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Damascus petitioners submit disincorporation signatures


Pending verification, measure could appear on November ballot

The two chief petitioners of a measure to allow voters to decide whether Damascus should remain a city submitted on Thursday, June 20, more than twice the signatures required to put the matter on the November ballot.

Wally Bothum and George Samaan, both of Damascus, handed over the petition sheets with 697 signatures to a Damascus City Hall staffer at about 10 a.m. That’s more than double the 304 signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot in November.

Now, Clackamas County elections officials must verify the signatures. Then the issue will be put before voters.

“We’re really feeling pretty positive right now,” said Chris Hawes, who helped spearhead the effort. Nearly everyone approached by signature gatherers agreed to sign, he added.

The rural community of 10,000 voted in 2004 to incorporate as a city, instead of being part of Clackamas County, to have more control over how it is developed.

But since then, growth projections and development interests have not materialized, in part because of the global economic downturn. Political drama also has plagued the city. Most recently, more than half the members of the city’s volunteer committees resigned en masse in protest of the forced resignation of embattled city manager Greg Baker.

Those who signed the initiative petition commented on everything from the city’s dysfunction to having little to show for higher taxes Damascus residents pay as a city as reasons to disincorporate, Hawes said.

“If I had to sum it up, people have just said, ‘Enough is enough,’” Hawes said.

Last November, a ballot measure to take part of the city out of the urban growth boundary failed by just a few dozen votes, but that measure would not have lowered property taxes.

Disincorporation, however, will lower property tax rates, proponents have said.