This November, Portlanders will vote on 13 local ballot measures: eight changes to our city charter, proposed by the charter commission, and five ordinances proposed via various citizen initiatives. Whatever one thinks about this superabundance of non-City Council endorsed legislation, it is important to realize that one of the ballot measures is very different from all of the others.

That is Question 3, establishing a clean elections-public financing program for Portland municipal races. Organizers of this initiative gathered more than 8,000 signatures in the summer of 2019. Compare that signature total to 1,500, the number required to get each of the five city ordinances on the ballot, and to perhaps a quarter of that figure, the number of Portlanders who actually spoke at the official Charter Commission meetings before that body made its recommendations.

Further note that those 8,000 signatures were gathered before the mayoral election of 2019, when more than $400,000 was spent by the three candidates, and the average spent per candidate was twice that of 2015 and six times that of 2011. The best way to slow, if not reverse, that distressing trend is to pass Question 3 for all future citywide elections.

I do not yet know how I will vote on the other 12 ballot measures. But Question 3 has my unequivocal support, as I hope will be the case for all who believe that money’s role in Portland’s politics should and must be curtailed.

Phil Steele

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