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Mapps unveils his alternative charter proposal: report

Portland City Commissioner Mingus Mapps has been a vocal critic of the charter reform package headed to voters in November and vowed to present an alternative.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland city commissioner Mingus Mapps has reportedly outlined an alternative proposal that he plans to push next year if city voters reject the charter reform package that will appear on the ballot next month.

The Oregonian reported Sunday that Mapps had shared his proposal with the newspaper. His package would still overhaul Portland's government structure, but with some key differences from the November package, including single-member districts, a smaller council and a stronger mayor.

Mapps said he would release his proposal publicly on Monday, The Oregonian reported. The Portland Mercury also reported later on Sunday that it had obtained a copy, and described the same key points of the Mapps plan.

Like many Portland voters and elected officials, Mapps has been critical of the city's current form of government and a vocal advocate for reform, going so far as to found a political advocacy group dedicated to advancing the cause.

But after the city's 20-member volunteer charter commission unveiled its proposal in March and sent it to the November ballot in a 17-3 vote, Mapps came out against it and later said he would release his own alternative in October.

RELATED: Reforming Portland's system of government is top-of-mind for voters, but specific proposals spark debate

Under Portland's current system — which is no longer used by any city of comparable size — the commissioners are all elected citywide and serve as both legislators and administrators, meeting as the city council to set policy and individually serving as the chief executives of multiple city bureaus.

The charter commission's proposal would break up those functions, moving the council to a purely policy-setting role and putting day-to-day administrative operations in the hands of a professional city manager who reports to the mayor.

It would also divide the city into four geographic districts that would each elect three council members using ranked-choice voting, expanding the council to 12 members total. The mayor would no longer be on the council.

RELATED: Dan Ryan says he's a 'No' on the plan to reform Portland's government

Mapps' alternative proposal keeps several of the proposed changes, according to The Oregonian, including the city manager and legislative council structure and the use of geographic districts to elect council members.

But there are some big differences.

The Mapps proposal would divide the city into seven districts rather than four, according to The Oregonian, and each would elect just one council member. The question of whether to use ranked-choice voting would reportedly be presented to voters separately under the Mapps plan.

Mapps' version would also give the mayor the power to veto council legislation, subject to a two-thirds majority council override, The Oregonian reported. The charter commission's proposal includes a mayoral tiebreaker vote, but no veto. 

Those reported differences are in line with some of the concerns that Mapps has previously raised about the commission proposal.

At a city council meeting in June, Mapps objected to the combination of ranked-choice voting and multi-member districts, arguing that it was unique and untested, and he also criticized the commission's decision to put the entire slate of changes on the ballot as a single measure.

RELATED: The Portland charter reform debate

If voters reject the November package, Mapps and commissioner Dan Ryan have both expressed confidence that the council will send a new proposal to voters next year — although The Oregonian reported that Mapps declined to say whether he was confident that he could get two other council members to support his specific alternative.

Other council members have also spoken out against the charter commission's proposal — Mayor Ted Wheeler has raised concerns and Ryan said he'd vote no.

But Mapps' aggressive approach has drawn criticism, most notably from commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who recently described his actions as "arrogant" and previously said he was undermining the charter reform process and "tipping the scale" by releasing his own proposal right before the election.

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