The Portland Charter Commission has yet to meet, but there already is an effort underway to recall one of its members.

Sheikh-Yousef

Members of Portland Alliance for Good Government are calling for at-large Charter Commission member Nasreen Sheikh-Yousef to be removed from the panel in light of her tweets just hours after her June 8 election victory calling City Manager Jon Jennings a white supremacist.

Jay Norris, a member of the alliance, said he contacted the city clerk’s office late last week about initiating a recall and as of Tuesday morning was waiting to hear back.

“I have every intention of going forward,” he said.

Sheikh-Yousef could not be reached for comment, but has indicated she does not intend to apologize or resign. The charter commission’s first meeting is set for Monday, June 28.

Portland Alliance for Good Government, according to its Facebook page, believes “in a new approach to legislating and in selecting those who legislate on our behalf.” Members of the alliance are “people who care about moving our city and our state forward, away from the climate of political hate, slow-moving legislative processes, embarrassing squabbles among our leaders and toward bold but practical leadership, laws and regulations,” the group says.

Sheikh-Yousef advocated throughout last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests for abolishing the city manager’s position and giving the mayor more control of city operations. Last summer, Black Lives Matter Portland, now known as Black POWER, urged city councilors to dismiss Jennings because since he became manager in 2015, he has “repeatedly advocated for policies that hurt predominately Black and brown people.”

After she was elected to the commission, she wrote on Twitter, “Jon Jennings! You about to lose your job. We are going to make you the last white supremacist city manager. We are coming.”

The city manager’s role in Portland was created in the 1920s when members of the Klu Klux Klan flooded the polls to establish the position.

Sheikh-Yousef continued to call Jennings a white supremacist in additional tweets.

When Norris saw the tweets, he said, it “took my breath away.”

“Sheikh-Yousef should not be serving on the commission because she is coming into the process with a clear agenda,” he said. “It is supposed to be a sounding board. Their job, if they are doing it right, is to listen to what the community wants. There is no mandate, whoever was elected, to upend the city of Portland.”

The 12-member Charter Commission will review the city charter and recommend ways to improve how city government is organized and run. The charter review was prompted by a citizen initiative to create a clean elections program funded with city dollars for municipal races. Once seated, the commission has nine months to prepare a preliminary report of proposals and must submit a final report to the City Council by this time next year. Any changes to municipal governing will ultimately be up to Portland voters.

Mayor Kate Snyder, in a written statement to the Press Herald decrying “hate-filled attacks on a person’s character,” said such comments “have no place in our community as we embark on this important process to assess and improve how municipal government functions to best serve the citizens of Portland.”

Jennings told the Press Herald,  “I am appalled by the hate filled tweet from a newly elected member to the Charter Commission. This person does not know me or what is in my heart. To call me a white supremacist because of the job I hold is a disgrace and an attempt to assassinate my character.

Jennings, who has announced he is stepping down from the position next spring, said he “spent a lifetime on issues that bring people together to take a stand against all forms of hate. It is so unfortunate that hateful personal attacks that only seek to divide the city even further passes as political dialogue today.”

City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau said he believes Sheikh-Yousef “should apologize or step aside to preserve the integrity of the charter review process. Portlanders expect a thoughtful and deliberative review of our form of government free of unnecessary and untruthful personal attacks.”

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