Government of Portland, Oregon

  (Redirected from Portland City Commission)

The Government of Portland, Oregon, a city in the U.S. state of Oregon, is based on a city commission government system. Elected officials include the mayor, commissioners, and a city auditor. The mayor and commissioners (members of City Council) are responsible for legislative policy and oversee the various bureaus that oversee the day-to-day operation of the city.[1] Portland began using a commission form of government in 1913 following a public vote on May 3 of that year.[2] Each elected official serves a four-year term, without term limits. Each city council member is elected at-large. Terms are staggered, with the mayor and two commissioners elected in the same years as presidential elections, and the auditor and two commissioners elected in the same years as gubernatorial elections.

Government of the City of Portland, Oregon
Seal of Portland, Oregon.svg
Formation1851; 170 years ago (1851)
City charterPortland City Charter
City-wide elected officials
City AuditorPortland City Auditor
Legislative branch
LegislaturePortland City Commission
Meeting placePortland City Hall
Executive branch
MayorMayor of Portland, Oregon
HeadquartersPortland City Hall

Current membersEdit

Position Name First elected
Mayor Ted Wheeler 2016
Commissioner, Position 1 Carmen Rubio 2020
Commissioner, Position 2 Dan Ryan [3] 2020
Commissioner, Position 3 Jo Ann Hardesty 2018
Commissioner, Position 4 Mingus Mapps 2020
City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero 2015


The Portland Charter was the subject of much debate circa 1911–1912. Rival charters were drafted by four different groups, including the "official charter committee," appointed by the mayor; the "people's charter committee," constituted under the auspices of the East Side Business Men's Club; another citizen's committee which drafted the Short Charter; and the "people's committee," led by W.C. Benbow, which drafted the Benbow Charter. The Short Charter was unusual in that it would have used Bucklin voting to elect the mayor and implemented interactive representation of the people through the commissioner system; each commissioner's vote would have been weighted according to the number of votes he received in the election. The city council appointed a committee to draft a compromise charter. This charter, along with the Short Charter, were defeated in referenda. The following year, the city council submitted another charter to the people, which was accepted.[4] The city commission government form consequently came into use in 1913, with H. Russell Albee being the first mayor under the new system.[2]

In May 2007, Portland citizens rejected a ballot measure which would have changed city government from a commission form to a strong mayor system. Similar changes have been proposed and rejected several times over the years.

City CouncilEdit

Portland City Council
Political groups
Nonpartisan (de jure)

Democratic (4)

Independent (1)
Last election
May 19, 2020
Meeting place
Portland City Hall
Council Chamber
Portland, Oregon 97204

Composition (since 1971)Edit

Year Mayor Commissioner #1 Commissioner #2 Commissioner #3 Commissioner #4
1971 Terry Schrunk Connie McCready Neil Goldschmidt Frank Ivancie Lloyd Anderson
1973 Neil Goldschmidt Mildred Schwab
1974 Charles Jordan
1979 Connie McCready Mike Lindberg
1981 Frank Ivancie Margaret Strachan
1985 Bud Clark Dick Bogle
1987 Earl Blumenauer Bob Koch
1991 Gretchen Kafoury
1993 Vera Katz Charlie Hales
1996 Erik Sten
1997 Jim Francesconi
1999 Dan Saltzman
2003 Randy Leonard
2005 Tom Potter Sam Adams
2008 Nick Fish
2009 Sam Adams Amanda Fritz
2013 Charlie Hales Steve Novick
2017 Ted Wheeler Chloe Eudaly
2019 Jo Ann Hardesty
2020 Dan Ryan
2021 Carmen Rubio Mingus Mapps
Portland City Council in session in April 2008. From left, Randy Leonard, Sam Adams (then city commissioner), then-Mayor Tom Potter, and Dan Saltzman.


Notable former commissionersEdit


City Council seats, as well as the City Auditor, are non-partisan, elected positions; each carries a four-year term. As with all non-partisan positions in Oregon, candidates face off in a primary election (typically in May of even-numbered years); if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers face off in a runoff election (typically the following November.) Three Council seats, including the Mayor, were up for election in 2008; the other two seats, and the Auditor position, were up for election in 2010.

From 2006 to 2010, Portland used a publicly financed election system, allowing candidates to qualify for public funding of $145,000 if they could gather 1000 five-dollar contributions by a certain date (for Mayoral candidates, 1500 contributions of $5 were required for a $160,000 grant). Two candidates availed themselves of this system in 2006: incumbent Erik Sten, who won the primary election, and Amanda Fritz, who lost out to incumbent Dan Saltzman but won a seat two years later (utilizing publicly financed election money).[13] The November 2010 elections saw Portlanders rescind their support for this publicly financed election system.[14]

Neighborhood governmentEdit

Portland's neighborhood system, the Office of Community and Civic Life, is made up of 94 recognized neighborhood associations and seven neighborhood district coalition offices located throughout the city. These offices provide support and technical assistance to the volunteer-based neighborhood associations, community groups and individual activists.[15]

Handling of illegal-camp cleanupsEdit

Multiple news outlet reported on the city auditor's report on the city's handling of illegal campsite clean ups by the Homelessness/Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program.[16][17][18] Since 2015, the City of Portland implemented a streamlined campsite complaint intake. City contractor then removed tents, items and other items and stored them. The database was to prioritize cleanup based on "biohazards, garbage and other factors, such as whether campers are aggressive or openly using drugs". The Oregonian summarized that the auditors found little evidence prioritization was occurring and no clear indication of what criteria were invoked in selecting which camps are to be removed or not removed and auditors documented the city often ignored hundreds of complaints made by residents. The newspaper commented "That non-response doesn’t comport with the crackdown on illegal camping instituted by Mayor Ted Wheeler earlier in his term." The audit conducted in summer and fall of 2018 reported that the city needed to improve communications to illegal campers as well as complainants. [19] The auditor recommends providing complainants with a status update. In 2019, the city announced they intend to do that with a new app that helps people "better record and understand HUCIRP"[20] As of June 2020, the status update for reporting party has yet to be implemented per city's own status update.[21]

Joint Office of Homeless ServicesEdit

Since 2016, Multnomah County chair Deborah Kafoury and Portland mayor Ted Wheeler have paired the city and county together to the Joint Office of Homeless Services.[22] In September 2020, frustrated with tents downtown, Mayor Wheeler expressed the intent to withdraw the City of Portland from its partnership with county on JOHS.[23] The intergovernmental agreement between the city and county on the JOHS has an expense of $32.5 million to the Portland City Government and expires in June 2022.[24]

Public transportationEdit

Public transit within the city is primarily the responsibility of TriMet, not the city government, but the Portland Streetcar and Portland Aerial Tram are exceptions; both are owned by the city.[25][26] The aerial cableway is managed by Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)[26]

Related government entitiesEdit

Portland is the county seat of Multnomah County, and the core of Metro, a regional government primarily concerned with land use planning. Both of these government entities have a strong impact on Portland policy. Portland is also governed by the government of Oregon and the federal government of the United States.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ list of bureaus
  2. ^ a b MacColl, E. Kimbark (1976). "Chapter 14 – The Fruits of Progressivism, 1913–1915". The Shaping of a City: Business and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1885 to 1915. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press Company. pp. 443–445. ISBN 0-89174-043-0.
  3. ^
  4. ^ McBain, Howard Lee. The Law and the Practice of Municipal Home Rule. pp. 598–599.
  5. ^ "City Elected Officials Since 1913". Office of Auditor Mary Hull Caballero. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  6. ^ Cogswell, Philip. "Mildred Schwab (1917–1999)". The Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
  7. ^ Learn, Scott (October 15, 2002). "EPA challenges Portland sewer effort". The Oregonian.
  8. ^ Parente, Michele (December 29, 1996). "Urban pioneer Mike Lindberg takes a final bow". The Sunday Oregonian, p. 1.
  9. ^ Griffin, Anna (January 29, 2009). "Mike Lindberg's fight to save Caitlin". The Oregonian. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  10. ^ Leeson, Fred (May 10, 1994). "Kafoury's youngest opponent is 28, oldest 80". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2007-06-27.
  11. ^ Schmidt, Brad (May 23, 2011). "Portland's competitive 2012 mayoral race under way with Charlie Hales' announcement". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
  12. ^ Floum, Jessica (September 12, 2017). "Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman will not run for re-election, Nick Fish will". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2019-01-04.
  13. ^ Redden, Jim (November 8, 2008). "Fritz wins Portland City Council seat". Portland Tribune. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
  14. ^ "Portland voters rejecting Measure 26-108's publicly funded campaign program". The Oregonian. November 2, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
  15. ^ "My Neighborhood | The City of Portland, Oregon". Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  16. ^ Powell, Meerah. "Audit Calls For More Organization Of Portland Homeless Camp Clean-Up Program". Retrieved 2020-07-24.
  17. ^ Gil, Debra. "Audit: Portland needs to improve management of homeless camp cleanups". Retrieved 2020-07-24.
  18. ^ "Portland's homeless camp cleanups 'just Band-Aids'". 2019-08-01. Retrieved 2020-07-24.
  19. ^ Friedman, Gordon; Harbarger, Molly (2019-03-20). "Portland homeless camps clean-up program needs improving, auditors say". oregonlive. Retrieved 2020-07-24.
  20. ^ Falkers, Brittany (March 20, 2019). "Audit recommends several improvements for homeless camp clean-up program". Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  21. ^ "1-Year Audit Update: Cleanups of Homeless Camps: Improvements made to property handling | 2020 Reports | The City of Portland, Oregon". Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  22. ^ "Kafoury blasts Wheeler over threat to disband homeless services". 2020-09-23. Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  23. ^ "Frustrated over tents downtown, mayor threatens to pull Portland from housing partnership with county". Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  24. ^ Bailey, Everton Jr (2020-09-23). "Portland mayor threatens to pull city from county-partnered homeless efforts; county chair calls it 'outrageous'". oregonlive. Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  25. ^ "Portland Streetcar Organization". Portland Streetcar Inc. 2008. Retrieved 2010-07-05.
  26. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions". OHSU. 2007. Retrieved 2010-07-05.

External linksEdit