During the Council meeting on January 11, Charter Commissioners informed the Council of 9 Charter revisions referred by the 2011 Charter Commission to the ballot in May 2012. The Charter Commission did not need Council approval of these measures, since at least 15 of the 20 Charter Commissioners voted to refer each to the voters, after a public hearing as prescribed by the Council in setting the process for public review late last year. I support the Commission's recommendations, and I am very grateful to each member for diligent work to get consensus on these proposed changes.
The majority of the changes would remove antiquated language or policies from the Charter document, as well as updating and/or clarifying content. The proposed amendments will appear on the May 2012 ballot for voters' consideration. This package has been termed "housekeeping", however it includes many important changes. Voter approval of these amendments will go a long way to updating the Charter.
Overviews of these nine proposed changes, with my personal comments under each one, are as follows:
SUMMARY OF FIRST PROPOSED AMENDMENT
Amend Charter Section 1-106 by deleting the phrase "to the City Attorney"
The Commission recommends an amendment to Section 1-106 on tort claim notices, to make the Charter consistent with state law. The Oregon Tort Claims Act identifies who may receive tort claim notices for the City, including the City Attorney and other City officials. For consistency with state law, this amendment removes a requirement that service be made only to the City Attorney.
SUMMARY OF SECOND PROPOSED AMENDMENT
Amend Section 2-105(a)(14): To appropriate annually to the Mayor two thousand
dollars ($2,000) as and for a discretionary secret service Fund, for which the Mayor need furnish no vouchers, and such appropriation shall be made.
This amendment would require that expenditures from this fund be accounted for in the same manner as other City expenditures. It changes the name from "secret service" to "discretionary" to more accurately reflect the nature of the fund.
SUMMARY OF THIRD PROPOSED AMENDMENT
Delete Charter Section 2-105(a)(50): To prevent the sale, circulation, display and disposition of obscene matter, including books, papers, prints, pictures, films and other material, and of obscene advertisements of any kind, and to punish any person who sells or offers for sale, displays or who circulates or disposes of such literature, books, papers, prints, pictures, films, advertising matter and other material, and to define and declare from time to time what literature, books, papers, prints, pictures, films, advertising matter and other material are obscene within the purposes and province of this provision. (delete in entirety)
Preventing the sale of obscenity has been pre-empted by the Oregon Supreme Court's interpretation of Article I, Section 8 of the Oregon Constitution. Deletion of this section of the City's specific powers will not impair the City's general powers and authority to protect and provide support for the City's public health, safety and welfare, and removes the illusion that the City has powers which it actually doesn't.
SUMMARY OF FOURTH PROPOSED AMENDMENT
Delete Charter Section 2-105(a)(51): To define what constitutes vagrancy, and to provide for the support, restraint, punishment and employment of vagrants and paupers. (delete in entirety)
This removes offensive and outdated language. Deletion of this section of the City's specific powers will not impair the City's general powers and authority to protect and provide support for the City’s public health, safety and welfare.
SUMMARY OF FIFTH PROPOSED AMENDMENT
Delete Charter Section 2-105(a)(54): To prohibit the exhibition of deformed or crippled persons, and to prohibit all persons from begging upon the streets or in public places. (delete in entirety)
This proposed amendment removes outdated and offensive language. The Oregon Constitution's provisions regarding free speech and expression govern panhandling and other forms of requests made on Portland's streets.
SUMMARY OF SIXTH PROPOSED AMENDMENT
Amend Section 2-108 – Emergency fund: There shall be annually appropriated and set apart the sum of five thousand dollars ($5,000) to be known as the Emergency Fund of the Council and the Council may use and expend such Fund, or any part thereof, in its discretion for any purpose it may deem proper or advantageous to the public welfare, and shall not be required to furnish vouchers showing the purposes for which such expenditures were made. No part of such Fund shall be used as compensation or additional salary or for the personal benefit of the Mayor or any Commissioner.
This amendment would require that expenditures from this fund be accounted for in the same manner as other City expenditures.
SUMMARY OF SEVENTH PROPOSED AMENDMENT
Amend Charter Section 2-206(b) to change the word "but" to "or."
This section specifies the elections process and timing for filling vacancies in elective City offices. The intent of Section 2-206 is to ensure that there is an election procedure to fill vacancies that may occur at any time during an elected official's four year term. Each of the three subsections - (b), (c) and (d) - is intended to apply to different periods of time during the four year term. While the wording of Subsection (b) is ambiguous, the City has interpreted Subsection (b) to apply to the periods of time not covered by Subsections (c) and (d). However, the City is concerned that Subsection (b) could be interpreted to apply only if a vacancy occurs both more than 100 days before the primary election in the fourth year of the term but also less than seventy-one days before the general election in the fourth year even though these two time periods do not overlap, rendering Subsection (b) meaningless. Changing a single word "but" to "or" in Subsection (b) would clarify its meaning consistent with intent and would ensure that vacancies occurring during the first three years of an elected official’s term are covered by the Charter.
Got that? This is a great example of why I am so grateful to the Charter Commissioners for puzzling through so many intricate wording issues.
SUMMARY OF EIGHTH PROPOSED AMENDMENT
Amend Section 13-301 to add term of office and vacancy provisions for Charter Commission appointments.
The Charter Commission recommends amending Charter Section 13-301 to provide that the Council shall appoint Charter Commission members to a term of office of at least two years, and may appoint members to additional terms or to later Charter commissions. The amendment further changes Charter Section 13-301 to define when a vacancy exists on the Charter Commission, and how a vacancy will be filled.
SUMMARY OF NINTH PROPOSED AMENDMENT
Delete Chapter 14, Exposition-Recreation Commission
The Charter Commission recommends deletion of Chapter 14 of the Charter, Exposition-Recreation Commission because the chapter is obsolete. The functions that were previously carried out by the City Exposition-Recreation Commission are now carried out by the Metropolitan Service District (Metro) through its Metropolitan Exposition and Recreation Commission under a 1989 agreement (as amended) among Portland and other government bodies. Any remaining rights or obligations of the former City Exposition-Recreation Commission vest in the City Council pursuant to the Charter and these agreements.
The current Charter Commission members will serve until March 3, 2012. They are considering several other amendments that might be sent to the November ballot, including language on an Independent Utility Review Commission, Instant Runoff Voting, the Human Rights Commission, and Police Accountability. Any of these issues must be discussed in at least two Public Hearings before the Charter Commission may vote on an amendment proposal.
The Charter Commission meets Monday, January 23 at 6 p.m. in the Rose Room on the 3rd floor of City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Avenue. All are welcome. Contact Alex Villareal if you need ADA or translation accommodations in order to participate. The Charter Commission's web site is here.