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City says no to county group

Gresham city councilors have rejected the notion of a county committee proposed by a local mayor who hoped it would bring more collaboration and clout to the east side.

But Fairview Mayor Mike Weatherby hopes Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis is open to a compromise he offered last week.

On Sept. 20, the Gresham City Council unanimously approved a resolution rejecting Weatherby's proposed Multnomah County Coordinating Committee, which would replace the East County Transportation Committee as the county's representative group on transportation issues.

Weatherby suggested the committee a year ago in hopes it could become the forum to discus regional issues while also creating a unified voice for East Multnomah County, much like similar committees in Washington and Clackamas counties.

The resolution Gresham city councilors approved opposes the committee, highlighting a power imbalance 'that would do more harm than good for purposes of fair and equitable regional collaboration.'

Under Weatherby's proposal, each of the cities represented on the committee - including Maywood Park, Fairview, Wood Village, Troutdale, Gresham and Portland - would get one vote. Multnomah County also would get one vote.

Non-voting members of the committee would represent TriMet, the Port of Portland, Metro Regional Government and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

'That would provide the 105,000 citizens of Gresham with the same voting representation as smaller communities,' reads the resolution. '… Cities representing a total of 29,000 residents could, through a simple majority, decree an opinion on behalf of the Multnomah County Coordinating Committee over the objections of cities representing 680,000 residents.'

Portland Mayor Sam Adams seems to agree. In a July email, he too respectfully declined participation in the committee 'as the majority voting structure may have a disparate impact on Portland.'

So last week, Weatherby offered Bemis a compromise: Two votes for Gresham and two votes for Portland. This results in the two largest cities having as many votes as the four smaller ones. Multnomah County could then serve as a tiebreaker.

No way, Bemis says.

'If I traded places with him, would he vote for this?' Bemis asked, answering his own question with a 'hell no. There's no way you would be representing your people if you agreed to enter into that.'