Commentary: Like democracy, the commission should not be an echo chamber
On June 8, we the people of Portland have the opportunity to step beyond the personalities who have shaped our politics in recent years and focus on the future.
As a candidate for a general seat on the Charter Commission, I hope that, through the charter review process, we as a city can have constructive and critical conversations about how Portland can best reflect our diversity, our values, our hopes and our dreams. .
Portland is experiencing growing pains. Many of those I have spoken to when knocking on doors have hinted at the idea that Portland is changing, for better or for worse. With all of this growth and change, and the impacts they are having on housing affordability, homelessness, and sustainable and equitable development, the question arises: will Portland’s municipal government structure adapt to this? it, will it change and modernize accordingly?
I hope the answer is a resounding “yes”. But it’s how we get to ‘yes’ that matters.
That is why how we approach the charter review process matters as much as what the commission ultimately recommends to voters. Think of it as quality control.
I see democracy as a dialogue, an ongoing conversation that we as participants collectively engage in. In a local sense, I see the charter review process as a break from this conversation. This is an opportunity for us collectively to breathe deeply, relax, reframe the discussion and adjust the rules of engagement. Indeed, Portland has had a lot of them throughout its history.
As the Portlanders begin to vote for a new Charter Commission, I hope they will give due consideration to the composition of the commission when ranking their picks.
As the co-chair of the last Charter Commission eloquently stated in her recent Letter to the Editor, it is imperative that we have diverse voices and perspectives at the table. This alone will help prevent the review process from becoming an echo chamber and make it more inclusive and representative of people from all walks of life and from all walks of life.
While the kind of destructive political strife we’ve seen in Portland politics over the years should be left out of the charter review process, there are constructive conflicts that naturally occur in a room where there are visions. of the world, different ideas and approaches to the challenges we face.
This natural friction, if managed well and with maturity, will improve the charter review process as it exposes Commissioners to other views and opinions and pushes them to think creatively and innovate.
My friend and District 1 candidate, Shay Stewart-Bouley, put it best when she wrote in her recent column that “Commissioners will need to overcome differences and reach consensus to create recommendations and revisions that will benefit ultimately to all residents of Portland ”.
Although an elected body, the Charter Commission is not an ordinary political or legislative body. It is not a place for politics as usual.
I hope the charter review process will be approached thoughtfully and with great consideration for the impacts it will have on all Portlanders, not just a few or those of a particular political persuasion. While I have presented some of my ideas on how we can improve Town Hall, I go there knowing that I will be one of 11 other Commissioners, each with their own ideas and contributions.
If I am elected Commissioner General of the Charter, I look forward to working with my fellow Commissioners to do the hard work of leading a city-wide conversation about how the City Charter and our municipal government can. better represent and reflect the city of Portland.