What is Multnomah County’s Home Rule Charter?
The Home Rule Charter is the local version of a constitution, establishing the governance framework for the County. The Oregon Constitution gives County voters the power to adopt and amend a Charter that describes the structure, organization, and powers of their own County government. Voters retain the power to adopt, amend, or abolish the Charter.
As a governance document, the Charter provides the foundation for how the County operates, with more specific rules and policies established in the County Code. Because the Charter can only be amended through voter approval, which is a lengthy and infrequent process, it is important for the document to cover the essentials while also granting officials and administrators the flexibility to determine what and how specific policies and programs need to be implemented to benefit the community.
What is in the County’s Home Rule Charter?
Topics addressed in Multnomah County’s Charter include:
- The name, boundaries, and seat of Multnomah County
- The number, structure, and essential duties of elected offices, including the Board of Commissioners + the County Chair, the Sheriff, and the Auditor
- Qualifications and terms for elected officials
- Establishment of the boundaries and populations of commissioner districts (apportionment)
- Process for electing officials into office
- Compensation for elected officials
- How vacancies for elected offices are created and filled
- How legislation is passed
- The ability to create advisory boards and commissions and the establishment of the Office of Citizen (Community) Involvement
- The process to create, alter, or get rid of administrative departments
- The establishment, rights, and duties of classified (non-elected) County personnel
- The formation and financing of the Multnomah County Library District
- How to pursue County public improvement projects
- Campaign finance restrictions
- The processes for amending the County Charter
To more fully understand its scope, you can read the Charter itself, which also includes a complete history of all of the Charter amendments that have been proposed in the past and whether they were approved or rejected by County voters.
What is the Multnomah County Charter Review Committee (MCCRC)?
The most common way to amend the Charter is through the Charter Review Committee. The Charter itself requires that a Charter Review Committee made up of community members be convened every 6 years to make a comprehensive study of the Charter. Regular reviews of the Charter are intended to ensure that the document remains consistent with the community’s values and needs. The MCCRC’s goal is to assess whether there are changes to the Charter it thinks would better align it with those values and needs. If the MCCRC believes changes are needed, it can propose Charter Amendments that the Board will submit to the voters of Multnomah County to decide via ballot.
How were members of the Charter Review Committee selected?
There were16 members on the 2021-22 Charter Review Committee (MCCRC). Community members from across the County submitted applications to the Office of Community Involvement. Following the requirements laid out in the Charter, those applications were shared with the state senators and representatives who represent senatorial districts that overlap with Multnomah County. State senators and representatives were allowed to select one or two committee members to represent their senatorial district, depending on whether a majority or minority of voters within that senatorial district reside in Multnomah County. State senators and representatives were required to choose people who resided in Multnomah County and the senatorial districts they were chosen to represent.
What was the MCCRC’s timeline?
The Charter dictates the MCCRC’s timeline to meet and deliberate. Following the rules laid out in the Charter, the MCCRC had its first meeting in September 2021. The MCCRC could propose amendments be referred to voters on either the May or November 2022 ballots, or both, but the last day the MCCRC could present recommended amendments to the Board of County Commissioners was August 4, 2022. The MCCRC had its final meeting on July 20, 2022 and delivered its final report at the Board's briefing on August 2, 2022.
What happens if the MCCRC makes recommendations to amend the Charter?
It is very common for charter review committees to recommend amendments. Sometimes proposed amendments have a smaller scope, such as updating or removing language, while others would lead to large structural changes. The MCCRC was required to report its findings, including any recommended amendments, to the Board of Commissioners at least 95 days before the May or November 2022 elections, or both. The 2021-22 MCCRC recommended seven amendments and made its report at the Board's briefing on August 2, 2022. The Charter requires that all amendments recommended by the MCCRC will be submitted to county voters, so the seven amendments will appear on county voters' November 2022 ballot. If a proposed amendment receives over 50% of voters’ support, then the Charter is amended.
How can I be involved in the Charter review process?
The work of the 2021-22 MCCRC concluded in August 2022. You can still review the MCCRC's final report and recommendations and meeting records on the committee's website. The next charter review committee will convene in 2027, which is when opportunities to serve on the MCCRC or engage with its process will be available again.