City of Damascus uses city website for campaigning

City of Damascus uses city website for campaigning.

The City of Damascus has posted on its official web site what it claims are the ballot measures to be voted on by its citizens in November. However what they have posted is not the measures that will be on the ballot.

The City and Metro were stung in the March, 2008 election when citizens voted overwhelmingly to support property rights and demanded a vote on the endless list of taxes by passing three citizen initiatives. The City Manager, Jim Bennet and City Attorney Andy Jordan (Prior METRO General Council) are now using a unique law (Ordinance 2007-21) passed by the City Council at the encouragement of Bennet and Jordan to use the city/s website for election and propaganda purposes.

This ordinance mandates the city write an explanatory statement in the voters pamphlet in addition to the summary the city attorney already gets to write. Unlike the summary however, the explanatory statement has no requirements for review by anyone for accountability. In fact there is no provision for it to even be viewed by anyone prior to its submission to county elections.

So important was this ordinance to Bennet and Jordan that included was a declaration that without this statement the Clackamas County voters pamphlet is a threat to the health of citizens.

The ordinance states:

“The city council declares it necessary for the preservation of the public health, welfare, and safety for this ordinance to take effect immediately upon its passage and therefore declares an emergency.”

This ordinance was written only to apply to measures submitted by citizen initiative but is now handy in the city sponsored tax measures.


When you go to the city website at and click on the “elections button” a list of measures comes up. Clicking on any of the measures you get only the explanatory statement written for and by the city.

The actual measure is not to be found.

Few citizens are aware of this as the local monthly tabloid is supported by the city (our taxes) at the rate of $1,900.00 per month. Knowing who butters their bread this tabloid has yet to
see anything negative in Metro’s plan for Damascus, it has however vehemently protested any citizen efforts to bring issues to a vote. No surprise the main propagandist, Marcia Sinclair was rewarded with a job at Metro.


Measure 3-330 Establishing a franchise fee on all utilities
The city website says “…fees collected are used by the City of Damascus primarily to maintain City streets.”

The measure does not even mention street maintenance or any requirement on how the money is spent.

Measure 3-328 Establishes System Development charges
The City website says “such charges are assessed to the developers of property”

The measure does not even mention “developer” but includes any “new development” with no definition. New pavement on an existing driveway or adding on to your existing home all fit as new development. Even a pole building fits new development. It is at the city’s discretion to require an impact study to determine desired fees even from homeowners!

Remember Portland charging system development charges of around $30,000 for a pizza parlor that that wanted to move across the street.

Measure 3-326 A citizen measure protecting initiative rights from city imposed limits.

The city website refers to many numbers of signature requirements for different scenarios with complicated formulas and questionable results.

The measure simply states regarding signature requirements: “…a city initiative, a referendum or a recall shall not exceed the respective percentage requirements set forth in the Oregon Constitution for statewide initiative, referendum and recall.”

Each measure has similar distortions and not one posting on the city website has the actual measure language.


The city is and has been all about limiting citizen participation and voting under the guidance of Jim Bennet and Andy Jordan who see no wrong in protecting their and Metro’s perceived turf. Combine this with a naive City Council and you can see why citizens must use the initiative process to keep Damascus livable.

The city has come up with 4 measures. One to stop the citizens efforts to protect the initiative process and the other three that immediately impose taxes and prohibit a vote on future taxes.

With Jordan and Bennet at the helm any means necessary will be employed.

The irony of a claim on the business website of MR Jordan is not lost where it states:
“We focus on results — solving the business problem — rather than the legal process.”

The business problem here is raising taxes while writing the legal process.

Perfect for a Metro General Counsel.

Dan Phegley of Ask Damascus ([email protected])

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Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 20 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    These people are so obviously out of their league that it is hard to describe in terms that would be acceptable on this forum. They are obviously self-serving politicos who heads are in the clouds. Only the ballot box can crash them back to earth.
    I am SO VERY glad I do not live in Damascus.
    Two words sum up this mess and power gone awry in the country.
    Bush league.

  • John Fairplay

    Worse yet, you have private citiizens like Dean (who posts comments constantly on Catalyst) writing for the local tabloid. He and his shack-up honey – who works for Metro – will benefit financially if Metro’s plans for Damascus are implemented as the value of their property will increase dramatically. Think Dean represents a “disinterested third party observer” on these issues when he writes for the tabloid? Think Dean gives a damn what’s really best for all the citizens of Damascus?

  • Dan Phegley

    Only half of this article was posted. Please return later to read the entire article.

  • Anonymous

    “He and his shack-up honey – who works for Metro”


    He has a Metro employee living with him?

    For how long?

    More evidence of his clone like pitches.

  • Catalyst Editor

    The article has been restored to its full length.

  • joe

    “He and his shack-up honey – who works for Metro ”

    Gee, kinda like the Oregonian editor & some honey that works for OHSU.

  • Joanne Rigutto

    I know Marcia, who also has a farm in the Damascus area. Don’t assume that just because she works for Metro, that she’d be in favor of paving over that farm. In fact, for a person who has acreage, especially if they’re farming, but doesn’t want to move, having development come in next to you can raise your taxes to the point that you’re forced to sell and move further away to get lower property taxes.

    I remember a farm near Damascus that was built around and the family said they were going to have to sell the property and buy elsewhere. I don’t know if they ever eventually did this, but the point still stands. This was a family that had been working that particular piece of land for a long time. I think that it may have been a century farm.

    Just because someone *could* develope their property doesn’t mean that they *want* to develope their property.

    A lot of people are in rural areas because they want to farm, homestead, or just live outside of a city.

    • Dan Phegley

      I am a little surprised at the discussion of Marcia in the comments as the topic is actually regarding unethical actions by the City of Damascus. I would actually be quite surpriased if Marcia had anything to do with the intentional misleading content on the city’s website. I do however believe Mr Bennett and Mr Jordan are well aware of the deception and in fact intended it.

      • anonymous

        You brought Marcia’s name into this Dan. Are you now apologizing for calling her a propagandist? Or are you just trying to weasel your way out of potential community blowback that might result from your cowardly name calling and insinuations?

        • cc

          Oh, please…

          What’s “cowardly” about what Dan wrote?

          Coming from some anonymous puke that rings pretty hollow.

          He called Sinclair a propagandist and did so over his own name – pretty straighforward compared to some. If he’d been worried about “blowback”, he’d have posted like you did.

      • cc

        These two are the poster children for elitism. They don’t just “hope” that citizens won’t read the actual language of the measures, they actively attempt to misdirect and obfuscate. There is so much obvious disdain for the voters inherent in this collection of dishonest, self-serving measures that it should be red meat for those who proposed and voted for the March initiatives.

        Run the bastards out of town.

        This is a perfect example of these snakes insinuate themselves into positions of power. They take advantage of the good nature of regular folks. Imposing one’s will on others and using these sorts of tactics to attempt to do it is an alien concept to most people. That their elected representatives would harbor such desires and act on them in this manner is a wake-up call to all the citizens of Damascus.

        Now they know.

  • Anonymous

    “I know Marcia, who also has a farm in the Damascus area. Don’t assume that just because she works for Metro, that she’d be in favor of paving over that farm.”

    Gee that’s swell but is her land labeled and targeted by Metro for preservation and prohibition? Or will is it labeled for some future development?

    • Joanne Rigutto

      It’s my understanding that Marcia’s farm was brought into the urban growth boundary for Damascus, something that she is not happy about, even if it does eventually raise the value on the property.

      So, being in a current UGB for the city of Damascus would preclude the property from being preserved as farm land, at least under the Urban/Rural Reserves process. It would place the property in a position to be developed eventually. Not a good position to be in if you want to continue farming.

      One of the problems that people in rural areas face is the perception that ag land is ’empty’ land, and therefore ‘unproductive’. Often times, though, ag land is not laying fallow. It’s being used to produce crops, some for food, some for feeds/forages, nursery plants, grass seed, crop seed, oils, etc. and then there are lands being used for timber production, christmas trees, etc., and much of the land that actually is fallow for commercial cropping and animal ag, is actually being used to provide people with living spaces that are much larger than those offered in an urban setting. I know a fellow who sold a house with an acre or two near Molalla. In one month he had over 100 people look at the house and acreage. Most of those people were from the Portland area and were moving out because they
      a) wanted to get out of Portland and
      b) wanted some elbow room.

      For those people who don’t want development immediately around them, especially those engaged in commercial agriculture, development can raise their land values to the point that it puts them out of business. This is actually happening around the city of Molalla right now. The city wants to establish an urban reserve to the north of their current UGB. The land that they want to designate as an urban reserve is being commercially farmed, and if successful, those farms will eventually be put out of business so that homes and nonfarm commercial businesses can go in. Now, if those people farming that land would rather get out of farming and sell for development, then fine. However, if those people *don’t* want to get out, to force them out is just as bad as if I were to move into an urban area, buy up the property that people were living and running their businesses on, evict them, tear their homes and businesses down, and plant crops.

      As I understand it, that’s the position Marcia is in right now regarding the Damascus UGB expansion. I don’t know how much money and time she’s put into that farm, but I do know that she is actively engaged in commercial ag, and is producing a market crop with buyers. The way things are going, eventually that property’s taxes will probably rise and residential density may very well rise to the point that her farm will be forced out of business. At that time she’ll have some choices – loose her business, sell and stop farming, sell and move the farm, sell and try to buy a farm that is already in business, etc.. With the exception of the sell and stop farming option, she’ll be in for nothing but a lot of work and essentially no proffit.

      Moving a farm isn’t just a matter of selling the land you’re using right now and buying up another piece of property. There is a lot more involved, especially if you’re engaged in plant ag. Soils have to be right, and if they aren’t then you have to prepare and improve them, which may take years until you’re really productive, and at the very least will cost a lot of money. There’s also the matter of water, do you have access to a well, stream, river, lake, pond, etc., do water rights come with the property, if so, what’s the output of the well or ammount allowed in the water rights on a stream, river or lake, is there enough to crop and/or raise livestock? Then there’s the matter of finding land that *can* be commercially farmed, and the fact that you’ll probably have to move farther away from your market than you are now, which adds a whole ‘nuther slew of expenses, especially if you are working off the farm to supplement the farm income. Remember, it’s not just the fuel to get to your off farm job but commute time, and when you get home you’re going to have more work during set up than you had before you moved. If you aren’t working an off farm job, then you have a small window to get everything prepped and ready to plant in the spring or fall, depending on the type of crop you’re growing. If you’re down at the wrong time of the year you may miss out on a whole year’s income and you may loose your buyers as they switch to a producer who can deliver product while you’re moving and getting set up in your new location. Small specialty producers may spend years building market and buyers. Moving a commercial working farm can destroy or severely dammage all of that work.

      Moving a farm engaged in animal ag can be a bit easier, but not necessarily too much easier as you have a whole different set of requirements as far as fencing, shelter, etc. Additionally, you may be forced to conduct an environmental impact study depending on the type of animal ag you are engaged in, be it a CAFO or equine boarding stable. If you are raising slaughter animals on a small scale and selling direct to local stores or consumers, you have to take into consideration scheduling slaughter at an inspected facility. Scheduling these services are important, you can’t just call them up any time of the year and say you have livestock to deliver tomorrow. They will probably already be booked. The local USDA inspected slaughter house between Mulino and Canby is booked till January or February right now, and if you want slaughter at this time of year you have to book way ahead of time. They have producers who book in January for October slaughter. If you are selling, you must, with few exceptions, have your animals slaughtered either under state or federal inspection. So if you miss your window because you had to move you are either going to have to hold that stock over, sell on the open commodities market, or eat them yourself, all of which means that you’re going to loose money.

      So, for the most part, the only people who are going to find that selling a working farm for development is easy and proffitable are the people who are selling and getting out of commercial ag. If you’re moving a farm, the only thing you’ll probably realize in selling the farm you already have is more expenses, loss of a market you may have built up over the years, and a lot of extra work.

      Over the years, people in rural areas have formed CPOs, Hamlets and Villages to give them a chance to have more standing in and influence on land use planning, primarily to protect the rural lands that they live on and that some work on. Marcia was engaged in the process of the Damascus UGB expansion. It’s my understanding from talking to her that she didn’t want a UGB rolling over her property. She was unsucsessful in the effort to protect her farm.

      Her current position with Metro involves encouraging public engagement/involvement in the Urban/Rural Reserves process, something that she’s pretty good at. I doubt that the position with Metro was offered as a ‘reward’ for anything, it was probably more of a situation in which Metro saw someone who was good at a skill they needed and they tapped her for it. As someone who has gotten involved in the reserves process myself, and who is engaged in surveillance on ag and trade regulations, I personally think that public involvement is pretty important. The more public involvement in these types of regulations the better as far as I’m concerned. I’ve seen Marcia work over the past few months in this area, and I think she’s pretty good at engaging the public in the regulatory process. I think that Metro’s lucky to have her.

      OK, getting off the soap box now and putting on the flame retardant suit…..

    • anonymous 2

      Metro has not “designated” any land in Damascus for anything. They (Metro) made a decision to expand the urban growth boundary around a 12,000 acre area that happened to include Marcia’s 5 acre farm. The city of Damascus, which was voted into incorporation by about 65% of the voters after the decision to expand the UGB, is the agency now responsible for determining who can build what where and who can’t because they own land that is too steep, too unstable (see Oregonian front page today,) too wet, or too something else.

      All land is not created equal.

  • keith

    Mr. Phegley sets himself up as the judge of what is fair and right, but what do you really know about him? He says he represents citizens of Damascus, but how many active members participate in “Ask Damascus” affairs, other than him? If he represents the citizens of Damascus, why do 95% of his campaign contributions come from outside the city and – to an even greater degree- from outside the state? Also, is Mr. Phegley a small-time Bill Sizemore?
    I don’t see any local campaign going on against all these “outrageous” measures the city has on the ballot. Where is all that money being donated to Ask Damascus going?

  • An “R” that is tired of “R” rhetoric.

    What a ridiculous post even if I may agree with “some” of what is said. Most cities and counties list the same type of information at election time so what is the big deal?
    The point that the explanatory statement is not reviewed by anyone is absolutely false. These statements are reviewed by the state to ensure that they are factual and not biased. Maybe a little fact checking by the poster is in line.

  • Anonymous

    Well, well, well. Read and heed:

    (Forum Update
    October 16, 2008 by tim giorgi

    We are disappointed to announce that Ask Damascus has withdrawn from participating at the forum earlier this week, leaving little time to find a replacement to present their views on the measures and no one else has come forward. Please attend and get your questions answered by the candidates and other citizen researchers.)

    Mr. Phegley was given the opportunity to share his opinions and assertions to the citizens of Damascus and as is his usual manner he chickened out. It seems easier for Mr. Phegley to hide behind the poison pen and support dollars from out of our state to spread his drivel.

    This will be the stake in the heart to his three person organization that has tried to turn our city upside down with lies and innuendos.

    • dean

      That’s a shame. I was looking forward to debating him on the SDC measure.

  • Anonymous

    Ah come on Dean, don’t you hate battling wits with an unarmed man? LOL

    • dean

      Well….we had our debate last night. Good turnout, with over 100 people there. Too bad Dan was not there to present his case directly to the people.

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