surplus AND a 4/5 vote to sell, but only the 3/5 to declare surplus -- and then the mayor could do what he wanted with the property with no further Council action.

what i'd like to see is a strong argument *for* the current system

The problem is that there's no time for that discussion, because Council stupidly fast-tracked this particular proposal to the ballot.

In that context, the burden of proof rests upon the proponents of change. They have to show that their idea is better than the current one. And the reality is that even if one supports, in theory, "strong mayor", this particular proposal is brimming with flaws.

Why isn't either side buying ads on my blog?

8c)

I use to be a long time resident of Portland and I always believed we had too few council members. Portland has always been made of districts Linton, Kenton, Sellwood and West Hills. S at the least the council should be made of representation from more than the elitist Hollywood-West Hills people. North Portland has been sorely disenfranchised for ever. Want better government open the city council to more represented government.

I don't understand all the concern about "concentrated" power. As it is Sten can go after PGE, Leonard can declare biodiesel to be holy water, Adams can build streetcars, Potter can vision, and Saltzman can choose the size of a big pipe. All with absolutely no oversight.

And, if anything goes wrong ... It was the other bureau/bureaucrat's fault. I've never seen a mea culpa among any commissioner ever. Sten blamed the water billing fiasco on some bureaucrat. SoWa was blamed on bureaucrats too (who now work for Homer Williams).

It sounds like a confederation of fiefdoms where any mayor-to-be or governor-to-be can try out his or her next harebrained idea.

Really, can it be any worse?

Makes one want to vote out all the clowns. Is that on the ballot??

fraud?

Well, the NY Times had a front-page story a couple weeks ago that said there has not been any fraud. So Im thinking not.

b!x elocuted:

The problem is that there's no time for that discussion, because Council stupidly fast-tracked this particular proposal to the ballot.

In that context, the burden of proof rests upon the proponents of change.

i agree, it was stupidly fast-tracked. there *was* time for alternative proposals to be prepared for the ballot, however.

who will put forth a ballot proposal afterward that mandates reform of the Council system? Jack?


There are two charter changes that Portland badly needs: term limits and election of council members by districts. I could care less about the rest of it.

For me its removing amateurs from running multi-million dollar bureaus and turning that part over to a professional who can be fired for poor performance.

Actually, professional managers (bureau directors) already run City bureaus, in terms of day to day operations, and they can be fired for poor performance. It's a misleading argument of the pro-reform folks who say that the Commissioners are "running" the bureaus, as though they're walking the cubicles every day, reading memos from staff, and making management decisions.

What the Commissioners do is make policy decisions for whatever bureaus they are assigned. The only change under the strong-Mayor system is that one politician (the Mayor) will be in charge of all the bureaus, rather than five politicians divvying them up. The CAO will report to the Mayor in exactly the same way that bureau directors currently report to commissioners, so I fail to see how this puts the City under the management of a "professional" any more than the current system. A politician will still make all the big decisions. . . and if that politician is one of the current Council, you're going to get the same bad decisions with even LESS oversight.

KISS, when I get around to it (read: when finals end), I will post a graphic from a great talk at Reed on precisely that topic.

In brief, when compared to the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the country, the "smallest representation unit" (citizens / seats) is larger in Portland than any other city by a HUGE margin. I mean HUGE.

This is what makes the debate over campaign finance reform (for instance) so wierd. We elect city commissioners in districts that are LARGER than our congressional districts, yet we have this notion that limiting spending to 125k is somehow "good".

By what token? If a typical congressional race takes $700,000 to inform a 600,000 electorate, why do we think that a city commissioner race (which is, after all, a much lower profile office) is sufficiently funded at $125k?

Yet, at this talk, a city official argued that the current spending is even too high and needs to be lowered further.

paul, i've got a crazy idea.

let's limit campaign contributions to ZERO. then, let's provide a free, cheap-to-create public mechanism(s) that all candidates must use to get their word out.

imagine that. disallowing those with the most money to have the best chance of getting their pet candidate (or themselves) elected.

but of course, nobody can imagine that. so, government is largely bought, sold and shaped by the moneyed, despite vehement claims to the contrary.

the emperor has no clothes.

May 15th the Mayor is asking us to vote for the 7th time since 1913 on a historic change to our City Charter that will result in further centralization of city government, and I haven't even received my ballot in the mail yet!!!

It is my firm belief that more transparency and community involvement and oversight in the government process is needed and desperately so. At least the existing system has a checks and balances factor (however flimsy).

With his current track record, I do not believe the Mayor makes a reasonable case to ask Portland’s citizens to vote for a change to the City’s governmental structure. If anything, we need more community access to our elected commissioners. So when it comes to the Ballot Measure 26-91, along with Commissioners Sten, Leonard, and Adams, former Commissioner Margaret Strachan, former Mayors Frank Ivancie and Bud Clark, the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, Portland Fire Fighters Local 43, Portland City Employees Local 189, and Laborers Municipal Employees Local 483, I will vote “NO”.

Jon,

From the NY Times article you quote: "Justice Department has charged only 120 people, most of them Democrats"

That the Bush administration and Gonzales' J.D. hasn't found evidence of fraud means little to me.


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