After having its initial ballot proposal rejected for failing to meet constitutional muster, political group People for Portland has filed a new, nearly identical ballot initiative.
Like its predecessor, this proposed measure would take taxpayer dollars reserved for permanent housing solutions for homeless individuals and instead use them to create more temporary shelters in Portland's tri-county metro region.
Specifically, the ballot measure would target a voter-approved Metro fund meant to fund programs that help keep previously unhoused people in housing and off the streets for the longterm. That ballot measure, called the Supporting Housing Services fund, was passed in 2020. It distributed its first $42 million allocation of funding to Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties in summer 2021.
People for Portland—despite being co-founded by the very campaign consultant who drafted the Supportive Housing Services measure—has argued that the 2020 measure isn't making enough of an immediate impact when it comes to removing visible signs of homelessness in the region. Their ballot initiative suggests altering Metro Code to redirect 75 percent of all Supportive Housing Services dollars toward shelter beds instead of permanent solutions. The proposed measure would also restrict municipalities from using the funds if they failed to enforce their anti-camping policies. It would also allow any member of the public to sue Metro Regional Government, the measure's oversight body, if they believed the government body wasn't adequately enforcing the new measure.
The group filed its initial ballot measure on March 25, but Metro attorneys rejected the proposal on Friday, pointing to three areas where the initiative failed to meet constitutional requirements. People for Portland deemed this legal ruling to be politically motivated, and did not address whether or not it would appeal the decision. With the group's new filing, submitted Tuesday, it's clear they aren't interested in meeting legal requirements outlined by Metro's legal team.
The ballot initiative's phrasing is identical to its predecessor, aside from one new phrase. The change comes at the beginning of the initiative's text, where it introduces the proposed code changes.
The initial measure read: "The following sections 11.01.055, 11.01.210, 11.01.220, and 11.01.230 are added to Metro Code Chapter 11.01:" The measure submitted Tuesday reads: "THE PEOPLE OF METRO ORDAIN AS FOLLOWS: The following sections 11.01.055, 11.01.210, 11.01.220, and 11.01.230 are added to Metro Code Chapter 11.01:"
This single change may resolve one of the several constitutional issues raised by Metro's attorney last week—but not all of them.
In a letter sent to Multnomah County Elections Division director Tim Scott on Friday, Metro Attorney Carrie MacLaren wrote that the written initiative needs to include the sections of Metro Code it aims to amend, noting that, "Without the context of the existing sections of Metro Code, voters do not have sufficient information to understand the full impact of [the initiative]." She also wrote that the measure lacked a required "ordaining clause" to specify the form of the proposed ordinance. More broadly, MacLaren explained that the measure goes beyond constitutional limits of ballot initiatives by asking to amend an already existing administrative framework. Under Oregon law, ballot initiatives can only create new legislation, not adjust administrative systems.
This added statement to the new ballot measure may address the lack of an "ordaining clause" in the group's initial proposal. Yet People for Portland appeared to ignore the other legal concerns raised by MacLaren—suggesting this initiative will again be kept from moving forward to the November ballot.
Reached for comment Wednesday, a People for Portland spokesperson said the group wouldn't comment on the new filing until later in the day.
HereTogether, the nonprofit coalition that championed Metro's Supportive Housing Services measure, called the new filing a "political stunt" that only delays the region's work on resolving homelessness.
"People for Portland re-filed their unconstitutional ballot initiative with almost no changes," said HereTogether co-director Angela Martin Wednesday morning. "This is a political stunt that is a distraction from the real work happening now to help our unhoused neighbors transition indoors. Our community needs to be laser focused on supporting and scaling up the work happening now to provide safe housing and critical services, including mental health and addiction treatment, eviction prevention, job training, case management, and more.”