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Local government 101: the difference between city and county services

Learn about where you can go for specific services between the city of Portland and Multnomah County.

Sun shines on the front of Portland City Hall, where the local government operates.

Let’s shine some light on the difference between city and county resources.

Class is in session, Portland. We’re teaching PORGOV 101, where we break down different aspects of our local government so we can become engaged citizens who create healthier (and more effective) communities.

For today’s lesson, we’re discussing the differences between city and county services — because let’s be honest, they can get muddled sometimes.

Multnomah County

The county of Multnomah is one of Oregon’s 36 counties and it encompasses part of Portland, Maywood Park, Gresham, Troutdale, Wood Village, Fairview, Corbett, and Dunthorpe.

When it comes to countywide services, you can expect to find those related to health and welfare, animal control, social systems, libraries, and criminal justice programs. On the county’s website, you can:

  • Find public and property records, restaurant inspection reports, adoptable pets, affordable housing
  • Request birth and death certificates, adult immunizations and travel vaccines
  • Apply for child support services, financial and food assistance, marriage licenses
  • Report child abuse, county-maintained road issues, environmental health violations, pest infestations
  • Pay library fines and late fees
A Portland voter drops their ballot in a Multnomah County ballot box.

Multnomah County handles voter registration and coordinates with Portland for elections.

City of Portland

Within Portland’s boundaries, our city is responsible for services like police and fire, parks, public works, water, and waste. On the city’s website, you can:

  • Find city job openings, trash collection schedules, parks and rec activities and programs
  • Learn about rent control, emergency preparedness, what to recycle, where to access public Wi-Fi
  • Report abandoned vehicles, graffiti, illegal dumping, code violations, crime
  • Pay invoices for city services and fees, citations and parking tickets, development or code permits

So, how was that for a civic lesson? Let us know what other areas of our local government you’d like us to explore next.