PORTLAND — Eighty-seven years after city residents abolished the post, voters resurrected the position of popularly-elected mayor Tuesday.

Nearly 13,000 Portlanders voted for the full-time position, while slightly more than 11,800 voted against. In percentage terms, “yes” votes carried the day, 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent.

The vote also ushers in the complex and controversial ranked voting system, which will have voters indicate second-choice votes for mayor, designed to produce a winner of a majority of the vote without a runoff.

In a separate measure, voters rejected a proposal to allow non-citizen immigrants to vote in local elections. That vote, unofficially, was 9,325, or 51.5 percent, no to 8,874, or 48.5 percent, yes.

Supporters of the elected mayor measure, including many of the city’s largest business groups, said the position would produce a leader with a mandate.

Currently, the nine city councilors pick one of their own for the post, which is for a one-year term and largely ceremonial. The popularly-elected mayor will serve four years, can veto a council-passed budget — subject to a possible override — and is supposed to provide day-to-day oversight of city affairs and the appointed city manager.

Opponents had varying reasons for disliking the plan. Some said they didn’t like an elected mayor who lacked stronger powers, while other opposed the cost — in addition to an annual salary of about $66,000 and benefits, they said the post could cost up to $150,000 a year when the cost of support staff and expenses are added in.

“The system we have now is not working,” said Jed Rathband, who ran the Yes on 1 campaign in support of an elected mayor.

“There were misgivings about this proposal (adopted by a city charter commission) but voters knew this is what we need to move the ball down the field.”

Rathband said it was natural that businesses would support the proposal because they know “that to be successful, you have to have leadership” and the elected mayor will provide that.

Cheryl Leeman, a city councilor who led the opposition, said the loss was not unexpected because supporters were able to outspend opponents by thousands of dollars.

“Given the amount of money that was spent on the other side, that’s pretty close for us,” she said of the results.

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted by 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com