Save for a few qualifying phrases, Anne Pringle’s March 15 op-ed (“Another Viewpoint: What’s going on with the Portland Charter Commission?”) contains a number of inaccuracies. While clean elections was the impetus for the initial referendum, I believe most voters were aware that a Portland Charter Commission would consider the whole charter, including the question of an executive mayor.
The “potentially costly initiatives” cited include “a revamped police review board” and “an ethics commission,” which are both volunteer; “increased pay for city councilors,” which failed; there has been no discussion of an “elected ombudsman” and the prospect of an elected public advocate position has not gained traction.
Regarding transparency, although posting things to the packets has, at times, been rocky, it is not a transparency deficiency so much as an administrative one; nothing is gained by hiding agenda items from the public.
Several members of the public have demanded that one commissioner disclose who might have “helped” write what amounted to a dissenting opinion, but the proposal itself received just cursory consideration and there is little chance that it will move beyond that. Since then, other commissioners have put forth modified proposals without comment.
The article lastly cites “the kind of campaign rhetoric we are already seeing.” Such a claim is again hard to dispute because it doesn’t give an example; it is also hard to support. On the other hand, there may be (note qualifying language) two anonymous groups organizing to campaign against the charter.
Zack Barowitz, charter commissioner