This should really be the fourth post in this series, but I'm still researching the proposals for PDC and for changes to the Civil Service rules. So, skipping to the last listed of the Charter Review Commission's recommendations:
Require periodic review of City Charter
Sounds reasonable, huh? What's being proposed isn't the process we're engaged in now, though. While a regular review of the Charter every five years would be mandated, which is good, a Charter Review Commission's proposals would go straight to the ballot, with no public hearing at/authorization by City Council. The ballot measure language that you and I could vote Yes or No on would be chosen by a citizen Commission, volunteers appointed by the Mayor.
While this again is like the Multnomah County model, I worry about the makeup of future Commissions and its members' concern/time for public process. For the seven years I was on the Planning Commission, of course I didn't have office hours because I don't have an office, and all communication was filtered through a staff person since the city didn't want volunteers deluged at home or work with calls and emails. I made myself much more available, by my own choice and effort, than many Planning Commissioners with whom I served. It depends so much on the individuals chosen: that makes me uncomfortable, for a committee making final decisions rather than recommendations. While volunteers on the Planning Commission sometimes want to be decision-makers instead of advisory to Council, I didn't see that as my role since I was appointed rather than elected. I disagreed vehemently with the Council's decision reversing the Planning Commission's recommendation on the Tram, for example, but I respected their right to make it. We need only look at the controversy surrounding the Portland Development Commission, to recognize that many Portlanders are uncomfortable with appointed volunteers making final decisions.
According to the discussion draft of the recommendations, the Charter Review Commission's proposal for periodic review "gives citizens an expanded role in the governance process". My reaction is that it gives the citizens appointed by the Mayor this expanded role. It reduces the role of people elected to represent all citizens. It's not clear whether the Council would even direct the Commission on which parts of the Charter to tackle next, or if that too would be left to their discretion. There are many sections that need updating, beyond the four being addressed in the current process.
If this charter revision was in place today, the proposal to switch to a Strong Mayor/Chief Administrator model of the Council would go straight to the voters, with no public hearing before Council. And then, as discussed in my previous post, voters are often guided mostly by corporate media and business-funded advertising. Even with the current practice on Council where making deals to line up three votes seems to be the norm, I believe I have more chance of persuading elected officials than of fighting Big Money.