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County attorneys: Ballot measure does not apply to MAX project

Clackamas County Commission to discuss options Wednesday morning

The Clackamas County ballot measure on funding public rail projects does not apply to the Portland-to-Milwaukie Light Rail Line, according to an opinion by county attorneys released Tuesday.

The initiative measure was placed on the ballot by activists who want a public vote on the $25 million the county has committed to the $1.5 billion project. It has qualified for the September 18 Special Election.

But according to the 17-page opinion, the measure only applies to future projects, not projects that have already been approved by the Clackamas County Commission.

'If approved by the voters at the September election, the ballot measure would not have retroactive application; it would apply prospectively only. As such, its passage in September would not impair the County's existing obligation to fund its $25 million commitment under the terms of the PMLR agreement,' reads the opinion, signed by County Counsel Stephen Madkour and Assistant County Counsel Alex Gordon.

The commission discussed the opinion during a work session on Wednesday.

One option suggested in the opinion would be to challenge the constitutionality of the measure before the election. The opinion says initiative petitions are intended for legislative acts not administrative decisions, such as contracts.

"The Ballot Measure goes beyond mere legislation and impermissibly intrudes into the general administrative and executive functions of County governance," says the opinion.

The light rail project is very controversial in Clackamas County and has emerged as a divisive issue in this year's commission races. In the May 15 Primary Election, two candidates opposed to county funding for the project forced two commissioners who support the project into run-off elections at the Nov. 6 General Election.

In the race for Chair, former Wilsonville Mayor John Ludlow, a funding opponent, finished slightly ahead of incumbent Charolette Lehan. And in the race for Position 4, former State Rep. Tootie Smith, a funding opponent, finished slightly behind incumbent Jamie Damon.