One of the things I love about Portland is the value placed on activist citizen involvement in the body politics of our city. I've lived here nearly 19 years and believe that is one of the key ingredients that makes Portland great.
I applaud Mayor Potter and the City Council for constituting a very representative group of Portland citizens to serve as the Charter Review Commission (CRC) and charge them to make recommendations about how our city governance process could be improved. They came back with four recommendations, which I applaud greatly, and we will have the chance to vote on them in a few weeks.
While the mayor and City Council do have the right to accept or reject any recommendation made to them, I'm at a loss as to why they rejected the CRC's recommendation on PDC and have revised the ballot language to ask voters to give the City Council more control over PDC than they already have.
The truth is that PDC exists to carry out the policy dictates of the mayor and City Council. There was a good reason for the arms-length, which today is more like finger-tip distance, relationship — to not let critical business deals creating jobs, housing, and sustaining vibrant economic development get caught up in more bureaucracy and politics than it already does.
What's odd is PDC is admired nation-wide for its results: great collaboration with city bureaus, neighborhood and business groups to develop green spaces, enhance the transportation system, eliminate blight, encourage private sector investment and the list goes on. We've had public sector representatives from around the United States and around the world visit Portland and go home attempting to adopt our nearly 50-year tradition of success while it seems our short-sighted mayor and City Council want to do away with it and go backwards.
Portland is a leading city! We have a history of being innovative and admired in so many ways for breaking new ground. What we've never been accused of is "being backwards" and "ineffective" in our thinking, shaping and implementing of public policy. Even with our out-dated commission form of government we've accomplished a great deal over the years.
I ask all citizens to look long and hard at our choices on the ballot and come to the conclusion that the first three ballot measures are solidly innovative and should have our support, but resoundingly reject the mayor and City Council's quest for more control over PDC which will take us "backward." Whatever is broken in the eyes of the mayor and City Council, I believe, just like the CRC believed, can be fixed without a charter amendment. Let's continue to be the forward-thinking, innovative, and leading community we're known for. Vote against the PDC charter amendment!
J.W. Matt Hennessee is Senior Pastor of Vancouver Avenue 1st Baptist Church and former volunteer PDC Commissioner and Chair of the Board.