I am pleased to report that on May 1, the Appellate Court of the State of Oregon unanimously decided favorably on behalf of James De Young in his lawsuit, James De Young vs Governor Kate Brown, the State of Oregon, Clackamas County and the City of Damascus.
The Court has nullified the disincorporation vote of May, 2016. It determined that the state legislature violated state statutes when it (not the city) initiated a vote on disincorporation, when it placed the vote in the primary in May, 2016 (not the general election in Nov), and when it lowered the required number of votes to a simple majority of those who voted (not a majority of the electors–the registered voters). All of these matters violated existing state laws. The Court said that the State Legislature could not create a new law to empower only Damascus to change State Statutes while voting on its special law.
The basic thrust of their decision is that you have to follow the law until you change the law. While the defendants tried to find another path to disincorporation besides the one in statutory law, the Appellate Court found that “the” describing the present path meant “the” and not “a.”
The defendants in the case argued that the case was moot, that the results of the election could not be reversed. The Court rejected this argument.
The Court acknowledged that there were also constitutional issues involved, and whether the 2016 vote violated the City’s charter. The Court said that it is a common procedure to resolve cases on lesser, statutory grounds first, if possible, rather than on the weightier grounds of constitutional issues. And that is what the Court did. In light of this De Young and his attorney think that they would have also prevailed on the constitutional grounds.
Now the heavy work of reconstituting the City begins. Much has gone under the bridge and has to be addressed, even reversed. But we are not in the mood to reverse anything.
Issues confronting the City:
The status of those properties that have annexed into Happy Valley since July, 2016
The funds that were sent to the County in violation of the City’s charter
The funds sent by Clackamas Co back to the property owners last fall
The documents and other vital things that Clackamas County took from the City
The status of those City Councilors who advocated disincorporation and annexed into Happy Valley
The status of the comprehensive plan presently being developed in HV that would bring 2700 A of west Damascus into HV.
We can work through all these issues. I think the majority of the Council will have no interest in reversing points 1-3 above. The citizens of Damascus should not bear the burden that the legislature created. Also we seek a City in which the property tax burden will be the lowest in the region—perhaps a third or a fourth or more of that before.
Already two years ago a group of citizens began discussing a new Damascus, with a new charter, a smaller land mass (possibly releasing properties on the East or West who don’t want to be in Damascus), an approved comprehensive plan, and the lowest property taxes in the region.
A new day is dawning for Damascus, a new birth. The City that began in 2004 has never really ceased to exist, even during the hiatus of 2016-2019! All city councilors still in the City are still on Council, if they wish to be, as the City Charter makes clear.
With this change of the status of the City comes a new opportunity to bring the City together, to bring about needed changes, to look to the future in a positive way, to envision a special city distinctive among the cities of Oregon. Its new birth already makes it historically distinctive like no other city in Oregon.
Annuit Coeptis (check your dollar bill). James De Young email@example.com 503-658-2886