A little over a week after the public found out about the plan, most elements of Commissioners Dan Ryan and Rene Gonzalez's proposal to overhaul Portland's government transition have lost steam. Advocates for the original measure that voters approved last November came out strong against the new changes, and a Tuesday work session on the proposal further revealed the plan's deep unpopularity—with even Mayor Ted Wheeler coming out against it.
Ryan said in a statement that the proposals for reducing city council size from 12 to eight councilors and changing the ranked-choice voting system outlined in the original charter reform measure were Commissioner Rene Gonzalez's ideas from the outset, and he "wants to make it clear" that he is not prepared to support them. Ryan still wants to add a mayoral veto or council override mechanism to the measure, but plans to push that proposal to the May 2024 ballot.
"Initially, I was curious of these ideas, so I called for a work session to gather public input and gain a deeper understanding of the potential implications," Ryan said. "The work session on Tuesday brought much clarity."
Without Ryan's vote, the math doesn't add up for Gonzalez to continue pushing the proposal, indicating Portland City Council won't vote on the charter reform measure changes next week after all.
“City commissioners have a responsibility to reassess from time-to-time prior decisions that have long-term effects,” Gonzalez told Oregon Public Broadcasting Thursday. “After conferring with my colleagues, it has become clear there is a lack of support within City Hall.”
Advocates for the original charter reform measure have expressed relief at the news and say it demonstrates the impact that public engagement can have.
"It's good to see that City Council appears to have heard the resounding public outcry regarding Ryan and Gonzalez's undemocratic attempt to undermine the will of Portland voters," Damon Motz-Storey, one of the organizers of Tuesday's pro-charter reform rally, told the Mercury. "Staying focused on supporting a smooth implementation of our new form of government and elections is essential, and no amendments should be made until we have all had a chance to experience our new system in action."
However, Ryan did say that he's moving the mayoral veto proposed ballot referral to a later Council session.
While they don't support including a mayoral veto in Portland's new system of government, during Tuesday's work session, advocates for the original charter reform measure said that adding such a change would create the least structural impact for people working on the city transition.
"I don't agree that it's a simple tweak, I think it really shifts the power," Candace Avalos, a former member of the Charter Commission, said at the work session. "But as far as implementation, [a mayoral veto] is much different than implementing a totally new voter system, or changing [districting]... that would take a lot more administrative burden on the election system."
Avalos also said if a new proposal for the charter reform measure was to be brought to voters, she thinks it would be better to do it during the regular election cycle, which would encourage more voter turnout and allow more time for education about the proposals.
Meanwhile, new reporting shows Gonzalez has his sights on making changes to other voter-approved Portland measures, including the Police Accountability Commission and the Portland Clean Energy Fund. After the chaos of the last week, he may be hard-pressed to find allies for those causes—but advocates are staying alert.
"Conservative and Republican interests have been infiltrating Portland politics under the guise of 'centrism.' We know that action speaks louder than words," new city booster coalition Portland For All wrote on Twitter. "We will not stand for narrowly elected conservatives undermining popular progressive policy."