Clackamas pols celebrate Damascus birthday with death wish

By Dan Phegley, Ask Damascus

On Monday November 2, 2009 the city council of Damascus held a party celebrating the fifth birthday of Metro’s experimental city. The party was muted a bit as the prior Friday afternoon “Ask Damascus” a local citizens political action committee had turned in signatures on four city initiatives. All are charter amendments thus cannot be overturned at the whim of the city council.

09-01 Prohibits Light rail in Damascus unless voters choose otherwise.
09-02 Limits city spending, paves way for rainy day fund and tax refunds.
09-03 Limits city councils’ use of emergency clause for expediting ordinances.
09-04 Requires voter approval of intergovernmental agreements, Stops transfer of power, i.e. to Metro.

Clackamas County Chair Lynn Peterson seemed ready with a solution. Her idea as presented to the revelers was to have a vote to dis-incorporate the infant city and in the same election re-incorporate with a more Metro friendly Charter. This act of aborting an entire city would rid the region of a city charter that has become a thorn to governments as it requires actual citizen involvement. This charter, thanks to citizen initiatives, requires a vote on all new taxes, charges and fees. It also requires that the city council, when tampering with citizens initiative rights, must make any changes using the initiative process.

Another reveler Jim Bernard (county commissioner) told me “this is a representative government and citizens should not be voting on everything”. The subject at the time was the proposed county tree ordinance and why voting should not be permitted. When I asked if he was aware of what he swore to uphold when taking office to his credit he remembered it was the Oregon Constitution but could not recall the topic of the very first paragraph.

Their positions are interesting given the state planning goals primary requirement is citizen input, but voting apparently is just over the top.

By the way, the topic of the first paragraph of the constitution: Section 1. Natural rights inherent in people.

The rest of the paragraph reads:
We declare that all men, when they form a social compact are equal in right: that all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; and they have at all times a right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper.—

Dan Phegley
Ask Damascus

  • Matt Evans

    The Damacus City Council is incredibly out of touch with the people they serve. They have forgotten that the people are their masters – they are not accountable to Metro, but to the people. While the City Council and Metro may want Damascus to become some uber-planning utopia where all the citizens stay in their little boxes, pay high taxes, ride light rail everywhere and never cut down a tree, thanks to Ask Damascus, the city will become what its people want it to be.

    • v person

      More likely Matt, the “city” will remain as it is today for many years. A mostly rural area that happens to be in the urban growth boundary but has no approved plan or financial means to allow development of private lands. And frankly, that is what the majority of Damascans seem to want

      My back of the envelope calculation is this will cost land owners 1-2 billion dollars. But hey….its only money.

      • Matt Evans

        At least it will be their choice and the government won’t be looking to implement policies that enrich the few – including themselves – while ruining Damascus for everyone else.

      • Abolish Metro

        What do mean by “…no approved plan or financial means to allow development”? The City of Damascus can develop their own plan and ask their citizens to approve it. The financal means will come from the private sector and not over burdened taxpayers (like me). The citizens of Damascus can neuter Metro and that is good for everyone. With any luck other cities and counties will follow.

        Metro exists for the sole purpose of forcing citizens in Washington and Clackamas counties to pay taxes should be paid by Multnomah residents, (well, that and it creates a lot of do nothing jobs for the government class).

        By the way, don’t you mean it will *save* land owners 1-2 billion?

        • v person

          By incorporating, Damascus established its right to create its own plan. But that plan is by law subject to approval by the State. It has to meet certain standards to be approved, just like every other city in Oregon and the Portland area. If the people of Damascus want to have a vote on the plan before it is adopted, that is up to us. The trick will be creating a plan that satisfies us, Metro, and the State. After 7 years of effort we have failed to accomplish this. We are spinning our wheels, wasting money, and depressing local land values in the meantime because we are in limbo. Who wants to buy land in a community with such an uncertain future?

          The private sector pays for infrastructure on the property it develops. It can help pay to upgrade off site infrastructure it needs, like main sewer lines, treatment plants, water systems, and parks, but only if the local community establishes development fees. Damascus has no development fees, and one of the previous citizen initiatives prevents the city council form establishing these fees without a vote of the people, along with a double majority requirement that makes an vote possible only every other year . In effect this and the next batch of initiatives will stall development from happening indefinitely, because without those fees there is not sufficient funding for civic infrastructure.

          And no, I mean it will *cost* land owners 1-2 billion in lost potential added value. It is the difference between the value of rural land that can’t be developed versus the value of land that can be developed, times the number of potentially developable acres in Damascus.

  • Jerry

    It doesn’t matter what it costs. The council is out of control and must be tamed by the voters. Anything goes in the battle against the liberal, out-of-touch council, afraid of the vote of the people.
    These will pass.
    Which is good.

  • Anonymous

    Progrssive v-dean who has 5 acres in Damasus,

    You’re so dishonest it’s sickening. For YOU, the Metro clone, anti-property rights, anti-M37 deceiver who could care less whay Oregonain lose from excessive land use regulation to be using property value loss to argue against Ask Damascus is yet anouther example of your despicable self.

    You helped screw many of your neighbors who could have used M37 and instead of costing the taxpayers it would have generated revenue which could have been used towards infrastructure.

    You lied about M37, lied about M49, lie about AGW and lie about your lying.

    • Diamond Jim Franconni

      Agreed. The self-serving posts on this site must stop.

    • v person

      What argument did I make against Ask Damascus? I simply pointed out that one of the consequences of their petitions is to cost property owners a lot of money. I did not say this is a good or bad idea. Its just a fact that should be considered by the voters.

      • Jerry

        Who cares about the money? Move if you don’t like it.
        I have had it with these people.

  • Nicolas

    Hi there,
    Interesting, I`ll quote it on my site later.