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Forums planned on mayor, council compensation

Two information sessions on mayor and council compensation, which will be put to voters in May, will be held in the coming weeks.

Gresham residents will vote in May on whether to give the city’s finance committee power to set compensation for the mayor and council, a measure that the governing body said is needed to propel the city forward.

While citizens will not vote on an amount that the governing body would be paid, there is a cap in place so the mayor’s compensation would not exceed 45 percent of that paid to the chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and the salary for councilors would not exceed 45 percent of the compensation paid to an elected Metro councilor.

The board of commissioner’s chair receives $147,605 annually, and Metro councilors receive about $40,000 annually.

Currently, the Gresham mayor and city councilors are not compensated, but receive stipends of $160 a month to cover things such things as gas for city-related travel and cellphone usage.

In 2011, the charter review committee recommended the council select a task force to further study the issue of compensation and the council appointed Joan Albertson, Carol Nielsen-Hood and Travis Stovall to that task force, who unanimously recommended putting the question on the ballot.

Both the Gresham Neighborhood Associations and the compensation committee said they planned to hold separate forums on the subject.

Carol Rulla, president of the Neighborhood Associations, said their forum would be a moderated panel that would provide arguments both for and against the measure and field questions from the audience.

“It’s kind of a modified debate,” Rulla said, who noted that many in the community have been talking about the issue on Next Door, a private online social network for neighborhoods. “People were really interested in arguments for and against so they could weigh the information themselves and be able to ask their own questions.”

Rulla said Mayor Shane Bemis declined to be part of this panel and the Neighborhood Associations didn’t ask the council to be part of it because they had previously said in council meetings that they were uncomfortable advocating for it themselves.

The task force also declined to be part of the Neighborhood Associations panel and instead said they would hold their own information session.

Bemis said he would not be participating in either forum.

“This issue has been around for over 30 years and I believe the Gresham voters will have plenty of information to make an informed decision,” Bemis said.

The Neighorbood Associations Forum will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 29, at Gresham Council Chambers, 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway.

The task force will hold its forum May 4.

Albertson said she disagreed with the debate-style forum that the Neighborhood Association is planning.

“If one person is saying something and the other person is saying the opposite, you really need more factual information than you get out of those things,” Albertson said. “If we do an informational panel, and those plans are in flux, we would try to present the facts and give people a chance to ask questions.”

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