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Tualatin Chamber of Commerce urges 'no' vote on term limits

Lou Ogden, who would be term-limited if amendment passes, is non-voting board member.

TIMES FILE PHOTO - From left, Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden, Tualatin Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Linda Moholt and Chamber Treasurer Wendy Anderson celebrate the opening of the Chamber's new office in June.The Tualatin Chamber of Commerce is wading into the political fray over whether voters should impose term limits for members of the Tualatin City Council.

The Chamber has been distributing literature by mail urging Tualatin residents to oppose both Ballot Measure 97, a proposed statewide tax on corporate sales widely opposed by business groups across Oregon, and Measure 34-247, which would amend Tualatin's city charter to prohibit members of the council from serving or being elected to serve more than 12 years in a 20-year period.

Linda Moholt, the Chamber's chief executive officer, said a business advocacy council reviews election measures and recommends whether the board of directors should take an official stance. In the case of the term limits measure, she said, the council was nearly unanimous in saying the board should recommend a “no” vote.

“We just really believe your individual vote is your right to choose,” Moholt said. “Obviously, the people we have have been re-elected because people like them.”

Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden sits on the Chamber board as an ex officio member, as does City Manager Sherilyn Lombos.

Tualatin's mayor since 1995, Ogden would be prevented from seeking re-election to another four-year term in 2018 if the term limits amendment is approved by voters next month.

Moholt said Ogden presented the case for a “no” vote to the business advocacy council, while Mae Heide, who was the chief petitioner behind referring the term limits measure to the ballot, presented the “yes” side.

Ogden has spoken publicly about his distaste for term limits. He argued that they can take away people's right to vote for the person they think is most qualified and are especially inappropriate when they limit volunteers from serving in local government.

“I personally think term limits are detrimental across the board for various reasons,” he said. “But this isn't federal, state or county, this is local, this is City Council, and many people that believe term limits are appropriate at the higher level are not supporting, and are opposing, term limits at the local level.”

Ogden did not participate in the council's discussion after he and Heide made their presentations and was not present for the board vote, Moholt and Ogden both told The Times.

Even still, not all Chamber members are happy about the endorsement decision.

Jonathan Crane, a term limits supporter who owns Integrity Staffing, located at 18725 S.W. Boones Ferry Road, and previously sat on the Chamber board, said he does not like to see the Chamber get involved in election issues in general and is particularly displeased that it has taken action on Measure 34-247.

“This one in particular bothers me because Mayor Lou is on the board,” Crane said, calling it a “conflict of interest” for the Chamber to recommend a “no” vote. He added, “It's hard to be in a room with Lou and not be influenced by Lou.”

Asked whether he believes it is a conflict of interest for the Chamber to vote on something that affects one of its board members, Ogden pointed out that he, like Lombos, is only on the board by virtue of his city office. The mayor and city manager are non-voting board members, he noted.

“Since they're ex officio, and they're non-voting, there is no conflict,” Ogden said.

But Crane said he has heard from other Chamber members, including past board members, who feel the same way he does. He has criticized the Chamber's decision on social media.

“I just think they would have been wiser to recuse themselves on this particular thing,” he told The Times.

By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor
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