Table of Contents:   


Government Performance


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Portlanders believe government can be more efficient, effective and collaborative.

Section Summary

While many think performance is good in certain areas, there is broad consensus that City government could be even more efficient and effective. Community members cite costly errors and public disagreements between officials as examples of time and taxpayer money wasted. Some wonder if a different form of city government would result in greater efficiency and better performance, while others value the current form of government and want it preserved. Many think that government performance could be enhanced through better and more frequent collaboration between bureaus and different public entities. The agencies that received most complaints around performance were the Portland Police Bureau, the Portland Development Commission, and to a lesser extent, the Water Bureau.

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. On many fronts, Portland truly is a “city that works.”
  2. There are still many areas in which the City government could be more efficient and effective.
  3. Higher standards and greater accountability are needed at the Portland Police Bureau.
  4. Performance can be improved at the Portland Development Commission.


  1. On many fronts, Portland truly is a “city that works.”
  • People commend the City’s performance in a number of areas, including:
    • Public involvement: Many people feel the City does an excellent job of engaging Portlanders in the decision-making process.
    • Sustainability programs and environmental services: People commend Portland’s recycling programs, clean, tasty tap water, urban forestry programs and parks system, among others.
    • Long-range planning: Many people feel that over the years, the City has done a good job of planning for the future.
    • Urban livability: People are particularly grateful for the City’s focus on making and keeping Portland livable. Programs and projects that enhance urban livability receive high marks from a very large number of people.
"I know I can count on the city to help me keep my neighborhood livable by taking code violations seriously and attending to them before they get out of hand.”

“I value the collaborative nature of problem-solving that seems constantly to be taking place, and the fact that citizens are invited, indeed, welcomed into these processes.”

  1. There are still many areas in which the City government could be more efficient and effective.
  • Portlanders express frustration over “costly errors” such as the Water Bureau billing problem, miscalculations around the cost of the OHSU tram, and the failed bid to purchase PGE.
  • Even Portlanders who are willing to be taxed more heavily question whether their dollars are spent as well as they could be.
  • In-fighting between elected officials is interpreted as a sign that government is not working as efficiently or effectively as it could.
We need leaders who can prioritize our needs, better manage our resources, address the difficult issues and find ways to stimulate the economy. We need much more cooperation among our neighbors, service providers and government departments and politicians.”

"Portland works best when different government entities work together to find synergistic solutions to common problems.”

Have a real charter review, with an eye towards re-prioritizing and re-focusing city government on its core tasks: preserving the peace, maintaining what infrastructure it owns, and not much else.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. A number of people advocate changing the form of city government from a commission form to a “strong mayor” form; others, however, value the current form (see Government: General).
  2. Many people think performance can be improved through better collaboration between bureaus and between different government entities and agencies (e.g., the City, County and Metro).
  3. The government could reduce confusion and duplication of services by communicating more frequently and in more languages about what services are already being offered and where to find them.

  1. Higher standards and greater accountability are needed at the Portland Police Bureau.
  • People feel that officers are not adequately trained to identify and deal with mental illness, different communication styles, and cultural and ethnic diversity.
  • Many people feel that accountability is lacking at the Police Bureau and that officers are not disciplined properly when they behave inappropriately.
  • Many people fear being shot or permanently injured by the police for asking a question, violating a traffic law, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time (see Safety: Policing for more on people’s fears and concerns).
  • Portlanders would like to see the police work with the community to prevent injury and death, but feel that instead the police often escalate situations unnecessarily.
"Security lies in depending on your community rather than a police force trying to keep people scared.”

“Create a police force that does not use deadly force…truly!!! It’s scary!! The killing of the mentally ill man in the Pearl was a crime! The killing of the ‘high’ teenager whose mother called 911 for help to protect her son was a crime!”

Sample Strategies:

  1. More community policing, neighborhood police and mounted police to build relationships of trust with neighborhood residents (See Safety: Community Policing).
  2. Better training in nonviolent techniques of communication and conflict resolution.
  3. Better training in physical techniques of subduing aggressive people (such as those used by bouncers) as opposed to relying so much on tasers and guns.
  4. “Perhaps a virtual reality training session to inform police about schizophrenia, paranoia, [and] drug experiences, where the suspect’s mind is experiencing a different reality.”

  1. Performance can be improved at the Portland Development Commission.
  • Complaints about the Portland Development Commission (PDC) are numerous and include the following:
    • PDC’s leaders are weak and beholden to developers;
    • PDC is out of touch with the community’s values;
    • PDC lacks creativity in its economic development strategies (some perceive an over-reliance on high-end development projects and infrastructure investments such as light rail); and
    • PDC’s urban renewal approaches have contributed to gentrification in Northeast Portland and other areas.
“Reorient PDC to true development of the whole city. Excessive focus on high rent districts downtown is a constant discouragement to me as a home owner in North Portland.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Place PDC under City Council for greater accountability to the people.
  2. Change the leadership at PDC.

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