Full Portland Charter Commission to reconvene next week

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After several weeks of committee meetings, Portland’s full Charter Commission will reconvene on Oct 27.

The commission, which is charged with creating recommendations to update the city’s constitution, began meeting at the end of June. Commissioners formed several committees in August, with the goal of tackling some of their top priorities, including learning more about the clean elections process and hearing from Portland’s three recent mayors about the office and its relationship with the city manager.

Michael Kebede

Chairman Michael Kebede said the Oct. 27 meeting will be “focused on report-outs” from the five committees, each of which is working to create “one or two” recommendations by the end of this year or early 2022.

“This is the first time everyone will know where everyone is,” Kebede said.

Kebede noted several committees have had significant discussions.

For example, the governance committee recently met with Mayor Kate Snyder and former Mayors Ethan Strimling and Michael Brennan to get their feedback about the mayor’s role in city government. Kebede said the procedures committee, on which he sits, has gathered information about the city’s referendum process.

“We’re in an investigatory process now,” he said.

The 12-person commission has until next June to complete its work and send recommendations to voters unless it requests a one-year extension – a possibility city councilors have said is a reason not to delay replacing City Manager Jon Jennings, who will leave his job in November.

Recommendations that come from the Charter Commission, which could include eliminating the city manager position, revising the system of Police Department oversight, or overhauling the size and structure of electoral districts, would go to voters in a referendum.

Kebede said commissioners will return to committees after the Oct. 27 meeting to continue working on and formalizing their recommendations.

Overall, he said, he’s been “pleasantly surprised” by the way all commissioners have been able to work together throughout this process.

“There’s less rancor than some expected and people are getting along and groups are doing their work without any controversy,” Kebede said.