May 16, 2014

City listened to the will of the people

I’m writing to respond to those who’ve asked why the city of Gresham doesn’t stick with the monthly police, fire and parks fee.

The Gresham City Council made the fee temporary and then placed the levy on the May ballot in response to extensive community feedback. At well-attended town halls in the fall of 2012, people asked lots of questions about the city’s need for more revenue and, after seeing the data, realized that the revenue need was real. However, they objected to raising the revenue through a fee on utility bills.

Fees are very regressive, and it’s unfair for individual homeowners, especially those on fixed incomes, to pay the same as large businesses.

Also, people really didn’t like that fees aren’t subject to a vote of the people and can be arbitrarily increased by the city council. People had seen other cities use fees to provide basic services and knew that fees that start small can get unexpectedly large.

I applaud the mayor, councilors and city staff for having this important conversation with citizens about the city’s revenue situation and then listening to what we said.

Please join me in supporting this needed levy. It’s the most equitable way to prevent further cuts to critical city services. Vote yes on Measure 26-157 — it’s the last item on the back of your ballot.

Carol Rulla, Gresham

Spinnett’s plan would ruin rural Damascus

How Damascus votes on three comprehensive plans on May 20 will impact Gresham and surrounding areas. The urbanization of Gresham’s next door rural neighbor could affect businesses, increase traffic, increase risks of flooding and lower water quality in Johnson Creek and Kelly Creek, and severely diminish forest habitat that stretches from the Gresham buttes to Mount Hood.

One plan, Measure 3-441, came out of the work of citizen committees but was not accepted by the City Council. Measure 3-444 devised by Mayor Steve Spinnett increases development and removes most conservation elements. Measure 3-445 devised by Council President Andrew Jackman is more conservation oriented.

At the heart of contention in Damascus is whether to retain a rural feel, including protecting some of the more than 3,000 acres of high quality natural areas, or to open the land to development with few restrictions. Damascus contains the largest upland forest in the Metro region outside of Forest Park and contains tributary streams to Kelly Creek and Johnson Creek.

Surveys by the city taken after residents rejected a comprehensive plan in 2010 revealed that 90 percent of respondents want to maintain a rural feel and 81 percent want fish and wildlife habitat protected.

Most of the developable lands are zoned rural — one house allowed per 5, 10, or 20 acres. All three plans increase development rights. In the widespread neighborhood low zones, four to eight houses per acre would be allowed. So a five acre parcel that now can only build one house could build 20 to 40 houses. Two of the plans — Measures 3-441 and 3-445 — require that new developments set aside 25 percent of the property as open space to be either nature parks or city-style parks, ownership retained by the development. Measure 3-444, Mayor Spinnett’s plan, does away with open space requirements and allows development as close as 15 feet from streams.

Campaign literature for 3-444 makes a false claim that the other plans require the city to take away 25 percent of your property before it can be developed, that it can then sell back to you.

This is a “pants-on-fire” claim to deceive voters.

Measures 3-441 and 3-445 provide balance between development and conservation including protecting water quality in streams, more strict limits on steep slope development which limits water runoff into streams and flooding, and fewer total houses, people and traffic, while 3-444 touting property rights is heavily tilted to development and against environmental safeguards.

The outcome of the vote will reveal if Damascus voters fall prey to scare tactics and end up allowing almost unrestricted development or whether they preserve some of the rural qualities they hold dear. The vote results will also determine if Gresham benefits from or suffers from urbanization next door.

I served as environmental issues representative for the Damascus concept plan and as co-chair of the Natural Features Topic Specific Team for the comprehensive planning efforts.

I am the owner of Deep River Geotechnical Services, a consulting engineering business in Damascus, and am a Damascus resident and property owner.

John Ferguson, Damascus

Moms support Gresham’s public safety, parks levy

As concerned mothers, we are voting yes on Measure 26-157 to keep Gresham safe and would encourage others to join us.

We are proud to be longtime Gresham residents and community supporters. As mothers we want to make sure nobody’s children have to worry about gang violence in our parks, on their walk home from school or any other time. We cannot eliminate this worry unless we fund police.

We also like that the levy ensures that no fire houses in Gresham will face closure. Measure 26-157 ensures that in the off chance you need to call 9-1-1 that police or fire will respond rapidly.

All parents know how critically important response times are to ensuring our children are able to grow up in a safe place.

Finally, we agree that the fiscal controls in the public safety levy are essential. When government spends our tax dollars, we deserve the certainty that this measure provides.

Even this sends the right messages to our children — 95 percent of the funding will go to public safety and 5 percent to parks. This money is in a dedicated and protected fund with citizen oversight. The voters will have a chance to revisit this funding in five years. We’re happy about that.

Remember, this levy will allow police and fire to continue at their current level, not add officers and firemen. We can’t let our police and fire be reduced.

We hope you will join us in voting yes on Measure 26-157. It is the least that we can do for all Gresham’s children.

Kelsey Boyd, Victoria Alley, Shannon Chisom


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