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Bill Wehr

Bill Wehr, Damascus Council President

During Clackamas County Commissioners comments on July 18, 2019, Chairman Jim Bernard launched an unfiltered verbal bushwhack on James De Young, Mayor of Damascus. He called De Young “the self appointed supreme leader of the Oregon territory.” He continued to belittle him by repeating fake news that Mr. De Young is being sued because he was representing himself as a public official. The Chairman pondered “ How does one appoint himself mayor?” The other Commissioners either laughed, smiled or remained silent during these cheap shots being leveled.

Earlier in the meeting Mr. De Young gave citizen comments and had long left the building when Bernard’s stand-up routine began. In reality, the Mayor was appointed by a quorum of councilors in an open meeting as called for in its city charter. The next week, when Bernard’s verbal salvo was pointed out, he incredulously claimed he was talking about himself and offered his apology.

But all of this was to deflect from the issue that had been presented by the Mayor and others at the Commission meetings for weeks now. Namely, that the City of Damascus has been ruled a legal entity by the Appeals Court on May 1, 2019. What is the County going to do to correct its part in the fiasco created by the illegal disincorporation vote of 2016, and to recognize Damascus as a city within Clackamas County?

In the meantime, the Damascus City Council is moving ahead and adopted several key resolutions on the evening of July 26, 2019 that further prepares it for the coming months:

• Resolution 19-703 to authorize the Mayor and or/ the city attorney to represent the City in resolving boundary issues with other jurisdictions. This will allow the City Attorney to begin discussions and negotiations with the City of Happy Valley, Clackamas County or other entities, and to fix the boundary between the two cities. From the resolution: “ taking into account the need for efficient and effective delivery of urban services, as well as the needs, desires and thoughts of the residents of this City and any other persons directly affected by such boundaries.” The resolution also states “ the City of Damascus does not desire to force people to reside in the City who do not desire to live in the City.”

• Resolution 19-704 to establish a municipal court. This is to re-establish the court that was part of the City until it terminated with the County in 2014. The court will be the declared court of record for the City.

• Resolution 19-705 regarding the interpretation of section 27 of the City Charter. In this section of the City Charter it recognizes the state election laws as they existed in 2006 when the charter was adopted. Any subsequent amendment of state election laws after that date is valid only by City Council action.

• Resolution 19-706 authorizing the city attorney to pursue and all legal endeavors on behalf of preserving the City. This is to confirm the City Attorney’s authority in these areas.
In addition to the resolutions, 2 vacant Council seats have been filled by appointment that night. Jeanne Robinson, former Budget Review Committee member and current Budget Committee member, received unanimous votes. The other seat went to Mark Fitz, former Clackamas County Planning Commission member and former Chairman of the Damascus Planning Commission also by unanimous vote.

One defense given in how the Commission is handling the issue of Damascus is that the Commission has to make decisions based on what is the common good of the whole of Clackamas County. But common good for Damascus is not limited to what the Commission deems is beneficial to the whole of Clackamas County, and at the same time takes action that abets in the downfall of Damascus. Former President Carter once said: “ It is difficult for the common good to prevail against the intense concentration of those who have a special interest, especially if the decisions are made behind locked doors.”

It will take more than no outreach to the community for the last three years, relying on fake news, disincorporation activists, and monied interests for the Commission to clearly make informed decisions. Court-failed State legislation targeting Damascus, that is newly repackaged (Senate Bill 226 ), will not relieve the Commission of its responsibility. The Commission should open up to solving the Damascus problem in a way that reflects the true common good not only for Clackamas County, but for the taxpayers of the City of Damascus.

Note: the link to Chairman Bernard’s July 18,2019 comments starts at 1:16:53 https://www.youtube.com/embed/78emKR7DXJY6:53 in.

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