Monday, May 18, 2009

NewCity and their first public meeting

Joe Crumb convened a meeting of over four dozen people in a dimly lit meeting room at Rose Villa at 07:02 PM tonight (5/18/2009), noting he lived nearby and was asked to moderate by the convenors (the people exploring the idea of whether to create a new city).

ED. NOTE: For historical background, please consider visiting these posts:

The Story of a Neighborhood that Fought Metro

Portland Suburb Successfully Staves Off Densification

The agenda of the self-appointed convenors is to talk about a governance model, outline issues, explain some assumptions, demonstrate how the finance works, and then listen.

Convenors: Dick Jones, Henry Schmidt, Lynn Fisher, Carol M**, William Wild, Leonard Voldemar, Bob ***, George Payne and Joe Crumb. ** = could not hear clearly.

(ed. note: Convenors did not wear name badges or labels, so unless I knew who it was answering a question, I just will specify 'proponent' or 'convenor'.)

Joe started with two salient questions:

Will it raise my taxes?

Who's behind this?

Change is coming, one way or another
Increased density through infill
Local representation
Light rail: A greater role in its future
McLoughlin redevelopment

Redevelopment - a resident spoke out to ask, "What are you talking about, and why?" A convenor replied, county has started process to discuss McLoughlin Development. Another noted McLoughlin become a transport corridor, that high-rises be built along McLoughlin. Dick Jones then said he represents special districts on Metro's Public Advisory Committee, and Metro is pushing building up, not out, pushing for mixed use with apartments above stores and offices. An audience member asked if becoming a city will slow such development; Joe Crumb said it is not stoppable.

A member of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Advisory Committee spoke up to say TriMet has identified McLoughlin has identified as a Transportation Corridor, and the Park Ave terminus will be altered for money (i.e., if they run short of funding).

I noted the only reason Park Ave became the terminus was because Milwaukie found their first choice could not be used, for the land at their original first choice location was legally obligated by the terms of its donation not to use it for light rail.

Why not become a hamlet or village? Dick: Hamlets and vllages are only recognized by the county, and not state-entitled to funding, e.g., 20% of ODOT road taxes. Planning requires becoming a city, and cities would object strongly if there was a hamlet or village within the Urban Growth Boundary. The intent of the new city is to provide more services than now with no new taxes, and get funds available only to cities.

What would population be? Dick Jones said the advocates used the Oak Lodge Water District boundaries because that was cheap to determine the property tax area. It would be about 30,000 pop., making it about the 14th city in the state by population rank.

This would not change our property tax, he said, which are now $2.97 per thousand dollars assessed value (the unincorporated county rate; FYI $2.40 is county tax rate for property in cities) plus 71.89 cents per thousand for the Sheriff's Enhanced Law Enforcement District. They followed a Gladstone-like model for sizing of city government, which has 3 staffers; he projected six city staffers based on relative population sizes. He noted this would not affect parks, schools, water, sewer and fire. Police service could be contracted, as Damascus, Happy Valley and Wilsonville now pay the Clackamas County Sheriff's Department for dedicated law enforcement*; fire service would remain with Clackamas Co. Fire District #1, unlike Gladstone, which has its own fire department.

Emphasized code compliance; would have one person working code issues.

$650,000 goes to Gladstone for their library; maybe we could have a branch library at a more centralized location? (I will ask a librarian friend on the next block over what we could get for $650,000/year, and report back later this week.)

Susan, a resident, noted ORS 221.760 requires cities to provide 4 of 7 services; Dick replied that services provided by existing providers, but contracted to the city through Inter-Governmental Agreements, meet that state requirement.

The second largest revenue item in the model is franchise fees; Comcast, PGE and Qwest charge franchise fees now to unincorporated areas, at the same rate as incorporated areas, but only pay fees back to cities. (Since utilities have a guaranteed rate of return, paying fess to Yet Another City will justify their rate increases, so there's a likely hidden tac on us all.)

Dick Jones said 8 officers from the 32 assigned to the Enhanced Law Enforcement District cover the 99E corridor (i.e, the heart of Yet Another City) and that number is not fixed in law by the ELED; they could be withdrawn if the sheriff has problems, whereas the Yet Another City budget objective is 14.

It was also Dick's idea that pothole fixing could be delegated to the water or sewer districts, but street maintenance, for which the county spends $450,000/yr, would use the 20% fraction of ODOT receipts which only cities get. Another proponent noted 99E is state-maintained and therefore would not be an expense to a new municipality.

I addressed the virtue necessity of having a city traffic court to maximize revenue (as city courts handling traffic tickets and her minor violation get more of the fines than if that's handled by other courts). I added more rigorous speed enforcement could be applied along McLoughlin, for the Sheriff is state-prohibited from radar speed control along McLoughlin, as the Oregon State Police claims that for its own.

Another lady was concerned about law enforcement costs; representation was made that labratories, training facilities, insurance and all costs would be rolled up in the suggested estimates.

What impact on business was another question. Helping business grow in the committee was the reply from a proponent.

What are state mandates which becoming a city would activate? That question was logged for later resolution.

A lady asked how would we have only one planner for 30,000 people, where Milwaukie has five? Dick replied that permiting and inspection would still be handled by the county; contingency fund was suggested as a solution. That was rejected by another member of the public who said only one planner makes no sense and dipping into a contingency fund if more were needed would only work for one year.

Lady says Gladstone has a senior center and other senior services; will we need to pay for those? Dick said a city could work with the parks district for such.

A gentleman mentioned the incorporation of Damascus resulted in underestimates of many, many costs, partly due to lack of a lawyer on their team, and advocated legal advice in planning.

Another gentleman said the contingency fund might not be enough; Dick Jones says a new city could incorporate with a higher speicifed tax rate yet not use the higher rate unless required, because Measures 5-37-48 requires a city to set a rate which could not grow more than 3% per year thereafter.

Dick noted Damascus also has signigicant revenue from development fees and has a chartered tax rate of $3.88/thousand dollars assessed. We could have a higher ceiling rate but require a supermajority to approve using the full rate, and start on an economy basis, raising it later.

Lady; No finance person in budget, admininstration costs not addressed, and contracting is expensive.

Lady: What is the best estimate for a base rate now? Ans: Don't know.

Proponent: Our first question is, are our neighbors interested in forming a city? If so, then we will study further.

A gentleman thinks 14 police not enough in a recession.

GOVERNANCE ASSUMPTIONS (another PowerPoint slide)
Mayor (Ed. note: elected volunteer)
Council or commission (Ed. note: elected volunteer)
City Manager (Ed. note: paid) and staff (Ed. note: paid)
Code enforcement and staff
Contracted services - sewer, fire, water, police, parks

I noted a judiciary and staff of appropriate type and size is required to capture enforcement revenue from citations, traffic violations, code violatons and other minor transgressions. It was suggested that also might be contracted out.

OTHER ASSUMPTIONS (another PowerPoint slide)
Bounded by the river, Gladstone, Milwaukie and (Ed. note: the Alder Creek gully beyond) Oatfield Ridge.
Nov. 2010 to bring to a vote
We're already like a city, but without a goverment to rule us
No sole leader can achieve this; if tied to one person, chance is less
Change will be challenging.

A lady was concerned with street crossing, security and safety. That question was logged for later resolution.

Another lady was concerned with preserving what's uniquely Oak Grove, why we live here. That question was logged for later resolution.

Another lady asked where discussions are, Oak Grove Coffee House? Joe said at Oak Grove firehouse, most Monday nights, 6:30 PM.

The proposed map was discussed; the NE boundary is beyond Oatfield Ridge, and more closely follows Alder Creek in that area.

A gentleman asked if we need more laws to observe; a proponent said No Name City would replace the county laws in specific areas; Dick Jones said city laws would address our local needs and concerns, not what the County wants.

More folks needed to advocate this, says Joe; he will not moderate the next such meeting.

Susan talked to a Metro counselor who advocated a larger property tax base, and annexation of property all the way over to 205.

The next PowerPoint slide specified:
Need agreement from seven nearby cities
Establish boundaries
Extensive legal research and work
Political and informational campaigns
Approval of the electorate

A gentleman said the costs will be greater than what's outlined, and suggested very strongly the governance should be much larger with much greater costs, to plan realistically.

WHAT ARE YOU THINKING (the last PowerPoint slide)
Rules: Want to hear from as many people as possible
Be concise, serve the issue
Don't assume, ask the question on your mind
We want to hear your thinking
WHy create a city? Is this a good idea? Is this the best answer?
Why not? Is there a better idea?
Why have we not incorporated before?
What do you still need to know? What's unclear?
Wat is important to you about this community?
What will people in the community want to know?
What are your questions, concerns, ideas, fears?

Proponent: County has separately engaged a consultant firm, again, to study what we want.

Why live here; Proponent says our suburban nature is under threat for infill, density. We are called the 'last urban frontier'. I replied that putting that in the charter, that incorporation is intended to preserve the character of Oak Grove, makes it very difficult to justify embracing Webster Road and the east-to-205 area. A county employee, Oak Grove 28 yr resident and Gladstone landlord, countered, as he is concerned about generalities as folks beyond Alder Creek have needs, too.

Thelma, a 45-yr resident, who notes the seven (!) previous attempts to incorporate failed because the effort came from 'up here'; but these people are all residents, and there are many other things in this community working from the bottom up. The county's study is for outreach and communication, not to tell us what to do.

Joe again asked us to make sure to help us with the WHAT ARE YOU THINKING talking points. "This is the ultimate DON'T TREAD ON ME community" 80% of voters decide from the Voter's Guide; how can we reach them first? What is the value to us of making this move?

Another gentleman was concerned when this became big news that negatives not outweigh the positives.

A lady said if she is going to sell this to her neighbors, she needs to be able to explain what we have that's unique, and what we have to lose without creating yet another city.

Next meeting June 1st at 7PM, also at Rose Villa.

Another lady wanted a copy of the ideas delivered to her; she was promised, as were all present, a copy would be emailed to her.

Another woman suggested neighbor contact, inviting two or three neighbors to the next meeting.

Another lady said it was important not to directly oppose light rail, she's a light rail proponent. A committee member on the TriMet CAC replied that security, parking, and other issues are being addressed by the county.

The meeting adjourned at about 9PM.

(Ed. note: The handout provided at the meeting will be scanned and added to this post later this week, but since it was printed on colored paper, it needs some adjustment before a legible copy can be placed in this blog.)

Also, a higher resolution map may be had by going to and right-clicking on OLWD.PDF

Questions may be addressed to the proponents at

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