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MOTOYA NAKAMURA / MULTNOMAH COUNTY


UPDATE, April 15:

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People for Portland has decided to challenge the latest ruling by Metro's legal team against its ballot initiative. On Friday, the political group appealed the ruling in Multnomah County Circuit Court, arguing that Metro's decision isn't based on strong legal arguments and called it an "obstructionist scheme" by Metro politicians, not lawyers.

"Metro and their allies in the homeless industrial complex will stop at nothing to defend a failed status quo that each night puts lives at risk and forces thousands of people to sleep outside and unsheltered on our streets," reads a press release from People for Portland published Friday.

ORIGINAL STORY, April 14:

Metro's legal team has again denied a ballot initiative proposed by People for Portland—meant to spend reserved supportive housing dollars on homeless shelters—for failing to change the ballot's text to meet constitutional requirements.

Metro Attorney Carrie MacLaren's reasoning is nearly identical to her previous explanation as to why the group's initial proposal did not pass legal muster. This comes as no surprise, as People for Portland did little to change its initial proposal to address the legal issues outlined by MacLaren in its second submission.

The measure proposes taking taxpayer dollars reserved for permanent housing 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 began distributing funds to Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties last summer.

People for Portland's 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. Plus, it would allow any member of the public to sue Metro if they believed the government body wasn't adequately enforcing the new measure.

In her initial rejection of the ballot initiative, MacLaren wrote that the proposal as written includes three issues that conflict with requirements under the Oregon Constitution. In its second submission of its ballot measure, People for Portland addressed one of these problems with a small edit, leaving the rest of the original text intact. Thus, in her latest response, MacLaren notes that the proposal still contains two constitutional conflicts.

According to the state constitution, a ballot initiative that amends current government code must include the text of a code it hopes to amend and it isn't allowed to amend an administrative rule. MacLaren writes that People for Portland's measure breaches both of these requirements.

It's not clear why People for Portland did not address all three constitutional errors before re-filing its ballot measure. The group has not responded to the Mercury's request for comment.