Mike Burton (politician)
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Michael (Mike) Burton (born August 1941, Alhambra, California, United States) was the American Executive Officer of Metro, a regional government in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area, from 1995-2003. He was a member of the original Metro Council (elected in 1978) and served until 1982. He also served in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1985–1995 and was Speaker Pro-tem in the 1991 session.
An elected regional government, Metro serves more than 1.5 million residents in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties of Oregon, and the 25 cities in the Portland metropolitan area, Oregon portion (i.e., excluding Clark County, Washington).
In the 1950s, Portland area civic leaders saw an unfilled need to provide region-wide planning and coordination to manage pressing growth, infrastructure, and development issues that cross jurisdictional boundaries. They also saw a need to protect adjacent rural lands from urbanization and to provide particular services that are regional in nature.
In 1978, Metro was to fill that void. Its charter was broad: to provide planning, policy making, and services to preserve and enhance the region's quality of life. Its earliest responsibilities included urban growth boundary management, transportation planning, waste disposal planning and management, and operating the zoo – all of which remain in the Metro portfolio today. The voters revised the charter in 1995 with a structure that expanded the authority of the Executive Officer, added an elected auditor and reduced the size of the council from 13 to seven members.
Burton was elected to his first term as Executive Officer in 1995. He ran on a platform of maintaining a tight urban growth boundary and expansion of regional parks and facilities.
Metro is responsible for managing the Portland metropolitan region's urban growth boundary and is required by state law to have a 20-year supply of land for future residential development inside the boundary. Every five years, the Metro Council is required to conduct a review of the land supply and, if necessary, expand the boundary to meet that requirement. In its 2002 review, the Metro Council also asked technical staff to determine how much land would be required to meet a 20-year land supply for new jobs.
One of Burton’s first acts was the implementation of an Open Spaces and Trails ballot measure approved by the voters. This $135.6 million bond measure called for the purchase of 6,000 acres of land within the Metro area to be preserved. He assigned a committee of local bankers and realtors to determine the best way to make the purchases.
Through the diligent management of the program the region was able to purchase more than 8,000 acres of natural areas, and nearly 74 miles of stream and river frontage have been protected. More than 100 local park projects in neighborhoods across the region offer biking, hiking and wildlife watching opportunities close to home.
Burton had to tackle the question of expansion of the urban growth boundary. Under Oregon law, each city or metropolitan area in the state has an urban growth boundary that separates urban land from rural land. Metro is responsible for managing the Portland metropolitan region's urban growth boundary.
The urban growth boundary was not intended to be static. Since the late 1970s, the boundary has been moved about three dozen times. Most of those moves were small – 20 acres or less. During Burton’s tenure there were three significant boundary expansions:
In 1998, about 3,500 acres were added to make room for approximately 23,000 housing units and 14,000 jobs. Acreage included areas around the Dammasch state hospital site near Wilsonville, the Pleasant Valley area in east Multnomah, the Sunnyside Road area in Clackamas County, and a parcel of land south of Tualatin.
In 1999, another 380 acres were added based on the concept of "subregional need." An example of "subregional need" would occur when a community needed land to balance the number of homes with the number of jobs available in that area.
In 2002, an unprecedented 18,867 acres were added to the urban growth boundary to provide 38,657 housing units and 2,671 acres for additional jobs. This action also created important regional policies to support neighborhoods, protect industrial areas, and enhance regional and town centers. These expansions represented an increase of only about nine percent, even though the area's population has increased by about 17 percent since 1990.
During his time in office, Burton began to question the urban growth boundary as established under Oregon law, as the best way to serve the needs of growth and preserve the natural areas and farm land. Oregon land use laws require that a jurisdiction adjust its boundaries every five years to accommodate a 20-year land use supply. In his “State of The Region” speech in 2000, Burton said that making this type of adjustment “….meant planning at the edge and ignoring the larger long-term needs of the region.” He called for a longer view of planning so that the urban and rural areas would have a 50-year horizon upon which to plan.
During Burton’s tenure the Portland Metro region saw rapid population grown and a growing need to expand and improve its transportation system. The Metro region was a leader in the use of light rail, having built its first light rail line, MAX, in the 1980s. Burton was a strong supporter of light rail and urged the construction of a cross-regional system. During this time, the line form Portland to Hillsboro (west to east), a line from Portland to Portland International Airport were completed and a north-south line was put underway. Burton was also an advocate for the region's first commuter rail line, WES, from Wilsonville to Beaverton.
Metro also has the responsibility for regional facilities, including the Oregon Convention Center, the Portland Expo Center and the Oregon Zoo, as well as other facilities. Burton oversaw the expansion and implementation of a $100-million expansion of the convention center, and a $28-million expansion and improvement of the zoo.
Burton was unopposed in his bid for re-election in 1999 but had some difference with his elected council members. Burton reasoned that this was due in part to the structure of the governments. The Executive Officer was a position elected at large and the Councilors were elected by districts. The Executive was the head of government and the administrator of all the functions, managing the $450-million budget and its 1,200 employees. The Council adopted a budget and passed policies. The Executive had limited veto power over council activities but did not sit in on council meetings. The result was poor communications and council members feeling they were little more than spectators.
Burton recommended a change in the Charter of Metro to go to the voters in 2000. This charter change eliminated the position of Executive Officer and replaced it with a President of the Council and also called for the appointment of a Chief Operations Officer who would run the day-to-day operations. This was, in effect, equivalent to a city manager-council type of government. Burton said at the time that: “It is better to elect leaders and appoint managers”.
One council member, Jon Kvistad, said the charter change was a way for Burton to circumvent the term limit on the executive officer imposed by the charter. Even though he had no intention of running for the new position, Burton amended his proposal to insure that he would not be eligible under the new rules to be Council President. The measure easily passed and went into effect at the end of Burton’s last term in office.
Burton was succeeded as Metro president by David Bragdon, in January 2003.
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