People for Portland tries again on ballot measure to crack down on public camping

By Rebecca Ellis (OPB)
April 13, 2022 9:43 p.m.

The nonprofit political group wants a new approach on homelessness. Its revised filing looks nearly identical to the first.

The nonprofit political group pushing Portland-area leaders to get tougher on homelessness has refiled a proposed ballot measure aimed at changing the region’s approach to the housing crisis.

Lawyers from Metro, the Portland area regional government, rejected People for Portland’s first attempt at ballot language. The new version submitted Tuesday makes a minor tweak.


The advocacy group’s controversial ballot proposal would redirect the bulk of the money from a voter-approved 2020 Metro Homeless Services Measure, a tax on the most affluent in the region meant to add affordable housing and services, toward temporary shelters instead. It would also require communities to enforce their anti-camping laws.

Last Friday, lawyers for Metro, the government agency that handles land use and other core services in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties, said both the wording and the intent of the measure violated the Oregon Constitution.


People for Portland appears to have addressed only one of the three problems Metro lawyers identified in their second attempt. They added a required phrase, known as the “ordaining” clause,” to the start of the measure. Metro attorneys said the wording was mandated by the agency’s charter.

But the group’s revised filing does not address the most significant argument Metro attorney Carrie MacLaren made against the measure. MacLaren wrote that the Oregon Constitution gives petitioners the right to put forward ballot measures that create legislation, not measures that make administrative changes. The People for Portland ballot measure, she said, tweaked “administrative elements of an existing legal framework” and, therefore, was unconstitutional.

The measure also does not include the entire statute voters would consider changing. MacLaren said the full statute was required so voters could get the full context.

The Portland Mercury first reported the latest filing

People for Portland has decried Metro’s decision as undemocratic. The group posted a statement on Twitter last week that accused Metro leaders of using delay tactics and inventing “novel legal theories” to keep voters from deciding the fate of the ballot measure. The Metro Homeless Service measure placed a 1% tax on high-income earners in Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah counties. It is expected to generate about $250 million annually for supportive housing services — services that help people at risk of homelessness remain in their housing.

That includes case management, rent assistance and shelter. The measure passed with 58% support from voters.


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