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Recount switches result of Happy Valley measure; Gladstone mayoral race won by razor-thin margin -



Finally and officially, after a recount on Tuesday, Happy Valley’s public-safety levy to increase police services has lost by one only vote.

Happy Valley’s City Council, surprised by the result given the levy’s passage by wide margins the previous three elections, decided Dec. 2 to put the levy on the ballot again in May. Its message to citizens this time is essentially: “If you don’t pass it this time, we could become a lawless community.” This type of message is necessary because many citizens thought they were voting down the increase, when in fact the entire police budget is riding on the levy.

Mayor Lori DeRemer said City Council is extremely concerned and disappointed about the levy’s failure.

“The impact to the community will be severe. If the levy is not passed in May, the result will be no police department,” DeRemer said.

City Council will continue talks to formulate a plan for moving forward from this result, which will include: polling, research, police-service reductions and educating the community for the May 2015 election.

“We will begin by listening to the voters, to better understand what they believed they were voting for — or against — in Measure #3-462. Based on their feedback, we will develop a new measure to be placed on the May 2015 ballot which reflects their goals for the city and its long-standing commitment to providing high-quality public safety services,” DeRemer said.

Leading by one vote the week before, Happy Valley’s levy was recounted by hand this week, resulting in one fewer “yes” votes than “no” votes, which changed the outcome of the ballot measure.

At one point in the month-long Nov. 4 ballot counting process, the measure was tied. Additional ballots were counted as political action-committee members tried to get people to sign their ballots in cases where voters had forgotten to validate their ballot with a signature.

County Clerk Sherry Hall’s original certified count Nov. 24 showed one more “yes” than “no” votes, with 2,899 in favor, and 2,898 votes against. Officials said the recount flipped these numbers on Tuesday, Dec. 2, because two ballots were in dispute.

City Manager Jason Tuck said the first ballot initially showed as an undervote (someone who skipped voting on the measure), but the hand count found a light mark on the “no” box, which took it to a tie.

The next ballot in question was initially tallied as a “yes” vote, because it had a light mark there, but the hand count found the mark to be inconsistent with the rest of the marks on the ballot, making that ballot an undervote and effectively reversing the result of the election.

Happy Valley officials have been hoping that voters will increase the city’s $1.38 per $1,000 of assessed value for enhanced Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office services in the city by 27 cents to $1.65 per $1,000 of property value.

Tuck said Happy Valley could cut costs so that the city does not run out of funding for enhanced police services. If no changes are made, money at the current service levels will be spent by November of 2015.

Tuck is recommending that the city conduct polls to determine whether people voted against the measure because the increase was deemed too steep, or because they did not understand why such an increase was necessary, which would suggest the need for more education.

Happy Valley’s permanent tax rate is only 67 cents per $1,000, and state Measures 5 and 50 prevent cities from increasing their permanent rates, so cities often have to resort to levies if they want to fund additional services.

No recount in Gladstone

One vote also made a difference in Gladstone during the Nov. 4 election. Only one more vote was needed for Gladstone Mayor Wade Byers to force an automatic recount in his failed race for re-election, and no one demanded a recount.

Byers lost by six votes to Dominick Jacobellis, a former police lieutenant with no prior governmental experience. Jacobellis was at the City Council meeting last week expressing his concern about combining a library with a new City Hall/police station, saying that the city would have trouble finding an appropriate spot for the proposed mega-structure.

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