The initial sighting of the RINO (Republican In Name Only) in Damascus happened on Feb. 13. A local citizen emailed all of the city councilors that there was a hearing in the Oregon House Rural Communities Committee on House Bill 4029 the day before.

The citizen was wondering where in the world we were, as the bill would result in the destruction of the city of Damascus, as we know it. That person was right. It is a bill that targets only the city of Damascus. No other city in Oregon would be affected.

Bill WehrThe charging RINO, of all people, was old bull Rep. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City. Although slow of hoof, he had the much younger Shemia Fagan, D-Clackamas, to steady him as he galloped to the finish line.

As co-sponsors of this bill, these two managed to get it passed out of committee and on to the floor of the House. With an emergency clause inserted in the bill, the herd of independent thinking RINOs and reliable to do the wrong thing Democrats were able to stampede the bill with a vote of 51-0.

On Feb. 21 the Senate Rural Communities Committee held a hearing on the bill. Damascus Mayor Steve Spinnett, city attorney Peter Watt and myself, and others, gave testimony to urge rejection of the bill.

There also was opposition testimony given by others including Rep. Kennemer. He gave factual misinformation to the committee concerning our City Council, which gave doubt as to his understanding of the dynamics of what has been happening in Damascus. His general talking points were the regurgitation of the hackneyed dogma of the disincorporation crowd that attempted to tank our city in last November’s local election.

On Feb. 25 the committee passed the bill 5-0, without amendments, to move it to the Senate for a full vote. And on Feb. 27, the Senate passed Bill 4029 by 28-2. Having an emergency clause means Gov. John Kitzhaber can sign it with no waiting period.

House Bill 4029 “authorizes withdrawal of tract from city located within Metro and incorporated between Jan. 1, 2000, and Jan. 1, 2006.” In other words, it is targeted at Damascus only as no other city meets that definition.

It goes on to require a “hearing on withdrawal and decision by city to withdraw tract during or immediately after close of hearing. Provides for withdrawal without action by city if city fails or refuses to act. Prohibits city from annexing tract within 10 years following withdrawal.”

Our city has a process for de-annexation. When a stakeholder applies for de-annexation the council holds public hearings. There is an opportunity for the applicant, and those affected by this request to submit testimony before council. If it is in the best interest of the city, then the request is granted.

HB 4029 would take away local control of such a matter. It would cause financial damage and diminish livability for surrounding properties. It would erode the tax base the city needs in order to function.

In order to grease this poisonous beast with an emergency clause through the House, the city government of Damascus was branded as dangerous to the public peace, health and safety of the state of Oregon. The city of Damascus had no notice of this bill and didn’t have the opportunity to have a say in the committee process.

Our City Council passed a unanimous motion urging a no vote on this bill. Voters within our city will choose between three versions of comprehensive plans appearing on the May ballot. Adoption of the winning plan will allow the development of a land-use and zoning system that serves the entire community instead of a handful of developers.

HB 4029 will make it impossible to complete a state and Metro-approved comprehensive plan, as the goal posts will keep shifting. These entities will need to work with the city and give concessions in order to have a realistic end result.

HB 4029 allows for cherry picking of the choicest land by large developers. The city of Happy Valley has a ravenous appetite for taxable land. It has already met with a number of Damascus stakeholders, laying out a welcome mat for when the time comes.

All this would further erode the tax base and destroy the ability of Damascus to function, which seems to be the aim. The majority of landowners, not in on the game, will struggle with the fates of their own properties.

Because the old RINO Kennemer has stuck his horn in where it isn’t wanted, the residents of the city will have to deal with the aftermath. It will break down our City Home Rule Charter. Our charter protects our citizens’ property rights and rights of full participation in decisions that affect them. Clackamas County will be handed a new set of problems to deal with.

On Feb. 25, I sent an email to all senators, encouraging a no vote on the bill.

One day later, Kennemer sent an email to the Senate Republicans and me. In the body of his email it states in part, “I see that you very recently received an email urging your opposition to HB 4029. That email and its attached article contain some truths, some untruths and partial truths, threats and mean statements.”

Oh, really, Bill. Perhaps it’s time the voters retired this RINO to a sanctuary?

Editor’s note: Bill Wehr is a Damascus city councilor. This column has been shortened from its original length.