The poet Emerson once wrote, “ The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” The louder the clamor for disincorporation grinds on, the more our voters should consider what eliminating the city would mean when voting on Measure 93. A yes vote would surrender our City’s local governing existence to the County. All cash reserves, city property, citizens property rights and public policy matters would then be in the hands of Clackamas County. A No vote on Measure 93 retains our citizens’ ability to directly influence the course our City takes in the future.
The issues that are facing our city are immediate. We are in a particular geographical location that is right next to growth pressures coming from metropolitan Portland urban development. Happy Valley, on our western border, has absorbed extraordinary urban development in recent years. In addition to the existing stack and pack hillside residences there is the starting of Scouter’s Mountain 600 home project. The new Fred Meyer, under construction bordering Damascus at 172nd/ Sunnyside, now causing traffic delays, will bring more congestion. In addition to shoppers attracted to the mall, there will be a large apartment complex at the site.
We need to retain our ability to have a voice in transportation, commercial and residential density, and taxes. As our City grows, the concerns of how we allocate our monies for enhanced police service, zoning, streets and emergency planning will not go away by delegating them to the County and Happy
Valley. Their main interest will be how to expand commercial and industrial lands to provide much needed employment opportunity in the region. We should not turn over such high impact decisions that alter our rural character quality of life and taxation to dispassionate government entities.
In a March 18, 2016 Oregonian article titled, “Could Damascus’ disincorporation spark a pot goldrush?” Clackamas County Chairman John Ludlow was quoted as saying “ We don’t want the wild, wild west of pot happening out there.” In November, 2014 the citizens in Damascus, by a large majority, voted against legalized marijuana. Our City Council,working with what authority it had, moved to place the question of local legalization on this November’s ballot. Upon disincorporation, this opportunity will be lost by default , handed over to Clackamas County to decide. Instead of our City, the County will designate time, manner and place for legalized marijuana.
Disincorporation is painted by its activists as a path to return to the good old days where there was stability and comity among our neighbors. Preventing this, according to their leaders, are certain city councilors. Any deviation from the deannexation or disincorporation dogma by any councilor is considered heresy to pious ears. To be on the side of staying a city is akin to lying down with dogs, and getting up with fleas.
One of our Councilors, who was viewed as a disincorporation believer, became a heretic that fled the disincorporation monastery. The Councilor refused to genuflect before catechism that was in accord with its orthodoxy. One recent example was responsibly questioning the issue of whether city deannexed property owners should be eligible to vote this coming May. Merely raising the question on Council was sufficient for the disincorporation leaders to cry corruption and dysfunction. They charged that 4 Councilors, including that one, were trying to research ways to prevent certain people from voting. On council this was echoed by one in email as “ the council now wants to go after our citizens again.” As it turned out, during the April 4, 2016 Council meeting, the city attorney pointed out the eligibility issue is to be decided by the Secretary of State and the council is not involved in the decision.
A NO vote on Measure 93 gives us the chance to correct past missed opportunities. A NO vote will be a confirmation that we are prepared to take our place in figuring out a path to being a thriving city within the metropolitan Portland area.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Northwest Connection.)