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City safety levy heads back to ballot

ELECTION -- Forest Grove council opts to try again on May '07 ballot

Voters in Forest Grove, who narrowly defeated a public safety measure last month, will get a chance to reconsider that decision next spring.

The city council on Monday voted to put a city levy on the May 2007 ballot that would slightly increase the amount of money Forest Grove residents currently pay for police and fire services.

Specifically, it would replace the current public safety levy of 99 cents per $1,000 of assessed value with a levy of $1.35.

It's the same measure that failed by 50 votes in the Nov. 7 election.

Randy Roedl, a member of the public safety advisory committee, told councilors that after reviewing the election results, committee members concluded that the problem wasn't with the proposed levy, but in the campaign.

He said proponents of the measure say their efforts last month were hurt by some factors beyond their control, such voters' confusion with a county public safety measure that also was on the ballot, as well as other levies - particularly an unsuccessful school bond - that vied for people's pocketbooks.

But, he said, city public safety advocates failed to make it clear to votes that measure was not a new levy, but, rather, an extension of the existing levy, with an increase to account for growth-related expenses.

'People thought the levy was going to cost them $1.35 instead of 36 cents.'

Roedl said the advisory panel, working with a political action committee, would work to ensure that voters understand what the measure would fund and how much it would cost them.

'We learned from this past effort and have additional plans to move forward,' Roedl said. Those plans include finding a way to ensure that at least 50 percent of voters mail in their ballots, a requirement for any money measure that comes up in a spring or special election.

'This one is going to take an extra effort,' said Councilor Ron Thompson. 'If voters stay at home and don't vote, it's going to be a 'no' vote.'