In the popular TV science fiction series Star Trek there was a storyline where space aliens created their own new world through mental force. This phenomenon was described as a “reality distortion field.” This has been used to describe the abilities of persuasion that Steve Jobs of Apple had, and Bill Clinton has, upon other people. The Clackamas County Commissioners are using this approach to overcome the reality of the Appeals Court unanimous ruling in favor of the City of Damascus to exist. The Commissioners, by convincing themselves that Damascus is not now a resurrected city, feels justified in blocking, ignoring and ridiculing the efforts of the City”s taxpayers who are restoring local governance.
There has been a sequence of events since last May’s ruling by the Oregon Appeals Court that the Oregon legislature forced ballot Measure 93 in 2016, resulting in the disincorporation of Damascus, was indeed illegal. Each of the recent developments are significant in demonstrating how the Commission responds to obeying the Courts.
First, upon the Appeals Court decision, the Commissioners immediately sent a letter to the State Legislature to resolve the situation. The Legislature came up with Senate Bill 226, now signed into law, which merely confirmed that Measure 93 was legal. It merely corroborated the measure . It disregarded the Appellate Court’s decision from last May. SB 226 did nothing to solve the injustice to Damascus taxpayers. It only kicked the can down the road. SB 226 was sponsored by Senator Shemia Fagan. But, in prior legislation that Senator Fagan sponsored concerning Damascus , has gone into the ash heap of illegal and unconstitutional failures ruled so by courts. By the Commission going back to this same Senator in like going back to a surgeon who left a sponge in your abdomen twice before and expecting the next operation is going to be just fine. In addition, the legislature solved nothing for the Commissioners. There is only more delay. This says more about the Commissioners decision making prowess and how it uses taxpayer’s money.
Secondly, on Aug 14, 2019, attorneys representing the City of Damascus filed a petition with the Oregon Supreme Court to review (to challenge) the legality and constitutionality of the recent SB226 that is now statutory law.
This challenge, now at the Supreme Court on fast track, presents to the Court the grounds upon which the petition is based:
• It addresses the violation of municipal home rule granted in the Oregon Constitution.
• This petition asserts that the Supreme Court of Oregon has the power to overrule the legislative branch and to act accordingly.
• The Oregon Constitution prohibits the Legislature from modifying a city charter.
• The Constitution expressly delegates the exclusive power over municipal and local affairs to the City, unless a law of general jurisdiction provides otherwise.
• Other areas addressed are the legislature overturning a judicial decision, creating a special and local law as unconstitutional namely Bill226, which is now statutory law.
•And lastly, the 2019 Act violates the Equal protections and Due process requirements of the 14th amendment to the constitution of the United States. This 2019 Act retroactively grants the voters in 2016 powers they did not have at the time of the election.
The other matter that has been accomplished by the City of Damascus is that on Sept 16, 2019, the judge of the tax court of Oregon ordered Clackamas County and the County Assessor to begin levying taxes on behalf of the City of Damascus. The parties have till Oct 1st to respond as ordered or to show cause why they will not. The County decided it is going to respond to this order. The rate is assessed at $.57 per $1000. This is a pass through where this money now taken by County will go directly to the City. No property tax increase to the property owners. On October 1st the County Attorney will be trying to convince the judge that the County cannot comply with this order. Reasons will unfold.
Lastly, on September 26, 2019 the Damascus City Council passed Order No.LU 19-1. This is an adoption of a Comprehensive Plan by the City. This is the plan commonly referred to locally as the 2013 Plan. The Council determined that the ability to pass a plan, required by the State in order to enjoy the status of a city, is best resolved by a quasi-judicial manner as allowed in the City Charter. This action is to advance the City’s facility to secure our entitled funding, representation and standing in the State. This action excludes abridging, amending or denying the rights conveyed in our Home Rule Charter. Because the state and Metro have imposed a system of regulations that are interconnected, it becomes difficult to distinguish which areas are of local concern. This is in the future for the City to work out and pass on to the voters. This Plan will also aid in determining, with the entities involved, the west side boundary with Happy Valley. The Plan will shortly be submitted to the Department of Land Conservation and Development for review.
The pending Supreme Court decision, which may be as early as the end of this year, will put these events in sharp focus. If the City prevails at the Court, then the Commission will have to change its perception of reality and take action to support bringing the City to where it can enjoy local control.