We desperately need electoral districts for City Council now. Currently, City Council positions are elected at-large (city-wide), a holdover from the Jim Crow era designed to dilute the voting strength of communities of color and workers. Expensive at-large elections favor corporate-backed, independently wealthy incumbents. What is the result? Four of our five current City Commissioners live in Southwest Portland. That means an incredible majority of Portlanders lack an elected official at City Hall who lives their own issues and struggles. As a resident who lives east of 82nd Avenue, I would be the only City Commissioner who even lives east of Cesar E Chavez Boulevard.

The outdated and insular Commission system compounds this undemocratic status quo, because Commissioners are more beholden to their assigned bureaus than the voters who elected them to office. Let’s open options for engagement by utilizing the creativity and diversity of Portlanders to build a City Council where we see ourselves reflected. Now is the time to shake-off a corrupt system of government born out of a dark time in our society.

Check out my op-ed in the Portland Tribune where I make the case for City Council districts.

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“It’s time time to leave our city’s Jim Crow electoral system behind and create City Council districts, so Portlanders can have actual representation in City Hall.”

— Julia DeGraw 


Replace the city-wide, at-large election with districts that represent the diversity of our city—not just wealthy SW Portland insiders. 

Restructure the out-dated commision system. Our elected officials should be fighting on behalf of the people, not their personal bureau assignment. 

Make City Council accessible to all Portlanders by holding meetings throughout the city and during evenings. We must incorporate and execute the feedback of residents with disabilities who often face significant barriers to democratic participation. 

Embrace real participatory budgeting, and eject the corporate lobbyists who dominate the Budget Advisory Committee.

City Hall should prioritize working with minority and women-owned contractors and small businesses that embrace a triple-bottom line of social, environmental, and financial responsibility.