Last Friday, March 23, the county elections division released all of the voters pamphlet arguments for this May's "special" election on changing the city's charter. The good news: If you're facing down a hail of gunfire, you can use the crushing volume of paperwork to stop a bullet.
The pamphlet will cover all four looming ballot measures, but, of course, the most interesting arguments are being made over the form of government change. Both sides filed multiple statements, relying heavily on arguments that have made the rounds for the past couple of months.
On the yes side (the side that wants to create a "strong mayor" city government), they're arguing that the current form of government "creates blind spots that produce disasters like the water bureau's $10 million billings fiasco and a tram that cost four times the city estimate." Get that? Water Bureau! Tram!
(Interestingly, they're largely concerned about "duplicating city services" that cost money, yet they've included the exact same statements, including a letter from Mayor Tom Potter four times, one for each ballot measure, costing them money each time. Way to set an example!)
On the no side, the arguments are largely based around two arguments: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" and "Don't concentrate power in the hands of one person."
Meanwhile! Guess who's for the strong mayor system? Scott Andrews, president of commercial real estate firm Melvin Mark Properties. Andrews giddily told the Oregonian that giving all the power to the mayor would gut labor unions' political power. The local chapter of SEIU has been making the Mark company's life hell over its shoddy treatment of janitors, and guess who's jumped to the janitors' rescue: Commissioners Erik Sten, Randy Leonard, and Sam Adams—the same three commissioners who've come out against Potter's strong mayor effort.
If the charter reform debate is truly shaping up as a big business vs. labor union battle, it could be a done deal. Portlanders don't often side with corporations over unions—and they're especially unlikely to when the issue at hand is consolidation of power in the hands of one person. One would think Potter learned that lesson when he ran against Jim Francesconi, ally to the Melvin Marks of Portland.
Lastly! If all the words above were like French to you (assuming you don't speak French), you should head down to Acme (1305 SE 8th) at 7 pm on the evening of Wednesday, April 4, where the Mercury is teaming up with the Bus Project for "Sex, Beer, and Charter Reform!"
We'll have experts from both sides talking about Portland's government—plus booze! Fun!