Carrying forward a movement that began with a petition to undo Mid-Multnomah County’s annexation to Portland in 1985, members of the renamed Portland Community Equality Movement are still determined to gain services and respect for the efforts they have been making to get the city’s attention. When it became clear the de-annexation effort would not succeed, group members switched their focus to changing Portland’s governing structure. They want the various segments of the city to be directly represented.
In the case of east Portland, the group hopes more and better services will be provided if it has a city council member who lives in one of the east Portland neighborhoods, instead of one who has been elected at large.
Of course, this still requires a petition to be turned in, scanned for legality, and compliant with other requirements that are not necessarily easy for the nonprofessional to identify. If the city auditor’s office passes the petition as constitutional, the city attorney determines the ballot measure language and title. Before the petition goes on the ballot, however, several steps must be taken, and therein is the problem.
Collene Swenson, spokesperson for this action, has already taken five trips to the auditor’s office to file a petition. Each time, she has dealt with issues of legality or verbiage, but the process can be confusing, and there is little help from officials.
There is a voter information booklet describing how to fill out forms for a petition, but it does not explain the verbal style expected by the officials who make the decisions regarding what is and isn’t acceptable.
Swenson has regularly been told to get an attorney, but she questions why the process must be so complicated. Any citizen with a basic understanding of legal procedures, she feels, should be able to file an acceptable petition to go on the ballot. She says the reactions she has gotten from the auditor’s office make her feel as if they wonder, “When will the gnat go away.”
She is hoping to involve a larger citizen base and has reached out to other activist groups. The current petition, recently submitted, is the fifth effort by the group, and more than anything, she would like their efforts to receive some respect.
On July 24, the most recent version of the petition was filed with the city’s elections office, and published in The Oregonian on Sunday, July 26, 2015. The ballot title: Amends Charter: Changes Form of City Government asks the question “Shall Portland be governed by nine member council (seven elected by district) and managed by a mayor with executive authority?”
Citizens wishing to review this petition, part of the process, have until Aug. 4, at 5 p.m., to file a petition of review with the Multnomah County Circuit Court. Swenson and her group need more than 30,000 signatures to get it on the November 2016 ballot.
“We are happy to move forward with the measure,” Swenson said in an email. “I’m looking forward to meeting many of my neighbors as we gather signatures. It will be time consuming but worth the effort to get equal representation for all of us.”
For more information, visit their Portland Community Equality Movement Facebook page, call Swenson at 503-253-8094, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.