Three different comp plans to go on May ballot

The Damascus City Council meeting got off to a rancorous start this week when the first speaker, the head of the planning commission, accused the mayor and council of being a “cabal of patriarchs” who don’t want citizen input and don’t respect city staff.

Kathy Ruthruff, chair of the Damascus Planning Commission, barely kept her emotions in check as she read a prepared statement.

“You no longer value and respect those who elected you all to your positions as both the mayor’s plan and the president’s plan used outside consultants instead of their own constituents,” she said.

Ruthruff was referring to comprehensive plans developed by Mayor Steve Spinnett and Council President Andrew Jackman, each based on a comprehensive plan developed by the city staff and the city’s planning commission over several years’ time with a great deal of public input.

Both Spinnett’s version, allegedly with a property rights slant, and Jackman’s version, which he says has an environmental slant, will be on the May 20 ballot. Later in the meeting, the council voted to allow a third comp plan — the original 2013 version — to be on the ballot since it had received the required number of signatures.

Damascus is in trouble with both the state and the state Legislature for its failure to submit a comprehensive plan as required by law since it incorporated in 2004.

Ruthruff’s frustration has been expressed by others because they feel that three comp plans on the May ballot will see no plan approved at all. She said the mayor does not value citizen input.

“You lost the trust of citizens long ago and have nothing to try and remedy this belief,” she said. “And now you have also lost the trust of the state Legislature who is prepared to step in and bring an end to this travesty.”

Ruthruff went on: “Ten years ago we all had a great vision of what our city could become. You have taken this vision and destroyed it. Now it appears you will also destroy our city as well.”

Ruthruff then resigned her position, effective immediately, with the words, “I no longer want to be a part of a city government that has no intentions to represent those who elected you to office.”

Tim Giorgi, last year's vice chair of the Planning Commission, then spoke and said that although his term on the council is up in March, he has also chosen to resign and not to reapply to be on the planning commission because town leaders were more “comfortable with lies than with the uncomfortable truth.”

Giorgi said city staff more is low and turnover is "at an all-time low," that volunteerism for citizen committees is "virtually nonexistent" and the council's offering of three different comp plans of voters is a "masquerade of choice.

"This is exactly why I have chosen not to continue and work with the planning commission," he said.

Later in the meeting, Richard Johnson of Move Damascus Forward, the group that is pushing to have the original 2013 comp plan adopted, warned of dire consequences if the city doesn’t do something before the Legislature acts and urged the council to “do the right thing” and submit the original plan.

Johnson was referring to House Bill 4029, which passed the state House with a vote of 51-0 and is now fast-tracked to the state Senate. In effect, the bill would allow landowners on the periphery of Damascus to withdraw from the city of Damascus and be free to be annexed by another municipality, such as Happy Valley or Gresham.

Johnson said the bill is headed for a Senate work session and could be on the governor’s desk for his signature next week.

“Do you want to be known as the four councilors who killed the city?” he said. “This is a serious matter and I hope you understand how serious it is.”

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