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City Club committee recommends 'no' vote on strong mayor measure

Another panel comes out against City Council input into PDC's budget

Two committees of the influential City Club on Thursday released reports recommending a 'no' vote on two of four proposed charter changes on the May ballot.

The City Club committees have researched the two measures since mid-February; their recommendations will be voted on by the 1,700-member nonprofit civic-affairs organization on April 20.

Supporters of Measure 26-91, which was proposed by Mayor Tom Potter's Charter Review Commission, say scrapping Portland's unusual form of government would lead to greater efficiency and lower cost to taxpayers. The measure would instead install a strong mayor as well as a single professional manager to oversee the city's bureaucracy. Under the current 'five-mayor' system, all five members of the City Council oversee city agencies, or bureaus, as assigned by the mayor.

However, the City Club committee concluded that the measure is flawed and that it would decrease the checks and balances inherent in Portland's current system, which gives members of the City Council great leeway to bypass or check a weak or reckless mayor, the committee's report said.

The City Club's position on the form-of-government proposal is a departure for the group, which historically has taken positions calling for reforms to Portland's government structure.

The other City Club committee recommended against Measure 26-92, which would make the City Council a 'budget committee' of the PDC. The PDC was set up to be a quasi-independent economic-development and revitalization agency.

Members of the City Council had sought such a change in order to have more direct influence over the PDC and its budget. The Mayor's Charter Review Commission had recommended against decreasing the independence of the agency, only to be overruled by Potter and a majority of council members.

But the City Club committee sided with the Mayor's Commission over the mayor, saying that current structure of the PDC insulates it from political pressure and 'is critical to the effectiveness of the agency.'

The full City Club will debate and vote on the measures before its April 20 lunch meeting at the Governor Hotel, 614 S.W. 11th Ave. The debate between club members starts at 11:30 am. The luncheon program, which is open to the public, is called 'Building a Green Future' and will feature experts on green buildings and sustainable design. Tickets for non-members are $5, or $20 with lunch.