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New game plan to keep cops

It's a busy time for Patti Galle, who has three kids on spring break looking for something to do and two exchange students staying at her house as well.

But it's about to get even busier.

Galle and other members of the Keep Our Cops committee will be pounding the pavement to drum up more support for the replacement West Linn police levy.

The levy failed to garner enough votes last November and fell short of the required majority turnout in the March 13 special election despite a 72-percent yes vote. The ballot measure fell just short of fulfilling Oregon's double majority requirement, receiving a 45-percent turnout.

But it gets a third chance in another special election in May.

And that's where Galle and her fellow concerned citizens come in.

'The biggest difference is that we're going to be doing a walking campaign,' Galle said. 'We're going to be canvassing the neighborhood.'

In the March election, Keep Our Cops focused community outreach efforts on phone and mail - e-mail and the old fashioned way. Galle said now that it seems clear that there is overwhelming support for the measure based on the number of yes votes, members can focus solely on getting out the vote. They'll need to get at least 735 more people to vote.

'We feel very confident that people are supportive,' Galle said.

Keep Our Cops Committee Chair Dennis Richey said the plan is to focus a door-to-door effort on the areas of the community that had low turnout.

'My biggest worry is that we probably have reached the majority of those people who pay attention,' Richey said. 'Getting the last 735 to 750 votes is going to be really tough.'

Richey hopes several other ballot issues will also drive more turnout.

'Basically, we did a lot of stuff right the first time,' he said. 'The odds were pretty long when it came to getting a 50-percent turnout with that being the only item on the agenda.'

Meanwhile, the city is drawing up a contingency plan should the turnout for the May election - the levy's last chance for approval - fall short again.

John Atkins, West Linn community services coordinator, said that all city departments have suspended major spending, including hiring, until there is a resolution. Atkins said the police force is down four officers and the library has yet to hire a new director.

Should the levy fail, Atkins said, money from the city's general fund will have to be diverted to maintain the current level of services, affecting mostly the police force.

He said funds that would normally go to the library or parks would be needed to prevent a large reduction in the police force.

But there will undoubtedly be fewer officers on the streets.

'If we have to do without that levy,' Atkins said, 'we have to come up with another $2 million for the police department, which we will not be able to do.'