Your Viewpoint: Portland’s Orwellian Charter Commission

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Credit some Charter Commission members for breaking with their progressive peers to vote against the off-the-rails process of the governance committee. The overall commission’s process orchestrated by Chairman Michael Kebede has been capricious, deceptive, and non-transparent. Blinded by a predetermined “strong mayor” outcome, progressives believe increasing centralized power by a politicalized authoritarian mayor is somehow more democratic. I’m reminded of the “doublethink” George Orwell warned about in “1984.”

Commission progressives want centralized power, a strong mayor, and reduced City Council influence, which equals less democracy. Another commission committee wants to decentralize power by expanding the council from nine to 12 members, which is more democratic. This conflicted thinking is doublethink: the power of holding two contradictory beliefs and believing both of them. Make no mistake, this conflicted thinking does not balance since a strong mayor will dominate the council. 

Given the conflict within the commission’s process and meetings, confused thinking is not surprising. By insisting that an autocratic, cult-of-personality strong mayor or “Big Brother” is democratic, progressives are hoping to mislead the public. Orwell wasn’t only warning of far-right fascist regimes, but far-left socialist ones, too. 

Robert Kahn
Portland