Rep. Kennemer responds on HB 4029 (Damascus)

Rep Bill Kennemer

by Rep. Bill Kennemer (R-Oregon City)

Recently in NW Connections there were inaccuracies and meanness regarding my sponsoring House Bill 4029, a bill to encourage Damascus to fulfill its legal obligation to become a fully functioning city and stop the de facto moratorium on property rights in the city.

And to facilitate a healthy conversation, it might be well to recall some of the lessons from 2nd grade: 1) don’t call people names; it’s mean and increases fighting.  And 2) a verse from Sunday school, “Say the truth with love.”  Sadly, the last 9½ years of painful infighting and nonfeasance in Damascus are not accidents.

To call me an “aging RINO (Republican In Name Only)” is both unkind and inaccurate.  Note that all 18 House Republicans (6 were excused to travel home on Valentine’s Day afternoon) and all 14 Senate Republicans voted for House Bill 4029.  The bill passed the House 51-0 and the Senate 28-2.  Clearly, failure by the City to pass a comprehensive plan and land use regulations in 9½ years (when state law limits it to 4 years) and holding the property owners hostage to infighting and nonfeasance was unacceptable to an overwhelming majority of the House and Senate!

This bill is not an attack on Damascus.  Rather, it is meant to be an encourager.  Clearly there many well-meaning and hard-working folks in Damascus (both leaders and citizens), but the proof is in the pudding: so far efforts to come together successfully have been punctuated with long, unsuccessful, and very painful fighting.

This bill does not take away local control.  Instead, it potentially allows properties along a ½ mile edge of adjacent cities to de-annex and potentially annex and build subject to the adjacent city.  On this issue of local control, note that after study, the League of Oregon Cities, the Association of Oregon Counties, and Clackamas County were all “neutral” (meaning not in opposition) to the bill.  And the purpose of this bill is not to destroy the City (as a few say) but to encourage it to do what it should have completed well over 5½ years ago, while giving folks on the outer edges some hope and creating incentive for the City to get its act together

It should be noted that LCDC (Land Conservation and Development Commission) did not oppose the bill, although they did raise serious concerns about the May ballot comprehensive plans, and, of course, 2 of those ballot titles have been challenged in court and likely will extend the process of becoming functional even further.

And finally, this bill supports local control, starts a process to stop the de-facto moratorium on property rights, does not allow the state to dictate what shall happen in Damascus, and realizes that encouragement is needed.  And the urgency is substantial; the legislative hearings on the bill clarified that, contrary to some testimony, with current efforts the City under even a best case scenario is at least 2 years (likely more) from becoming functional.

Thank you for letting me share my perspective on these important matters.   The opportunity to serve and represent you is deeply appreciated.

Sincerely, Rep. Bill Kennemer