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Countys TriMet payment still up in air

Petitioners attempting to force votes on future public rail projects are pleased Clackamas County officials canceled a scheduled bond sale last week, but are still pressing for a legal fight on the funding plan.

Jim Knapp, the Oak Grove resident who began the drive for Measure 3-401 on the Sept. 18 special election ballot to block local funding for TriMet’s $1.49 billion Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail project, said his group would seek a temporary restraining order to block the nearly $20 million that the county will contribute to the project.

Now that the county is considering a different way of paying for the work, Knapp says his group is “forced to go after a moving target.”

“It’s deceptive, and it’s a chess game with our money,” Knapp said.

Clackamas County Circuit Judge Douglas Van Dyke dismissed a lawsuit to block the bond sale last week, and petitioners appealed a dismissed temporary restraining order to stop the bond sale to the Oregon Supreme Court.

County spokesman Tim Heider declined to comment on Van Dyke’s decision or other matters related to light-rail issues.

Knapp began gathering signatures for a referendum against Clackamas County’s Aug. 22 decision to sell $19.2 million in bonds on Sept. 6 that will pay TriMet for its promised share of funding light-rail through Milwaukie.

Elections Manager Steve Kindred said petitioners must to submit 6,252 valid signatures by Nov. 21 to qualify the referendum for a March 12, 2013, special election.

Clackamas County district attorney’s office last week assigned a caption title, summary and explanation to the referendum. The measure would ask voters whether to “authorize $19.9 million in loan agreements” to pay the county’s portion of the light-rail project, specifying that authorization of loan agreements applies to "bonded indebtedness."

If bonds are not being sold, it’s unclear whether that portion of the ballot title would need to be corrected, or whether the measure would apply to a different type of sale.