Charter Reform in the City of Portland

HBA Awards

HBA: HBA of Greater Portland

Category: Government Affairs

Location: Lake Oswego, Ore.

Size: Local Association: 601+ members

Year: 2022

The HBA of Greater Portland advocated for the overhaul of Portland’s commissioner-form of city government. The HBA became a key player and partner in a large business community-led effort and campaign to overhaul the city’s form of government through an even broader charter reform movement centered on systemic overhaul to allow the city to govern in a way that meets the needs to residents.

The goals of the project were three-fold, first to support a broader charter reform initiative to approve a council-manager form of government, with a strong city manager position; second to help shape the charter reform approach to specifically deal with the challenges with having various bureaus operating under individual elected official “fiefdoms,” with little accountability or coordination between each other as well as to streamline the development and permitting functions that have hampered residential construction; and to strengthen the HBA’s reputation as a key regional player with other advocacy groups.

While the HBA advocated strongly for specific reforms through a broader effort, the work was carried out by a special 20-member Commission, the Chair being one of the HBA’s key staff, solely dedicated to developing the framework and ballot measure for reform. The Commission heard testimony from thousands of Portlanders and put forth recommendations. Additionally, the HBA helped create the business community campaign arm coalition. Voters were in favor of the change and while the transition will take a couple more years, there have already been significant results.