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Guest comment:Jim De Young on Damascus disincorporation

EDITOR'S NOTE: Damascus City Council James De Young submitted this press release Wednesday, April 20, regarding his legal challenge of Measure 93, the initiative to disincorporate the city of Damascus.

The vote in Damascus on disincorporation Is unconstitutional

James De Young, long-time resident of Damascus and current member of the City Council, announced Wednesday, April 20, that he, as a private citizen, is challenging the constitutionality of Measure 93 which the people of Damascus will be voting on during the May 17 primary. Measure 93 is a vote on whether to disincorporate the City of Damascus.

In mid 2015 the Legislature passed, and the governor signed into law, House Bill 3085 which forces the people of Damascus to vote on disincorporation a second time (after such a vote failed in November 2013). De Young has filed his complaint that this law is unconstitutional for three major reasons.

First, HB 3085 violates the Oregon Constitution. The legislature does not have the authority to mandate or initiate a special election on the issue of disincorporation. The legislature also cannot alter Damascus’ Charter and it cannot reduce the necessary majority to pass disincorporation. The legislature’s actions violate clear provisions in the Oregon Constitution that protect the right of a city to determine what legislation it will vote on when that legislation affects it alone.

Second, Measure 93 violates State statutes by attempting to exempt Damascus and no other city from existing statutes of disincorporation that require approval by a majority of electors and that the vote take place in November. It also violates the constitutional right that cities alone have the ability to create a local initiative to vote on disincorporation.

Finally, his complaint alleges that HB 3085 violates the City Charter of Damascus, since the Legislature by creating Measure 93 has assumed initiative powers regarding the internal workings of Damascus, which powers are reserved to the city.

The Legislature cannot amend the city’s charter nor deprive the city or its residents of determining what legislation the people will vote on. Furthermore, Measure 93, if passed, would unconstitutionally violate the city’s spending limitations mandated by the City Charter.

The City Council and the voters of Damascus did not create Measure 93, nor did they approve the initiative. It was forced on the city by the Legislature and governor.

De Young’s complaint was filed with Clackamas County Circuit Court on Monday, April 18. The complaint listed the governor, the state, Clackamas County, and the city of Damascus as defendants.

Submitted by:

Jim De Young

City Councilor

Damascus