Contrary to Brian Ebersole’s letter (TNT, 7-15), Portland has the commission, not mayor-council, form of government. In fact Portland is the largest city in the United States with commission government.
The commission form was first used by Galveston, Texas, in response to the 1900 hurricane that killed an estimated 6,000 people. Under the commission system, each commissioner is responsible for an aspect of city government such as public works or public safety.
The advocates of commission government in Galveston claimed that the city government could take quicker action to recover from the damage caused by the hurricane with a city commission than with a traditional mayor and city council.
Following Galveston’s example, several cities adopted the commission form of government until around 1920. Since then, the council-manager form has become more popular. Galveston itself switched from commission to council-manager government in 1960.
Tacoma changed its government to the commission form in 1910. In 1952, it changed again from commission to council-manager.