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Ralph Goldstein: Clackamas County residents should get rid of racially discriminatory provisions on deeds.

"No persons of any race other than the Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or any lot, except that this covenant shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race domiciled with an owner or tenant." That is the racial covenant language I found in section 4 of my neighborhood association's document with the deed to my house. This language is no longer legally enforced, but leaving it is like leaving a "Whites Only" sign over a drinking fountain for "historical purposes." I wanted it removed to help promote the message that Oregon City could be a welcoming and inclusive community. When Americans share neighborhoods, parks, schools and hospitals, we are all elevated and find we have much in common with each other.Goldstein

The cities of Milwaukie, West Linn and Lake Oswego have a webpage that guides people on how to remove racist language. I have been known to do things the hard way, so it took me six months, but you can do this much quicker if you find this language in your deed and wish to remove it.

First, go to the Clackamas County Courthouse or search online for a "Petition to Remove Discriminatory Provisions From Title to Real Property." I'm not a lawyer and was unsure how to complete the form. I tried to hire Sam Nelson of the Bowerman Law Group, but he said to just come in and he would help at no charge.

Next stop was the Clackamas County Recorder Office (note that they close for lunch). I had to pay 25 cents because I needed my "valid deed reference number." Then off to the post office to mail a certified letter to myself informing me that I am changing the language and asking if I had any objections. (Read that sentence twice.) That letter cost $4.33. I had everything signed and notarized after my letter made the trip back to my house. I then went back through the metal detector at the courthouse and officially filed my petition.

About 45 days later I got a letter saying the court entered a judgment, but failed to tell me what that judgment was. I searched online, only finding a few additional details, so I went back to the courthouse. A helpful gentleman at the information window printed the finding that the language was indeed discriminatory and was removed from the title of the property. My quest was successfully completed! It only cost less than $5, and my time.

Some might say that this is merely symbolic, but symbols count. A welcome mat is better than a keep-out sign.

Ralph Goldstein is an Oregon City resident.


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