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Appeals Court blocks Damascus disincorporation

Court upholds 2013 decision that vote was invalid

The Oregon Court of Appeals delivered a disappointing blow to Damascus disincorporation supporters last week when it upheld a lower court’s decision on the 2013 election when the majority of registered voters failed to support a disincorporation measure.

In 2013, 63.5 percent of those who voted in the election chose to disincorporate the city of Damascus, but the Clackamas County Circuit Court ruled the vote invalid because it was not passed by a supermajority above 50 percent of registered voters. On May 28, and without an opinion, the state Court of Appeals issued an affirmation of the lower court's ruling.

Chris Hawes, leader of the Citizens Committee for Disincorporation and the resident who appealed the Circuit Court’s decision, said his “faith in the system has been shaken.”

But all hope is not lost for those looking to undo the past decade and return to unincorporated land.

Legislation proposed by Rep. Shemia Fagan, D-Clackamas, and Rep. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City, would put the discinorporation vote on the 2016 ballot

House Bill 3085, which is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Committee on Rules on June 2, was proposed by the lawmakers in response to the 2013 vote.

Hawes said he has thought about appealing the decision again to the state Supreme Court, but by the time it was heard Fagan’s bill will likely have been passed.

“I don’t really think (another appeal) is in the cards given the timing,” Hawes said. “A Supreme Court appeal is 18 to 24 months minimum, and one way or another the question of Damascus is going to be decided by then.”

One bright side to the decision is that Hawes and the citizen action group now know where to focus their energy.

Plus, the legal battles were costing “tens of thousands of dollars,” Hawes said.

“We have several paths (to disincorporation)," Hawes said. "One has obviously been blocked, so we move onto the other ones. The next focus is going to be the house bills, obviously.”


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