Frequently Asked Questions and Concerns
In May and June of 2009, the "New City Conveners" group held three community meetings at Rose Villa Retirement Center to discuss the subject of incorporation. During those meetings all questions raised by those in attendance were noted. From July through October of 2009, the Conveners reviewed all of the notes and prepared responses. The following FAQs are derived from that process.
- We should have a compelling reason to become a city.
Loss of our local library; a light rail parking garage located in Oak Grove; a possible county-imposed Urban Renewal District; zoning; code enforcement; tree ordinance; poorly controlled development; economic stagnation. These are just a few of the very compelling reasons to consider incorporation.
- What do people have against the county?
- Start by listing grievances and petitioning the government.
- There are few "Urban Services" provided by the county that would go away.
The New City conveners do not have anything against the county and do not have a list of grievances. We feel that if we govern ourselves, we will have more say in local matters than we do by leaving decisions that affect our community to others who do not share the same vested interests. The Board of County Commissioners has indicated a desire to move away from providing urban services. New City would continue to receive the services it does now. However, planning, code enforcement, law enforcement, and street maintenance would be controlled locally, not by the county.
- Is the county willing to assist with process (resources, etc.)?
- Invite current city managers to discuss challenges of city - Cathy Daw & Jim Bennett.
The conveners have met with Commissioner Austin and county staff, and have held conversations with other commissioners. It is unknown at this time how that will translate into help, but we continue to find ways to work with the county and others on this issue. The conveners routinely consult and meet with officials from Metro, cities, special districts, agencies, and associations.
- Explore other options and alternatives.
- Is becoming a village or hamlet an option?
- Form additional service districts instead.
- Why not join Milwaukie?
- Could unincorporated area be annexed by Milwaukie or Gladstone?
- Organize as an unincorporated group.
The county has final say on approving a village or hamlet, but the designation was not intended to be applied to large urbanized areas. Villages and hamlets fall under county jurisdiction for land use issues, so they do not have local control over these matters. They are not eligible to receive tax revenue. Oregon law regulates which services special districts may provide. Some services, such as land use planning, zoning and code enforcement, can only be provided by cities and counties.
The area could be annexed. It requires a vote of the people in the annexing city and the area to be annexed. So far, neither Milwaukie nor Gladstone has shown an interest in annexing the unincorporated area that lies between them. That does not preclude them from attempting to do so. Most people in the unincorporated area are opposed to annexation into either city. It should also be noted that Milwaukie has one of the highest tax rates in the state. The conveners are interested in studying incorporation, not annexation.
An "unincorporated group" is not a recognized legal authority, therefore it would not have the ability to collect tax revenue or make land use decisions. Cities are formed to address the will of the people to be self-governed in an area, and determine their own destiny. In making decisions, the county must take into consideration what is best for all of the people they govern, not just one particular group or portion of the county. A city council would not be another layer of government; it would be a substitute for the Board of County Commissioners as the governing body of the local area.
- Do we want more government control?
- Do not finance another layer of bureaucracy.
- Cities were created because people did not like big government and wanted local control.
- Not another layer of government - it is a substitution.
Incorporation is not more government control; it is better control of government. Cities incorporate because citizens want to determine their own destiny and have a voice on issues that affect their area. County commissioners must make decisions based on what is best for the entire area they govern, not just a particular group of people or portion of the county. A city council would not be an additional layer of bureaucracy; it would replace the Board of County Commissioners in making local decisions. City councilors would be elected from the neighborhoods in our community, not people from other cities and jurisdictions that may not have the same concerns as those who live, own property or operate a business in our area. They would respond to local interests, not county-wide interests.
- Cities automatically form a bureaucracy.
- Cities need to be run like a business.
- Cities are broke, inefficient and have infrastructure deficits.
- City bureaucrats are not humble.
- Elected officials will have visions of Community requiring more taxes
A bureaucracy creates organizational structure, procedures and protocols for managing activity. Businesses create bureaucracies too. It is not a bad thing, unless it is badly managed. Right now all of America is broke and has infrastructure deficits. Forming a city does not change that. In fact, it could bring more state and federal dollars into the area. If a city is inefficient, the Citizens have allowed their elected officials to operate it that way. If elected officials are not humble to the will of the people, recall them or elect someone else to do the job. An elected official may have vision requiring higher taxes, but that does not give them the authority to raise taxes. Under Oregon law, the permanent tax rate established by the city cannot be increased. Provisions could be written into the city charter to requiring a vote of the Citizens to raise taxes or fees.
- Comment received via email: I have been a resident in this area for 32 years and three times someone has tried to form a City. If they want a City then move to a City. I am strongly opposed to changing our status.
The conveners recognize that there are people in the area that do not want to incorporate. We respect their feelings and welcome their input. The issue is not about wanting to live in a city. It is about having decisions that affect the area made on a local level. Over the last 30 years, many things have changed. The area has transformed from rural/suburban to heavily-populated/urban. So the area has effectively become a city, it just has not been given the authority of self-governance. Urban areas have different needs than rural areas. This necessitates having a different form of governance, especially if our quality of life is to be maintained.
- Small cities have no state or federal clout.
- More clout at state with 300,000 people than with 30,000 people.
New City would be the 3rd largest city in Clackamas County. It would be the 18th largest city in Oregon, making it bigger than Tualatin, Redmond, West Linn, Woodburn, Newberg, Ashland, Forest Grove, Klamath Falls, Roseburg, Milwaukie, Wilsonville, and Pendleton. All these cities have clout with the state legislature, and departments such as ODOT. They all have influence with national congressional delegates and senators. The residents of New City would still be part of the county voice, enhancing the clout of the county, not diminishing it.
- Who decides the name?
"New City" is a generic designation that was adopted to avoid using a specific place name such as Oak Grove or Jennings Lodge. The Petition to Incorporate must include a name for the city. The conveners have not decided on one, and community input would certainly be sought on this issue.
- What are the population growth projections for the next 10-20 years?
Metro is projecting another million residents in the Tri-County area over the next 20 years. Where they live is currently under discussion between Metro, the counties and cities. Much of this growth will be absorbed through infill, multi-family density projects, and sub-division of existing lots. The unincorporated area of North Clackamas County could be a target for significant density, because it has water and sewer services, large lots that can be sub-divided, and developable land along McLoughlin Boulevard. This is another of the primary reasons the conveners believe we need to look at incorporating. We think it would be better to let local citizens affect these changes rather than trust and rely on county government to plan the future of our community.
- What problems would having a city solve?
- Gladstone has a Senior Center, other services. Would "New City" do the same?
As a city we would have local control regarding code enforcement; libraries; roads and public transportation; law enforcement; and land use planning/ZDO's. The area proposed for incorporation would remain part of the North Clackamas Parks District, which operates the Milwaukie Center.
- How do you resolve grievances that erode quality of life?
- What are your dreams?
- Who do you make appeals to?
How the city charter is written will have a large effect on quality of life issues. It should also reflect what the people envision the city to be. After formation, grievances are resolved by the city council and/or the courts. Appeals would be through whatever legal recourse is appropriate to a given issue or concern.
- How do people connect to decision makers and have an impact?
Ways to connect with decision makers include: attending sanitary and water district board meetings; becoming a member of the Jennings Lodge or Oak Lodge Community Planning Organization; attending the monthly Citizens Informed and Aware meeting; communicating your interests and concerns to county and Metro commissioners, city councilors, and other elected officials.
- Land use decisions would be different if we were a city.
- Land use planning.
- There is no code enforcement and planning with unincorporated areas. How can this be done without incorporating?
With all the changes coming to the area, planning and land use authority are key reasons to consider incorporation. New City could initially adopt county codes, and then refine them to meet the needs and vision of the Citizens. A Planning Commission would be appointed by the City Council. Cities have the legal authority to make and enforce codes. In the unincorporated areas, all authority is held by the county. As a city, there would be greater control over land use policies, planning and zoning. The city would also have a voice with Metro on issues of regional concern, with Tri-Met on public transportation matters, and with the Board of County Commissioners and neighboring cities on local issues. In most cities, staff make initial decisions about land use applications, using professional input and information from Neighborhood Associations. Their decisions can be appealed to the Planning Commission, City Council, Land Use Board of Appeals, or Circuit Court.
- Does the County collect a franchise fee?
- Who pays franchise fees?
- Do Qwest, PGE, etc collect franchise fees now?
- If not - how will that affect 'New City' residents rates?
- Would this be an additional fee or tax in New City?
Oregon law allows for cities and counties to determine the terms and conditions under which utilities can operate, including charges and fees. The county currently collects franchise fees for cable service. Utilities can show those fees as part of their costs when they apply to the PUC for rate approval.
- Budgeting is underestimated. It can't be done at $1.29 per $1000; was the analysis for the tax rate done correctly?
- The $1.2922 rate appears to be too low.
- Tax rate can be addressed with charter.
- No new taxes, things are fine the way they are.
- Where does money come from?
- Is the Light Rail Tax included in the $1.29?
- The county won't give up their levy rate because we become a city.
- Why aren't business taxes a revenue source? How do you pay for other operations without raising taxes, if the gas tax can only be used on roads?
- What else will you tax besides business?
- What effect will this have on businesses and business taxes?
- What tools (funding, ordinances, etc.) do you have at your disposal?
Clackamas County property tax rates are lower for cities than they are for unincorporated areas. The difference between them is $1.29/$1000 assessed value. The conveners evaluated the level of services a city could provide using that difference. It was an exercise, not a recommendation. The conveners have not proposed any actual tax rate, nor have they proposed any new taxes or higher rates. To be an effective city, the tax rate would likely need to be higher than what is currently assessed. The conveners are studying the rates and budgets of other cities, and consulting with officials and organizations, to determine what the tax rate would need to be in order to provide the services people in the community have indicated they are interested in receiving. The rate that appears on the Petition to Incorporate can never be increased. The city is not obligated to assess the full amount.
The new city could require business licenses and impose fees, but the conveners have not proposed any. Revenue sources for New City will be the same as any other city in Oregon, and will come primarily from property, gas, tobacco, and alcohol taxes, fees and fines. All available options would be considered in determining the actual city budget. There is no light rail tax.
- What happens to alcohol and tobacco tax money going to county?
- Must a city have a population of 50,000 to receive gas tax revenue?
- What strings are attached to gas tax and other monies?
The state has separate pools for the distribution of gas, tobacco and alcohol tax revenue to cities and counties. County revenues would not be reduced if the area were to incorporate. Cities are not required to have a population over 50,000 to collect gas taxes. Cities with a population over 50,000 do qualify for additional transportation programs. Gas tax revenues are dedicated to roads, with 1% of the revenue to be used for bicycle/pedestrian projects. Alcohol and tobacco taxes, as well as franchise fees, can be used in the general fund.
- How do you address inflation with the low tax base?
- Taxes will go up considerably; services will suffer.
- Will New City be able to raise taxes more quickly than the County, if so at what rate(s), and/or can they be raised in excess of measure 5?
Regardless of the base tax rate, under Measure 5 property taxes are only allowed to increase a maximum of 3% per year. If inflation is 3% or less, there would be no affect on the city budget. If it is greater than 3%, then the city would have to cut budgets or raise revenue. Measure 5 will continue to limit any tax increases. The New City will have to operate within those limitations. This is no different than what currently happens in all Oregon cities and counties, as well as the state.
- Employee wages and benefits.
- Financial Manager
- City Planner
Complete first and third year budgets must be submitted with the Petition to Incorporate. The conveners have not prepared these budgets. At this time we are simply collecting information to determine the feasibility, costs and implications of incorporating. If a new city were formed, there would be paid, professional staff managing the city, its operations and its finances. Wages and benefits would be competitive with positions in other cities of similar size. Specific positions have not been determined. Employees would be PERS recipients.
- Will Wal-Mart try to open a store?
As a city, an economic development program could be established to attract businesses to the area. We do not know if Wal Mart would be interested in opening a store in New City, although it is reasonable to assume that if they were interested in the area, they would likely be pursuing it. There is no way to guarantee Wal Mart, or any other business, will or will not look at having a presence in the area.
- Create an ombudsman position, regardless of New City or status quo.
The conveners are looking into the idea of a city ombudsman. We are gathering information on the duties and average salary for such a position. Should it be determined that incorporation is feasible, the conveners will pass this idea on to those who will prepare the Petition to Incorporate and the budget statements.
- We are a Community - we lose the sense of Community if we become a city.
- Identity - Who we are or maintaining who we are
Incorporating does not diminish the sense of community. It actually helps define who we are and what we are about. It creates a sense of place, which fosters pride and shapes purpose. It creates identity, and would be noted on maps and named in legal documents. Established neighborhoods will retain their identities and uniqueness; new neighborhoods will develop their own persona within the larger community. All can be represented by Neighborhood Associations, which have a national tradition of identifying specific places in a city.
- Concerns need to be sorted out with a city charter.
The city charter is the document that will ultimately govern the residents of New City. How it is written, and what it contains, will define the community we want to be, and are able to become. The charter needs to be submitted to the county with the Petition to Incorporate. Drafting it will require much input.
- Vision for how New City would function.
- Compare against OC population.
The conveners envision a city with a minimal amount of government, contracting for some services and staffing for others. Gladstone is a good example, and has frequently been used as a comparison. The Oregon City budget and governance structure have been considered, as have other municipalities.
- Are the assumptions for policing accurate?
- How many more police?
- Radar, speed control and fine revenue.
- Police - cars, guns, equipment included?
The policing assumptions compiled by the conveners and presented to the public were reviewed by the Sheriff's Office. They are revising the fees they charge to provide policing services to cities, and we expect that will effect our assumptions. The conveners are also looking into the cost of having Milwaukie or Gladstone provide police services, as well as forming our own department. Whoever provides the service will enforce traffic and other laws. Vehicles and equipment will be included. Fine revenues will go to the city.
- If IGA's are not meeting the need of New City, will they have to form their own department to cover those services?
Cancellation clauses can be written into Intergovernmental Agreements (IGA's). If the city becomes dissatisfied with services being provided through an IGA, then the agreement can be terminated, and the city can contract with another agency or provide the service(s) directly.
- The main anxiety of the community is code enforcement. It is elaborate and expensive and could initially be a large budget item.
- A lot of cities have more problems with code enforcement than counties do.
- Make stringent remodeling code.
- Zoning loophole - buy land to divide.
- Being in a City is not going to get more or better Code Compliance.
Code enforcement and compliance is the issue conveners are asked about most frequently. County codes could be adopted initially, and over time refined to meet the needs and interests of the community. If incorporated, New City would be a smaller area in which to enforce codes, increasing the likely success of compliance. Citizens would be able to take compliance issues to the City Council. Not all cities have more problems than counties do with compliance. It is largely a matter of how compliance is approached and the resources dedicated to enforcement. Clackamas County has chosen to do no code enforcement in the unincorporated area.
- What happens when new people move in and want to change things?
In a free society you cannot prevent people from moving into whatever area they want, you cannot prevent them from expressing their views on how things should be, and you cannot prevent them from taking action on those views.
- There are a number of issues that will impact the area: population growth, economic and environmental issues. Come up with something that addresses these issues.
- Density bubble on McLoughlin.
- Have the foresight to plan 20-30 years into the future.
- What is it we do/don't want?
The conveners feel that these are some of the key reasons it would be best to have local control over our own destiny. The people who live, own property or run a business in this area should be directly influencing these issues, and not relying on the county to act in our best interests. We think incorporation is the best venue for creating an area vision and addressing these matters. Part of the incorporation process is the development of a Community Vision.
- There is little dissemination of information.
- Need to inform more people.
- No money for outreach.
- Not enough time to get word out (for tonight and).
- How will the items on the 'what will it take list' be funded?
- Are there foundations that would be interested and provide support? (Check the Foundation Center on line, available through Multnomah county library.)
Means of support have not yet been established. Before doing so, we want to be assured that it is feasible to keep moving forward. If we find that it is, we will research foundations and other means of support and assistance. A fund has not been set up to finance the efforts of the New City conveners. We have been covering expenses out-of-pocket, and conducting all research on our own. The effort is completely grass roots. More help is needed. We rely on those that have provided us their email address to pass information along to others. We hope to have a web site up and running soon. Assistance in preparing the Petition to Incorporate may be available through the League of Oregon Cities. Should the idea of incorporation prove to be feasible and of interest to enough people in the area, it will be necessary to raise funds to pay for the process of submitting a petition and running a campaign.
- Presenting pros and not cons raises suspicion; present cons also.
The New City conveners are advocating for incorporation. It is the role of opponents to argue the cons.
- How do you take care of the aftermath of natural disasters?
In the aftermath of a natural disaster, local coordination is delegated to the Fire Department, who will interact with State and Federal agencies.
- What does redevelopment mean?
- Urban Renewal? High rise / density?
- Can we stop this?
- Seat at the table; Larger voice; Probable that we will have transportation improvement/change
- Local voice on density
Redevelopment is generally defined as new construction on a site with existing uses. For example, removing a dilapidated structure and replacing it with a mixed-use development. Urban infill on vacant land, or sub-division of large lots into smaller parcels, is also considered redevelopment. State and federal statutes provide cities and counties the authority to establish redevelopment (Urban Renewal) agencies, such as the Portland Development Commission or the Clackamas County Development Agency. These entities generally have authority to acquire real property, power of eminent domain, and the ability to develop and sell property without bidding. Financing might come from federal or state loans, and the selling of bonds through Tax Increment Financing.
Changes in density require public notice, hearings and action by the governing body, which is currently the Board of County Commissioners. Zoning changes may also be needed. The County often makes decisions based on county code, and does not necessarily take into consideration the future of the affected area, or local needs or concerns. In cities, the process is localized and influenced more by the Citizens of the city.
- Light Rail is coming to Park Avenue
- We can have a larger voice on light rail
- The county went to Park Avenue because of a threat to sue
The conveners have no information regarding the county's decision to take light rail to Park Avenue because of a threat to sue. What we do know is that the decisions on where to locate light rail stations, the terminus, and the route were determined by cities and counties. If the area being studied were to incorporate, New City would have influence over any future light rail alignments and transit developments.
- What State mandates kick in?
- Business; economic zones
The state will require New City to develop a Comprehensive Plan addressing issues of growth and density