Lawyers for the regional government known as Metro have once again rejected a proposed ballot measure aimed at fundamentally changing the way the Portland region handles homelessness. And the group behind the measure has asked the courts to rule in their favor.
The nonprofit political group People for Portland is attempting to put a measure on the November ballot that would shift the bulk of the money from a new tax on affluent residents away from creating affordable housing and wraparound services to creating temporary shelter space. The ballot measure would also require governments in the Portland region enforce public camping bans to receive the homeless services money.
Voters in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties created the tax in 2020.
People for Portland filed its first attempt at a ballot measure to change how tax revenue is distributed on March 25. Lawyers for Metro, the government agency that handles land use and other core services in the Portland region, rejected that first attempt, saying that the wording and the intent of the measure violated the Oregon Constitution.
A new version submitted this week made a minor tweak: It added a required phrase, known as the “ordaining clause,” to the start of the measure. Metro attorneys said that wording was mandated by the agency’s charter.
But the second submission did not address two bigger objections Metro lawyers had to the proposed ballot measure. One is technical: The People for Portland measure did not include the entire statute voters would consider changing.
The other is broader: The Oregon Constitution allows petitioners to offer ballot measures that create legislation, but not measures that make administrative changes to existing laws. Metro’s lawyers say what People for Portland is attempting tweaks a law rather than creating a new one.
Metro lawyer Carrie MacLaren rejected the new filing for the same reasons she rejected the first submission.
People for Portland organizers are pushing elected officials in the city and its suburbs to try a tougher approach on homelessness and people living outdoors. They announced Friday that they have appealed MacLaren’s decision to the Multnomah County Circuit Court.