Troutdale councilor objects to citizen's petition
A Troutdale city councilor has filed a petition questioning the constitutionality of a citizen's initiative petition.
On Monday, May 14, Councilor Dave Ripma filed a lawsuit with Multnomah County Circuit Court asking for review of an initiative petition seeking term limits on Troutdale city councilors.
The initiative petition was filed by Troutdale resident John Wilson, who previously served on the council and lost in a 2016 election to Zach Hudson.
Ripma's main objection is that the petition ties two issues together and doesn't give voters a clear choice.
The only way to challenge that was to file the suit, Ripma said in a phone interview with The Outlook.
"If you want to have two separate issues (regarding) term limits, that's fine, but tying them together is contrary to the Oregon constitution," he said.
Wilson disagreed and an in interview with The Outlook said the petition does only contain one subject. The first part states what happens if the measure passes, and the second part describes the ensuing result.
"If it wasn't retroactive they would be able to stay on council," Wilson said.
Wilson said he filed the petition because he believes in term limits.
"Term limits will guarantee new people and fresh ideas," Wilson said.
Wilson originally asked the council to send a term limit measure to the ballot, but that received no support.
While Ripma said he does not support term limits, he would not oppose a clearer vote on the issue.
"I have never been for term limits," Ripma said. "There's term limits every four years for city councilors: It's called an election."
The petition asks, "shall city limit council service to eight of twelve years, except candidates exceeding votes for this measure this election."
If the IP gathers enough signatures, and is passed on the November ballot, the measure would limit councilors to serve 8 years in a 12-year period, except currently serving council members if they receive more votes than the measure does.
"That is, a person receiving more voter support than this measure, may serve the term 2019-2022," the proposed ballot states.
Ripma has served on Troutdale's city council for 20 years, and would be removed from office if the measure passes and he doesn't receive more votes than the proposed ballot measure. Rich Allen, who has served on council for eight years, is the other councilor who could be removed from office if the measure passes in November.
In the objection, Ripma proposed that if that the petition is not dismissed, then the ballot title should be changed because "Limits City Council service to eight of twelve years, exceptions" is misleading, and doesn't include the possible removal of current city councilors in the 2018-19 election.
Troutdale City Manager Ray Young said the city crafts petitions as best they can following the Oregon constitution, but it is common for a citizen to object. Though they are listed as the respondent in the suit, it is because they are the ones who officially filed the petition.
"The city in many ways is a neutral party in this whole issue; we didn't create the ballot issue," Young said. "We have an obligation to do our best effort to turn it into something that goes onto the ballot."
But if a citizen objects, the document will be reviewed in court.
Wilson still needs to gather signatures of 15 percent of registered Troutdale voters for the initiative to appear on the November ballot.
Editor's note: John Wilson is an advertising account executive for the The Outlook.