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Efforts made to push back against Salem's 'death sentence' bill that validates 2016 disincorporation

PMG FILE PHOTO - James De Young, middle, has been serving as mayor of Damascus and is one of the forces behind a petition to protect the citys rebirth. Attorneys representing the effort to restore the city of Damascus filed a petition with the Oregon Supreme Court Tuesday, Aug. 14, to review — and challenge — the legality and constitutionality of a recent bill validating the disincorporation vote of 2016.

An amendment to Senate Bill 226 became law under Gov. Kate Brown's signature on July 15, continuing the tug-of-war going on in Damascus between two groups with different ideas for the future of the community.

"Our petition claims the new bill is illegal and unconstitutional," said James De Young, a Damascus resident who was appointed mayor by supporters of the city.

Things were thrown into disarray by an Oregon Court of Appeals ruling on May 1 that declared the disincorporation vote two years prior had violated state law. This led some in the community to claim the city had been reborn. Former councilors began holding special meetings to try and kickstart a revival. Led by De Young, who was selected as mayor by the council, they worked to shore up issues that had plagued Damascus in the past.

Others said the group was moving too quickly, as the Appellate Court only remanded the decision back to the Circuit Court. The actions in Salem seemed to back those claims, with supporters of the city of Damascus declaring it a "death sentence."

PMG FILE PHOTO - The status of Damascus is once again up in the air as a group files a petition to maintain its status as a reborn city.But the petition could continue the battle in Damascus. Signed to the document are the "city of Damascus," De Young, Jeanne Robinson, Mark Fitz and William Wehr.

The meetings have also continued, with seven held since May 16.

On July 25, the group removed two councilors who chose not to attend any of the meetings. Both Nancy Carpenter and Richard Klecker, who were councilors before the disincorporation in 2016, had their seats voided per Damascus City Charter, which occurs after being absent "from all council meetings within a 60-day period."

Robinson and Fitz were unanimously added to the vacant seats.

"Both are eager to see Damascus go forward and have served (the city) in the past," De Young said.

During that same gathering the group discussed boundary issues with other jurisdictions, establishing and operating a municipal court in Damascus, and authorizing the city attorney to pursue legal endeavors to preserve the city. De Young also said the financial state of Damascus was "desperate" and any "monetary gifts are accepted and appreciated."

There is no set timeline for the petition to be addressed.


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