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Let city voters decide

When I ran for this office, my primary goal was to be the eyes, ears and voice of the constituents who elected me. I take this responsibility very seriously and constantly reassess my adherence to that goal.

I believe that Oregon City is at the most important “fork-in-the-road” that we have encountered in the last 150 years. I also believe that the decisions debated currently are critical to choosing the path that we follow. I am speaking of many current movements, but most importantly Measure 3-407.

Oregon City has grown from a small “company” town to a medium size city. We no longer have “the company,” but other factors have taken over that position. The government of the small town was run by the city employees to provide for the most efficient way of transacting business.

We are no longer a small town. It is time for a total reassessment of how we conduct ourselves in the business, government and politics. The business of the city employee is to run the “business” of the city, not determine the politics nor set the policy. In fact state law prohibits us from mixing the two.

Our City Manager has pointed out an issue that he believed to be a problem. He and others agreed that Measure 3-407, which will be on the November ballot was not clear and that the city should insert a clarifying statement in the voter’s pamphlet. In doing that he is performing his job.

However, it was up to the commission to make the decision on passing a new ordinance that would allow us to make that insertion.

As such, I have no problem with the ordinance being proposed that would allow the city to insert an explanatory statement in the voter’s pamphlet. What I do have a problem with is in attaching this ordinance to any ballot measure as an emergency. The very word emergency gives the impression of dire consequences. If this ordinance was necessary it needed to come before the commission on its own merits.

I do not believe that the city can compose a neutral statement. Neutrality is not a “bulls eye” that you can hit with an arrow. Neutrality has an infinite number of sides depending on from where you approach.

In short, it is my belief that we need to separate the ordinance from the ballot measure. We need to stand back and let the voice and intelligence of the voters speak. If they find issue with the measure, they will vote it down. If not, it will pass.

But the invaluable lesson will be that the staff employed by the citizens will have avoided electioneering and will have respected the will of the people. The voters of Oregon City are quite capable of deciding if they want to vote on any issue. It is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Some have suggested that urban renewal is too complicated an issue for the common voter to understand. I would suggest that this is not the case and in fact a demeaning statement.

Take a look at your property tax statement. On the far right you will see a column which adds up each of your taxes by District. There are currently two lines labeled “Urban Renewal.” If you add up all of the figures in the column you will see that those two lines are included in the total. Some opponents of 3-407 suggest that these figures are not really included and that you don’t pay for urban renewal. In theory, the money will come back to the City when the urban-renewal district closes. However, Oregon City has only closed one urban-renewal district, ever. The rest of the time those monies have been used for extremely inappropriate projects, like City Hall. City Hall does not pay taxes and will never pay back a dime to the city itself.

This is only one example of the mismanagement of urban-renewal funds here in Oregon City. Many cities and some entire states have recently banned urban renewal because they are now realizing what a drain it is on the citizens and the original purpose has been compromised by those who have found loopholes in the process. They then use those loopholes for personal gain on the backs of the citizens.

We are a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Not a crowd of uneducated people waiting to be told how to react.

A friend recently told me the definition of a “quantum leap.” Simply put, it is when an electron that is in orbit around a nucleus, leaps to an orbit further away from the nucleus, but the electron never exists in the space between orbits. I submit that it is time for Oregon City to take a “quantum leap.” Leave the small town, company run government behind and propel ourselves into a new century. This is not exclusive of keeping our pioneer roots. It is simply the only way that will be able to move ahead with development, prosperity and enhancement for the new challenges facing our citizenry.

I would urge each of our voters to become informed and vote “yes” on Measure 3-407. You simply deserve the right to vote.

Kathy Roth is a commissioner for Oregon City.




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