Government of Portland, Oregon

Government of Portland, Oregon

The Government of Portland, Oregon, a city in the U.S. state of Oregon, is based on a city commission government system. Elected officials include a Mayor, a City Council, and a City Auditor. The mayor and commissioners (members of City Council) are responsible legislative policy and oversee the various bureaus that oversee the day-to-day operation of the city. [ [ list of bureaus] ] The auditor is responsible for ensuring that the government operates in good faith.

Each elected official serves a four year term, without term limits.

Current City Commissioners are: Dan Saltzman (re-elected in 2006), along with Sam Adams, Randy Leonard, and Mayor Tom Potter (all of whose terms expire in 2008.) The Auditor is Gary Blackmer. Former Commissioner Erik Sten, who was last elected in 2006, resigned April 42008; his seat will be filled by Nick Fish, who won 62% for an outright victory in the May 20, 2008 primary.

Form of government

In May 2007, Portland citizens rejected a ballot measure which would have changed city government to a strong mayor system. Similar changes have been proposed and rejected several times over the years.


The Portland Charter was the subject of much debate circa 1911-1912. Rival charters were drafted by four different groups, including the "official charter committee," appointed by the mayor; the "people's charter committee," constituted under the auspices of the East Side Business Men's Club; another citizen's committee which drafted the Short Charter; and the "people's committee," led by W.C. Benbow, which drafted the Benbow Charter. The Short Charter was unusual in that it would have used Bucklin voting to elect the mayor and implemented interactive representation of the people through the commissioner system; each commissioner's vote would have been weighted according to the number of votes he received in the election. The city council appointed a committee to draft a compromise charter. This charter, along with the Short Charter, were defeated in referenda. The following year, the city council submitted another charter to the people, which was accepted. [cite book|title=The Law and the Practice of Municipal Home Rule|author=McBain, Howard Lee|pages=598-599]

Notable former commissioners

* Jim Francesconi, defeated in his bid for Mayor in 2004, was appointed to the Oregon Board of Higher Education in February 2007. He has also reopened his private law practice, notably representing Warner Pacific College.cite news|last=Moore |first=Scott
title=David vs. Goliath:The Battle for Mt. Tabor Heats Up
work=The Portland Mercury
date=November 23, 2006
* Gretchen Kafoury [cite news
title=Kafoury's youngest opponent is 28, oldest 80
work=The Oregonian
date=May 10, 1994
* Congressman Earl Blumenauer served on the Council before running for the House. [cite news
title=EPA challenges Portland sewer effort
work=The Oregonian
date=October 15 2002


City Council seats, as well as the City Auditor, are non-partisan, elected positions; each carries a four-year term. As with all non-partisan positions in Oregon, candidates face off in a primary election (typically in May of even-numbered years); if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers face off in a runoff election (typically the following November.) Three Council seats, including the Mayor, will up for election in 2008; the other two seats, and the Auditor position, are up for election in 2010.

Portland recently adopted a publicly-financed election system for all six positions. This law allows candidates to qualify for public funding of $145,000 if they can gather 1000 contributions of five dollars each by a certain date. (For Mayoral candidates, 1500 contributions of $5 are required, and the amount granted is $160,000.) In 2006, the first year the law went into effect, two candidates availed themselves of this system: incumbent Erik Sten, and Amanda Fritz (in her challenge to Dan Saltzman.) Sten won in the primary, barely clearing the 50% threshold; Fritz lost in the primary.

Emilie Boyles also qualified for and received public financing, but was found to have gathered the qualifying funds improperly, and misspent the public funds. [cite news
title=Political novice testifies: Fundraiser misled her
date= June 27, 2007
work=The Oregonian

Related government entities

Portland is the county seat of Multnomah County, and the core of Metro, a regional government primarily concerned with land use planning. Both of these government entities have a strong impact on Portland policy. Portland is also governed by the government of Oregon and the federal government of the United States.

ee also

*Portland City Hall


* list of notable Commissioners from Willamette Week's 25 year [ anniversary issue] (1999)

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