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Adam Marl: Prevent mayoral authoritarianism; end term limits and arbitrary numbering of City Commission positions

There are plenty of candidates on your May primary ballot for offices that hold tremendous sway over the future of our state, region and city. But candidates aren't the only things you'll be voting on this year.Adam Marl

Though they're at the end of your ballot, the three Oregon City charter amendment measures are equally as important to the future success of our city. The measures would remove term limits for the mayor and commissioners, require a majority vote of the City Commission to approve mayoral appointments to the Historic Review Board and Planning Commission, and eliminate the arbitrary numbering of City Commission position numbers.

I ask you to join me in voting "yes" on all three measures for the following reasons:

Term limits

The natural inclination for most people is to support term limits. And when it comes to higher offices that pay six-figure salaries and take our elected officials to the other side of the country for work, I understand and appreciate the arguments in favor. But when it comes to a local office that is entirely unpaid and takes place in the community we call home, I don't believe those same arguments apply.

Our current term limits allows one to serve two four-year terms in a 10-year period. Under this convoluted system, commissioners are forced out of office when they have just gained expertise in the complex areas of land-use planning and infrastructure, which cedes most of the policymaking power to the hands of unelected bureaucrats. And while I greatly appreciate the work of our city staff, we need elected officials with institutional knowledge who know what they're doing and can advocate on behalf of their constituents.

Current term limits also prevent someone who has been elected twice to the City Commission from running for mayor directly after their term, even though they may well be the most qualified person for the job. The office of mayor is certainly one that requires previous experience with local government in order to be effective.

We already have term limits, and they're called elections. Every two years, we have the opportunity to vote our conscience and replace those we believe have failed us. When I took my oath of office, I pledged that I would not run to keep my seat, so I have no vested interest in this apart from my sincere belief that those who are passionate (or crazy) enough to run for reelection to a volunteer position that comes with late-night meetings and plenty of headaches should be able to do so.

Mayoral appointments

The second charter amendment would require a majority vote of the City Commission to approve mayoral appointments to the Historic Review Board and Planning Commission, two powerful public bodies that greatly shape city policy. Currently, the mayor has the sole authority to make such appointments to city boards and committees. This is unhealthy and undemocratic. By providing more checks and balances to our appointment process, we can help prevent abuses of power and ensure the best nominees are seated to our boards and committees.

Commission position numbers

The third ballot measure would eliminate the arbitrary numbering of City Commission positions. Right now, each of the four commissioners are elected citywide by position number (the office I hold is position four).

If this measure is approved, instead of having candidates run for specific positions, all of the candidates for City Commission would run in the same race and voters would select their two favorites out of the list, since two seats are up every election cycle. Out of those candidates, the two who receive the most votes would be elected. Almost all of our neighboring cities use this process, because it allows voters to select their favorite candidates, regardless of the position for which they are running.

To illustrate the problem with our current system, if you really liked candidates A and B, and they were both running for position one, and you really disliked candidates C and D, and they were both running for position two, you would be forced to vote for one candidate you like and one candidate you don't like, simply because of the arbitrary position numbers. This charter reform would ensure you are free to vote for your favorite candidates, regardless of position number, and encourage campaigns to focus on the issues instead of nasty personal attacks.

I was proud to spearhead these three local government reforms and strongly believe that they will improve the health and efficacy of our local government. For a stronger Oregon City, vote "yes" on Measures 3-579, 3-580 and 3-583.

Adam Marl is an Oregon City commissioner.


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