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Petitioner Mae Heide threatens lawsuit after Tualatin Council changes rules

Mae Heide wants to impose term limits on the Tualatin City Council, but she says the council changed the rules on ballot iniatives to stop her.

FILE PHOTO - Tualatin is facing a potential lawsuit after a woman claims the city is unjustly applying a recently passed ordinance on her that is meant to stop her from putting a ballot measure before voters that could impose term limits on the City Council.A Tualatin woman is planning to sue the city after she says the City Council changed the rules to stop her from putting a measure before voters that would impose term limits on the City Council.

Mae Heide is currently collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would limit Tualatin city councilors and the mayor to 12 years in office during a 20-year period.

Heide filed the paperwork to begin collecting signatures for the ballot initiative on April 28, but before the city could formally accept the documents, the Tualatin City Council voted on May 11 to reduce the amount of time petitioners have to collect signatures.

Traditionally, Tualatin residents have two years to collect the necessary signatures for a ballot initiative. The new rules approved by the City Council cut that time to six months.

No lawsuit has yet been filed, but Heide’s attorney Robert Kellogg wrote a letter to the city earlier this month stating that the city can’t retroactively impose the rules on Heide’s petition.

The city, however, thinks differently.

City attorney Sean Brady said that what the City Council did was legal. In a letter to Kellogg on June 11, Brady said that the council’s new rules also included a section that applies to “all petitions that had not yet been approved for circulation for signatures." Click here to read the ordinance

Initiative would impact current council

HeideHeide’s petition would place a 12-year term limit on the mayor and the city council during a 20 year period; it would impact three current members of the city council. Councilors would not be able to run for re-election if it meant reaching 12 years during a subsequent term.

Ed Truax has served on the council since 2001. Monique Beikman joined the council in 2007 to fill a vacated position. She would reach the 12-year cap in 2019. Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden has served as mayor since 1995; he joined the council in 1993.

Tualatin councilors say they made sure that Heide’s application was included in the new law because of a series of recent charter amendments that voters have made in petition initiatives.

In 2014, voters approved an anti-light rail measure that forces the city to go out for a public vote before it can agree to build a MAX line through the city, something that is being considered as part of the Southwest Corridor Plan.

Tualatin voters also approved a ballot initiative in 2011 that bars “major changes” to city parks, greenways or natural areas without a public vote. That measure was sparked after city plans showed a possible bridge over Tualatin City Park. City planners said for months that the bridge — which extended from Tualatin Road over the park to Lower Boones Ferry Road and Interstate 5 — was a representation of the need to increase traffic capacity in the city and wasn't meant to represent a real plan, but voters approved the initiative overwhelmingly in a special election.

"Since initiative petitions for City Charter amendments are relatively rare, the council wanted to act in a timely manner in order to have this ordinance apply to any outstanding or upcoming petitions which have not already been qualified to collect signatures," Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden wrote in a statement to Tualatin Life this month.

Under the city’s new rules for petitioners, ballot initiatives would also only appear on statewide ballots, which traditionally have a higher voter turnout than special elections. Both the 2011 and 2014 initiatives were passed during special elections.

Heide has until Nov. 24 to collect the 2,109 signatures needed to place the initiative on the ballot. If she succeeds, the initiative won’t go before voters until the next statewide election, the presidential election in November 2016.

Neither Heide nor Kellogg responded to The Times for comment on this story.

By Geoff Pursinger
email: gpursinger@commnewspapers.com
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