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Commissioner supports three fellow elected officials who will potentially vie for vacated seat

Oregon City Commissioner Frank O'Donnell has announced that he won't run for the mayoral seat vacated when {obj:50661:voters recalled Dan Holladay} on Nov. 10.

O'Donnell pushed commissioners for some city charter amendments on the March special election, but they decided to make mayoral replacement the only question for voters. O'Donnell supports changing the charter to allow commissioners (not just the mayor) to select advisory board members, as well as with a charter reform to elect the top two vote-getters as commissioners rather than having candidates jockey for specific seats on the commission.

Frank O'Donnell"The special election is going to bring candidates out of the woodwork, and I am not one of them," O'Donnell said. "I would be proud to serve as a commissioner under any of my three fellow commissioners."

O'Donnell said he had confidence that the other three sitting commissioners would continue to work hard, making them "good choices" for mayor. He had a message for any other citizen considering filing for the mayoral position.

"You better come ready to work," he said. "Don't apply if you just like the sound of the title and you think there's something special about it."

Oregon City will have to pay the county elections office about $30,000 for the special election, and it has the option to add additional ballot items. O'Donnell said it made sense to put simple charter reforms on the ballot along with the mayoral replacement.

"Public engagement, that can occur at the time of the election," O'Donnell said. "I like efficiencies. If I'm going to pay for an election, I'd like to get in as much as possible and avoid another special election."

Commission President Rachel Lyles Smith said the whole charter needs to be reviewed over the next two years, including a clarification on term limits and various housekeeping changes. Commissioner Denyse McGriff said one of those housekeeping items will be changing the use of the pronoun "he" that assumes people empowered by the charter are male. During their goal-setting session in January, the commissioners will discuss the scope of the charter review, whether to create a committee to discuss the topic or invite public comment through work sessions.

"It's a big topic," Lyles Smith said. "I don't think we could do it justice to try to rush it through for March."

O'Donnell said he accepted the other commissioners' decision to hold off on proposed charter changes in part because he doesn't want those charter questions to dilute the importance of the mayoral ballot for voters.

"I believe in moving on things and getting them done, but it's the government way to make it long and slow," he said.

Mike Mitchell, an Oregon City planning commissioner and former member of the Urban Renewal Commission, encouraged the commissioners at their Nov. 18 meeting to use their authority to place two charter revisions on the ballot as soon as possible. Mitchell's proposal to revise the process for electing city commissioners — eliminating filing for positions — would follow the lead of many other cities in Clackamas County.

"Each voter would get two votes," Mitchell said. "The two people with the highest vote totals would get the two seats."

Mitchell believes it's crucial that members of the two appointed bodies that make decisions that "directly affect peoples' lives," the Planning Commission and the Historic Review Board, be selected by the entire City Commission, not just by the mayor.

"I realize these are not new or original ideas, but I brought them up to the commission now because I believe now is the perfect time to make our government more open, transparent, inclusive and receptive," he said. "The large number of ballots cast in the recall election and the result of that election indicates that Oregon City citizens are more interested in their government and how it functions than ever before. There are more things we can do, but these two charter revisions are low-hanging fruit, and the commission should get these on the ballot as soon as possible for the voters to decide."

Holladay had served on several regional advisory committees, and now his alternates on the City Commission will have to step up to represent the Oregon City throughout the Metro area.

Lyles Smith gets mayoral powers once the results of the recall election are certified Nov. 30. She said one of her first acts in December will be to appoint McGriff to the Oregon City 2040 planning committee, which Holladay had refused to do for months.

"I was very unhappy that that movement had not been made by the mayor, and I fully intend to do that," Lyles Smith said.


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