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City Club recommends 'no' vote on strong mayor measure

Portland group also advocates saying 'no' to giving City Council input into PDC's budget

On Friday, the influential City Club recommended voting no 'on' two of four proposed Portland charter changes on the May ballot.

Two City Club committees had researched the two measures starting in mid-February and advocated that the 1,700-member nonprofit civic-affairs organization urge voters to say 'no' to both measures.

Supporters of Measure 26-91, which was proposed by Mayor Tom Potter's Charter Review Commission, said 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, a 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.'

- Nick Budnick