Damon faces the Boring CPO, answers queries on rural issues
Clackamas County Commissioner Jamie Damon was confronted recently with claims that she was too enthusiastic with her support of a ballot measure that contradicted a citizen-led initiative on the same ballot.
Damon, the incumbent candidate for Position No. 4 on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, came under sharp questioning during the recent Boring Citizen Planning Organization (CPO) meeting.
Damon of Eagle Creek was accused of laughing with other commissioners while they were talking about the urban renewal measure they had put on the Nov. 8, 2011.
'That disturbs me,' said Boring CPO member John Lee, who said he saw the laughter on a video of the meeting.
'I don't recall myself laughing,' she told the audience. 'I think it was taken out of context.'
Damon said she had spoken with initiative petitioners, and then authored the commission's non-binding resolution on how it would deal with future urban renewal districts.
'This (resolution) was at least a statement of commitment,' Damon said, 'that we hear what your concerns are; that the (Clackamas) Town Center district has been going on for too long and needs to close; that the increase in value needs to be put back on the tax rolls; that special districts need to be made whole; and if we ever do another urban renewal district, we need to have accountability through an advisory board of some kind (not just the commission).'
But Damon did support measure 3-388 put forth by the commission (in competition with the citizen initiative), she said, 'because all the (options) we had were bad.'
The commissioner said she does not favor countywide votes on small urban renewal districts.
'It means that if a small place like Eagle Creek or Boring had an opportunity to create a small urban renewal district to increase our assessed value,' she said, 'we would have to convince the entire county to support us.'
But Lee tested Damon again with his views on the county's measure.
'All 3-388 did was try to confuse the issue,' he said. 'That's why it was put out there - to confuse - without citizen input. And you're on video laughing, with the knowledge that (3-388) would trump (the citizen initiative). I just don't understand that.'
'I wasn't laughing at anybody,' Damon answered, 'and the trumping came from our county counsel in regard to a question another commissioner asked: 'If one measure got more votes than the other, which would win?' So I apologize for that perception.'
On the issue of the failed increase in vehicle registration fee that would have helped fund the Multnomah County's renovation of the Sellwood Bridge, Damon said she was in favor of the higher fee.
'As a resident of Eagle Creek,' she said, 'I voted for the vehicle registration fee because I believe in us supporting regional infrastructure - the same reason I support Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail.'
Her reasoning was based on helping neighbor counties, which would in turn support Clackamas County when the need arises.
'The other reason,' she said, 'is that if we don't support the ability of urban areas to increase their capacity, then the rural areas will see the pressure to come out here.'
Tom Mack of Boring disputed Damon's idea of 'taking turns.'
'For years now,' Mack said, 'dollars have poured toward the urban region for transportation infrastructure, whether that be light-rail or trolley or streetcars, and (the money) hasn't come out (to the rural area). There's been no 'turn' out here for the rural community to improve (especially roads).
'When is it our turn to start getting some services? The cities are gobbling up every bit of resources they can, and we sit out here and wait. We've waited a long time for our turn.'
Another Boring resident, Norm Rice, asked why Damon didn't have a solution to the problem of communication between county staff and local residents.
'I have called and tried to get answers from county departments,' he said. 'It seems as though, oftentimes, if you live in an unincorporated area, you may never get a response.'
Damon reminded the audience of about 40 that she is taking notes - she does at every meeting of citizens - and she writes emails and makes phone calls after each meeting about the issues she hears about.
CPO President Steve Bates said Damon quickly responded to questions on a couple of recent issues.
But Rice said he shouldn't have to get the CPO president or a commissioner to ask staff members to contact him just because he lives in a rural area.
Damon also said she is distressed there is little concern for rural issues among county staff. She wants the commission to always have at least one member from the rural area.
And that, she said, is the reason she decided to run for election to the position to which she was appointed last year.
The May 15 primary likely will narrow the field of four candidates for Position 4 to two, who will challenge each other in the Nov. 6 general election.
Besides Damon, other candidates for Position 4 include Tootie Smith, Dan Holladay and John Swanson.