WTF is Metro?

If you’re new to Oregon  or just aren’t super tuned in to local politics  you might have a question when you start filling out your ballot: What the fudge is Metro?

Instead of doing candidate surveys for Metro (like we did for city and county races), we decided to tackle this rather important question instead.

So here’s what you need to know about Metro…

WHAT IS METRO AND WHY IS IT SPECIAL?

Metro is a regional government that provides big-picture planning and coordination for the greater Portland region, which stretches from Forest Grove to Troutdale and St. Johns to Wilsonville.

Lots of cities have something similar, but what makes Metro special is that its leaders are elected by voters. It’s the only regional government in the country that works this way, which means Portland-area voters are dealt an extra civic responsibility on Election Day.

WHAT DOES METRO DO?

Brace yourself — it’s a long list.

In addition to its oh so sexy work overseeing the region’s solid waste systems (think garbage, recycling, and composting), Metro also manages 17,000 acres of parks, trails, and natural areas, runs the Oregon Zoo, the Oregon Convention Center, and other major venues, regulates the area’s urban growth boundary, and provides long-term transit, land use, and development planning and coordination.

They also write up really nerdy (but important) reports like this one on the region’s driving habits and trends.

HOW DOES IT AFFECT ME?

Even if you’ve never been to Oxbow Park, Glendoveer Golf Course, the Portland Expo Center, Broughton Beach, the Oregon Zoo, the Lone Fir Cemetery, the Farmington Paddle Launch, or any of the other 20+ parks, venues, and historic cemeteries that Metro managers, there’s at least one really big reason you should care who’s running the ship.

This fall, Metro is expected to ask voters to approve a property tax hike in order to pay for new affordable housing developments in Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties.

The latest news is that Metro’s housing bond measure, if approved, would cost the average homeowner $50/year and raise $516.5 million to fund as many as 3,200 below-market-rate units across the region.

If the measure passes, our elected officials at Metro will be responsible for making sure our money is well spent. So we have some incentive to get this right.

WHO’S RUNNING FOR METRO?

Lynn Peterson is running virtually unopposed to replace Tom Hughes as Metro’s president. (She officially has one challenger, Michael Langley, but he hasn’t been actively campaigning.) Willamette Week says Peterson is “overqualified for this job,” and the Oregonian describes her as “an approachable and whip-smart transportation planner.” So it seems we can feel good about this one.

Also up for grabs in this election are two of Metro’s six district councilor seats  in District 2 (Clackamas County and parts of southwest Portland) and District 4 (Washington County).

The local media endorsements so far have gone to Betty Dominguez for District 2 and Juan Carlos Gonzalez for District 4. You can find out more about the candidates running in the Multnomah County voter’s pamphlet.

WHO REPRESENTS ME?

Metro makes it real easy to find that out here.

Want to learn more about Metro and its history? Check out this City Lab article or visit Metro’s website