Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How I'll Vote: Special Election 05.15.2007 (result update)

It's time to vote in the not-so-special "Special Election". I'll dump endorsements and thoughts here as I contemplate my vote:

WWeek (pdf): "Imagine school districts were cities. Education service districts would be like county governments working in conjunction with the cities (i.e., school districts) to provide additional services. These include speical education programs, technology and school health services. And let's not forget outdoor school."

Director, Position 2, At Large
[_] Federick (Rick) Okamura
JackBog: "On the Multnomah educational service district, we'd like to vote to abolish it, but since that option isn't offered, we're going with Okamura and Gratton."

[X] John H. Kilian
WWeek (pdf): ". . . Kilian appeared to have the best grasp of the issues."

TheO: "John Kilian, a family dentist from Gresham, has worked on community health issues and has a background of civic involvement. He's the best candidate for this open seat."

ME: Johnson's mostly union support makes me weary that he will place union interests over students' interests.

Kilian's medical background makes sense for MESD. I also like his response to the LWV (pdf):
"The MESD Board would be well-served to have a Director who provides patient health care. Its broad scope of Programs includes aspects of social, mental and medical wellbeing. This is my expertise. The need for health education in the community is great. It will show successes and failures. But it is mandatory. As a mentor and health care provider I will closely examine school health services and protect our children."

[_] Zak Johnson
38.87%* ELECTED
MultDems: "Johnson will work to restore civility to the board and strengthen alternative pathways to success for students throughout Multnomah County."

Director, Position 6, At Large
[_] Robert R. Weaver
[X] Janice Gratton
74.94% ELECTED

WWeek (pdf): "Gratton is adept at networking in Salem and has a fine grasp of the ins and outs of MESD's adminstration as well as the district's programs."

TheO: "Though incumbents Janice Gratton and Geri Washington face challengers, they deserve re-election. Board Chairwoman Gratton is a child and family services consultant, . . ."

JackBog: "On the Multnomah educational service district, we'd like to vote to abolish it, but since that option isn't offered, we're going with Okamura and Gratton."

No real contest here. According to her voters' guide statement, Gratton has been on the MESD board for 12 years. The position is unpaid, so I doubt she is doing it for the fame and recognition.

Weaver is a CFO and says he has an autistic child. Howver, I don't see an compelling reason to vote out the incumbent.

Director, Zone 1
[_] Ruth Adkins
59.05%* ELECTED
Merc: "The Mercury feels Adkins would bring a more balanced and much needed new approach to the school board."

MultDems: "We believe Ruth Adkins will provide the independent community voice that is needed on our Portland School Board at a time when PPS is undergoing sweeping changes."

WWeek (pdf): ". . . we're ready for someone else. Fortunately, challenger Adkins' clear-eyed vision of education makes her a candidate who can stir the pot without causing too much sloshing. She's a market researcher and founding member of the Neighborhood Schools Alliance, which formed in 2005 to address inequity in the district."

TheO: "Challenger Ruth Adkins, a parent and market research analyst, makes a good case that the district can boost its enrollment by improving school quality, mending relationships with parents, marketing the district's strengths and working with other agencies on housing."

Trib: ". . . We are confident, however, that [Adkins] will be a cooperative member of the board while also serving as a leader who appropriately will challenge the status quo.

"Frankly, we also give weight to the fact that Adkins has a child at each level in Portland Public Schools — elementary, middle and high school. That means she is vested in a positive outcome for schools and will bring a sense of urgency to the job."

JackBog: "In the school board election, we're going with Adkins and Wynde."

[X] Douglas F. Morgan

ME: This is a tough decision. I'm not sure why everyone is voting Adkins over the incumbent Morgan. There are calls that the Board needs to be changed, but I don't see why Morgan should be voted out while the other incumbent, Wynde, should be retained.

Some of the comments I've read imply that Adkins' personality and style are preferable to Morgan, but I haven't seen any specific allegations that Morgan has done anything unsuitable for his office. I did compare Adkins' and Morgan's response in the LWV Portland questionnaire (PDF). Adkins' response sounded great, but Morgan directly answered the questions and had more specifics.

I'm concerned that Morgan is being scapegoated for some of the unpopular decision the District was forced to make. As I recall, the District has had too many buildings (i.e. schools), too much administration, and a flat/declining student population for at least the last decade. For years, prior Boards and superindendents were unwilling or unable to make the necessary and unpopular cuts and closures. This board and superindendent finally made the unpopular decision.

Unless I can find a reason to vote against Morgan, I think the Board and Morgan should be supported for the difficult work they've done. I'm especially sympathetic when considering that this is an unpaid and completely thankless job.

Director, Zone 2
[X] David Wynde
56.79%* ELECTED

WWeek (pdf): ". . . Wynde is open to listening to even his strongest opponents. And though he often seems overly enamored of the superintendent, he's not punch-drunk in love."

TheO: "Incumbent David Wynde, a parent with a background in banking, served as co-chair during much of his term. He is an organized, focused leader who helped the district make tough budget cuts and address long-term facilities issues."

Trib: ". . .We believe Schultz, with further seasoning, could be a solid future candidate. But for now, the school board needs Wynde — a highly articulate and effective board member who has helped lead the district through some of its most difficult days.

"He understands the urgency of improving — not just stabilizing — Portland Public Schools, and we think he has the tools to continue to get the job done well."

Jack Bog: "In the school board election, we're going with Adkins and Wynde. The latter is not a slam-dunk, but like the Double Dub [WWeek], we think he's done an acceptable job and will balance off an Adkins."

[_] Michele Schultz
Merc: "the Mercury supports [Schultz's] calls for more communication between the school board and its various constituents."

Director, Zone 3
[X] Bobbie Regan
97.02%* ELECTED
Director, Zone 7
[X] Dilafruz Williams
97.27* ELECTED
Measure 26-89 Amends Charter: Requires City to periodically review Charter.
Merc: "A group of 20 citizens would be appointed every 10 years (with the first group convening in two), to debate and recommend further changes or tweaks to the city charter. They can send ideas straight to the ballot with a supermajority vote; other ideas have to go through the city council."

[_] Yes
75.80%* PASSED
Merc: "Sure, they might come up with really awful ideas—but we trust that the voters are smart enough to vet those ideas as they arise."

WWeek (pdf): "Nobody opposes what's really only a housekeeping measure, designed to keep the charter free of archaic language and provisions."

Citizens to Reform City Hall PAC

Trib: ". . .Of all the amendments proposed by the 26-member charter review committee, this is the easiest to endorse. . . .

"That’s a vast improvement over the status quo. Currently, no review is required."

TheO: "Yes. It establishes a much-needed mechanism for citizens to periodically update the city charter."

[X] No
ME: Contrary to WWeek's assertion, I am against this measure (although maybe I am a nobody). I'm not sold as to why this backdoor way to the ballot is needed. If the charter changes really are non-controversial and only "housekeeping", why can't the elected City Council simply refer charter changes to voters?

I really dislike these unelected and unaccountable committees and commissions governments set-up, such as the PDC and the proposed charter review group. The implication is that these will be wise, impartial, upstanding members of the community, but there's no way to gaurantee this. Who are these 20 people who will be appointed in two, 12, 22, 32, or 102 years from now? Won't these 20 people feel compelled to change something every ten years?

And contrary to the Merc's reasoning, fighting a bad measure does cost real money, time and effort. There's nothing wrong with the current system of either getting petitions signed or having the majority of the City Council to support a ballot measure -- especially if these really are just non-controversial, housekeeping changes to the City's constitution.

Amanda Fritz: "Top Three Reasons to Vote No on 26-89, ongoing Charter Review:

"1. Fifteen citizens who have not been elected by a vote of the people, should not have the power to refer Charter (Constitutional) changes to the ballot without approval by elected officials. . .

"2. The proposed language allows future Charter Commissions to refer changes to the voters at any primary or general election. To ensure meaningful participation, Charter change ballot measures should be allowed only at the General Election of even years.

"3. The ballot measure does not reference gender in selecting the Charter Commission's membership, and there is no mechanism proposed to ensure that allowing each of five Councilors to select four members will result in balanced demographics on the Commission. . . ."

JackBog: "As for the other three city measures, they're all pretty crummy ideas, and we're voting no. . .

"What we are passing on this time is not a pretty picture. . . And more rounds of charter change nonsense every few years, like clockwork? No thanks."

Measure 26-90 Amends Charter: Updates and clarified civil service provisions.
Merc: "Currently, there's a section in the city charter that outlines how the city treats its workers—how people get promoted, what the city values in an employee, and how workers are protected. This measure essentially tosses all of those nitty gritty details out, and replaces it with a more general, constitutional framework. The details—which will be in "administrative rules," instead of the charter—can then be changed as needed. One detail in particular—the city's definition of a temporary worker—is a contentious one, and we hope that the city will hammer out a compromise rule, instead of relying on an outdated city charter."

[X] Yes
53.67%* PASSED
WWeek (pdf): ". . . This is a good idea because it lets commissioners and bureau chiefs pick their own teams. Supporters of this change estimate it will affect fewer than 50 employees. Opponents disagree, but we're skeptical of their fears about widespread firings, because the proposed language continues protection for the vast majority of employeers."

Merc:". . . This measure essentially tosses all of those nitty gritty details out, and replaces it with a more general, constitutional framework. The details—which will be in "administrative rules," instead of the charter—can then be changed as needed. . . . "

Citizens to Reform City Hall PAC

Trib: "This amendment reforms the charter’s civil service provisions. It is partly a housekeeping measure and partly substantive.

"In addition to cleaning up outdated language, the measure will increase accountability among the city’s higher-level employees."

ME: It seems like a reasonable measure. It doesn't make sense to me that voters should have to vote on every minute change in civil service regulations. This is why we have an elected city council.

I am hesitant about the real consequences of this measure. Is something sleazy being slipped into this change? The other endorsers express concern about how the council will resolve the temporary workers issue. Against my better judgment, I'm going to assume the council will develop some fair rules about temps.

TheO: "Yes. It clarifies civil service provisions in the charter and provides more flexibility in hiring and firing top-level policymakers."

[_] No
JackBog: "As for the other three city measures, they're all pretty crummy ideas, and we're voting no. . . .

"What we are passing on this time is not a pretty picture. . . . More backroom hiring and firing of city workers? . . . No thanks."

Measure 26-91 Amends Charter: Changes form of City Government.
Merc:"Measure 26-91 would completely reshape Portland's city government, giving the mayor and an appointed chief administrative officer full control of all city bureaus, while city council would have only legislative duties. In short, it would centralize all city functions under the mayor."

[_] Yes
Citizens to Reform City Hall PAC

TheO: "Yes. It would alter the city's antiquated "commission" form of government, which breeds inefficiency. Every other big city has dumped it. Instead, a chief administrative officer would run all city bureaus, under the mayor, and, for the first time, actually coordinate them."

[X] No
76.23%* DEFEATED
WWeek (pdf): ". . . government's transparency is likely to be greater when power is spread among five officials rather than one. And while the current system can be mesy, this messiness is healthy."

Merc: ". . . it doesn't contain much that appeals to either traditional "strong mayor" advocates or defenders of the current form of government.

"Instead, the Charter Review Commission attempted to find something right in the middle, to appease Portland's love of process—but the compromise endangers the advantages of the current system, and fails to capitalize on the strengths of a council/mayor government."

LWV Portland: "For nearly 100 years, Portland has operated successfully under the current Charter, our Constitution. Changing it should be done carefully and with maximum public participation.
". . . Transfers significant power to the Mayor and an unelected Chief Administrative Officer . . .
"Inadequate checks and balances on the power of the Mayor leave him/her with control over all bureaus and staff, yet continuing to vote as a member of Council. . . .
"The Mayor would appoint all members of all citizen boards and commissions. . . .
"Proponents have not provided a clear explanation of the cost of implementing 26-91 . . .

"Little consideration was given to improving our current form of government. . . ."

Trib: ". . . The proposal is tempting, because it would allow for unified management of the city and break up individual fiefdoms created by commissioners who presently are given authority over bureaus.

"However, there isn’t anything in the current city charter that prevents the mayor from doing most everything that he could under this amendment.

"What’s required is better collective — not individual — performance from the commissioners and mayor. And if their cooperation and achievement of collective results doesn’t improve, this particular charter change ought to come back before voters in the future.

"For now, vote no."

JackBog: "As for the other three city measures, they're all pretty crummy ideas, and we're voting no. It's not that the current system of city government has all that much to be said in its defense. If, for example, somebody came to us with term limits and election by district for the City Council, we'd be all for it. But neither of those ideas are before us, and the Powers That Be would probably kill them if they were.

What we are passing on this time is not a pretty picture. More power to people like Vera Katz?. . . No thanks."

ME: There are numerous reasons why this is a poor measure.
  • Asking voters to make a HUGE change to the City government in a minor, odd year election is too sneaky and suspicious. Mayor Potter lost much of my respect through this tactic.
  • Setting-up an unelected, unaccountable, and highly paid chief executive is not what voters are asking for. If anything, Portlanders want more say in who leads our city -- not delegation. The unpopular police chiefs we've recently had demonstrate how a popular mayor can appoint an unpopular city executive and voters have few options.
  • Having the Mayor be on the council is frankly stupid. How can the council have oversight of the mayor if the mayor is the council?
  • 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Yes, our current commissioner form of government is odd and imperfect. However, it does have its advantages and is a quirky part of Portland. We don't want to be like other large cities. There are the better ways to tweak the current system (like assigning bureaus before elections).
  • Work groups don't work. This bad idea came from some bad public (and probably backroom) meetings. Of course these meetings recommended an overhaul. People who reluctantly defend the current system aren't going to be motivated to attend a boring, wonky public meeting. Voters will not be motivated to overhaul the current system until there is a major scandal or disaster -- so far current and prior councils have managed to avoid voters' wrath.
Measure 26-92 Amends Charter: Defines mission increases oversight of Portland Development Commission.
Merc: "This charter reform measure would give the city council control of the Portland Development Commission (PDC)'s budget."

[X] Yes
52.99%* PASSED
Merc: ". . . Handing the purse strings over to the city council would change that, bringing a much-needed layer of accountability to the PDC."

WWeek (pdf): "PDC has been far too opaque. While it's the city's development agency, for example, it works with only a few developers. The rest often say they cannot understand the arcane way in which the PDC operates.

". . . every other city agency is directly accountable to an elected official who id directly accountable to voters. For the agency with the most spending discretion to be directly accountable to nobody is insanity. Stop the madness. Vote yes."

Citizens to Reform City Hall PAC

JackBog: ". . . We're voting yes on the PDC budget change -- Measure 26-92 -- because the more sunlight thrown on that pork barrel, the better. It's not that I think that people like Opie and Fireman Randy are going to make a difference when it comes to what the "urban renewal" agency does, but rather that the additional scrutiny mandated by this measure may occasionally alert the public to some new scam in the making -- in time to put a stop to it."

ME: Can more oversight be a bad thing? This is far from the ideal solution to reigning-in PDC, but it seems to be good start. Amanda Fritz is following an interesting bill in Salem that may make the this vote irrelevant, but it's hard to see how this bill's passage would not send a message to PDC.

[_] No
TheO: ". . . Frankly, it would have been more merciful -- and more honest -- if the council had just seized control of the PDC in one swift blow, rather than trying to rob the agency, and kill it slowly.

"Far from reforming the city's urban renewal agency, Measure 26-92 would deform it. And crippling the agency would cripple Portland. Vote no."

Trib: ". . . We strongly believe that increasing the council’s authority over the PDC will politicize and seriously hamper economic development, housing and job creation opportunities needed in Portland."

Fritz: "I'm urging a No vote on 26-92, in part because it hasn't received adequate vetting and discussion in the community. It troubles me to think maybe it doesn't matter what Portland voters know or want, anyway, given this bill [House Bill 3104] is sailing through the Legislature in Salem."

UPDATE: * Final Unofficial Results - Update #3 - 12:17 AM 5/16/2007

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