The nonprofit political group urging Portland-area leaders to take tougher action on homelessness has resubmitted a proposed ballot measure aimed at changing the region’s approach to the housing crisis.
Attorneys for Metro, the regional government for the Portland area, rejected People for Portland’s first attempt at voting language. The new version submitted on Tuesday makes a small change.
The advocacy group’s controversial election proposal would instead divert the bulk of the money from a voter-approved 2020 Metro Homeless Services Measure, a tax on the region’s wealthiest designed to create affordable housing and services, into makeshift shelters. It would also require communities to enforce their anti-camping laws.
Last Friday, attorneys for Metro, the government agency that deals with land use and other core services in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties, said both the letter and intent of the measure violated the Oregon Constitution.
People for Portland appears to have addressed just one of the three issues Metro attorneys identified in their second attempt. They added a required phrase known as the “ordination phrase” at the beginning of the measure. Metro attorneys said the wording is mandated by the agency’s charter.
But the group’s revised filing doesn’t address the main argument Metro attorney Carrie MacLaren has made against the measure. MacLaren wrote that the Oregon Constitution gives petitioners the right to propose voting measures that create legislation, not measures that make administrative changes. The People for Portland voting measure, she said, streamlined “administrative elements of an existing legal framework” and is therefore unconstitutional.
The measure also doesn’t include the entire statute, which voters would change. MacLaren said the full statute was needed so voters could get full context.
The Portland Mercury first reported on the latest filing
People for Portland has condemned Metro’s decision as undemocratic. The group released a statement on Twitter last week accusing Metro leaders of using delaying tactics and inventing “novel legal theories” to keep voters from deciding the fate of the election measure. The Metro Homeless Service measure imposed a 1% tax on high earners in Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah counties. It is expected to generate approximately $250 million annually for assistive housing services — services that help people at risk of homelessness stay in their shelters.
These include case management, rental assistance and housing. The measure passed with 58% voter support.