Portland’s city government website pulls no punches.

“The City of Portland has the last remaining Commission form of government among large cities in the United States.”

Friday Forum, May 3, 2019

To attend, purchase tickets here. The forum begins at noon on Friday, May 4, 2019, at Sentinel Hotel, 614 SW 11th Ave., Portland.

But why? Is that a point of pride or a call for improvement?

Portland chose its form of government in 1913. At the time, the commission form of government was a popular system. It means the city is run by a mayor, an auditor, and a city council, all elected in at-large and by plurality. These officials have enormous responsibilities: conducting legislative business; passing laws; serve as administrators; and act as a quasi-judicial panel to hear land-use cases and other kinds of requests.

Over the years, hundreds of cities across the United States have shed the commission system for other forms, such as the council-manager form of city government.

City Club of Portland, a volunteer research committee, spent a year studying the “why” and set out to answer two questions: “Does the current commission form of government equitably represent all residents?” and “What is the best form of government for Portland in terms of representation?”

  • Their findings, released in the form of a report in February, identify five problems with the city commission and make five recommendations for improvement. Among them, moving away from first-past-the-post voting and embracing multi-member districts with an advanced voting system.

    Now the City Club is hosting a series of discussions that takes a closer look at Portland’s form of government. The series aims to explore the history behind the city’s current state of affairs, as well as examine who has benefited and who has been burdened by the system.

    The first one is at noon on Friday, May 4, at Sentinel Hotel, 614 SW 11th Ave., Portland. Tickets are required to attend.

    Featured speakers will include Sightline Senior Researcher Kristin Eberhard, who served as an expert witness to the City Club.

    Can’t be there in person? Tune in on XRAY radio.