Gresham Outlook coverage of SB 226

Senate Bill amendment could overturn rebirth of Damascus

From the article:

According to state law, a vote to disincorporate requires a majority of all registered voters within the city limits show up to the polls. The court ruled the measure should have been nullified because voter turnout was less than half of registered voters.

James De Young, who is now serving as mayor of Damascus, led the effort in court to resurrect the city. That process took three years. If the amendment to SB 226 successfully makes it all the way to Governor Kate Brown’s desk, Damascus officials expect another long court battle.

Both De Young and Carson drove to Salem to testify against the amendment.

“We have not seen this kind of intentional and systematic destruction of a city in Oregon since the halcyon days of the Rajneesh,” wrote Carson in a letter to the Oregon Senate and House of Representatives.

For Immediate Release: Damascus City Manager responds to Damascus Euthanization Bill – SB 226

June 2nd, 2019

To:         Oregon Senate and House of Representatives

Sub:      Senate Bill 226 – Municipal Euthanization Authorization

I am asking you and your colleagues to stop a legislative train wreck in the making and what is the lowest form of legislative chicanery. I am talking about the gut and stuff bill SB 226. We have not seen this kind of intentional and systematic destruction of a city in Oregon since the halcyon days of the Rajneesh.

Do you really want to put your good name on a bill meant to benefit only developers, anti-government activists and euthanizes a city against its will? Why do you want to put a political albatross around your neck for the next year or two as this drags through the courts? Do you want to explain your vote to your opponent or a reporter in the next political season.

This bill (SB 226) is the clone to the one that was struck down by the Oregon Appellate Court. You are being lured into signing on to a gut and stuff legislative monstrosity that will (1) be a legal loser – again, (2) profit land developers, and (3) support anti-government activists bent on destroying a city. What a trifecta! Ask yourself, who benefits (cui bono) from this legislative albatross? Certainly the land developers and anti-government activists – but not you!

For the next two weeks, as you ponder your legislative responsibility to your constituents, I will plead my case in the court of public opinion to the last bastion of civic accountability – the Fourth Estate. I will ask for airtime with Mark Mason (KEX) and Lars Larson (KXL), and for this open letter to be printed in your local newspaper. Who knows – maybe Fox News and MSNBC will give us some airtime. I mean it not everyday that a state legislature euthanizes one of its own cities against its will.

 Hopefully, the voters will listen, read and remember what you are doing behind closed doors and what happened in the closing days of the 2019 legislative session. Why spend your political capital and risk your political future on this political albatross? What is your political return-on-investment? There is none! This isn’t physician assisted suicide. The city of Damascus wants to live. We will see you Monday, June 3rd at 1:00 PM as you try to sneak this bill through.


Richard H. Carson, City Manager

Damascus City Council appoints a new City Manager to help steer the process of re-constituting the city.


May 30, 2019

The Re-Birth of a City

Contact: Richard Carson, City Manager

Damascus, the little city that refused to die or more recently be euthanized by the Oregon legislature, took the next step in its resurrection tonight. The newly reinstated Damascus City Council appointed its first city manager. That would be me. I have always loved being a maverick when it comes to working in and around government in Oregon and Washington. I have some strong beliefs. I want to work for the city of Damascus because cities are the basic building blocks of the American democracy. I am an officer in a city of Portland neighborhood association that represents some 12,000 people (about the same population as Damascus). But our association has no power to represent the people who live here. The citizens of Damascus need a voice to represent them when dealing with neighboring cities, Clackamas County, Metro and the state.

The rebuilding of a city is no simple task and not one I take lightly. But I like a challenge. During the recession of 1980, I worked for the last Republican governor in Oregon as an economic development policy advisor. I took the phone call that resulted in the first Japanese manufacturing plant being built in America. While at Metro they asked me to help create the first solid waste management system, the first metropolitan greenspaces plan and the first regional land use plan. At Clark County, I oversaw the construction of 2,000 single family dwelling units a year, a 220-bed hospital and an amphitheater. As assistant city manager for the city of Oregon City, I took an empty city-owned industrial park and filled it with new industries. I also helped open the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. As the city administrator for the city of Cascade Locks, I was asked to do something unethical. So, I resigned and helped recall the mayor and city councilors who were involved. And when that city council tried to have me sanctioned, a state of Oregon employment referee told them I was right and they were wrong.

For the last 10 years I have been a consultant helping local governments in California, Oregon, Utah and Washington become more performance efficient and cost-effective. That means doing a complete assessment of the government’s functions. I also have focused my doctoral studies on the process of public-sector organizational change management. However, there are some interesting questions that need to be answered in the coming months that are very unique to what happened to the city of Damascus. For example, if the city didn’t dissolve in the election of 2016, then what happened to the $9 million in annual revenues? As the city’s chief Budget Officer, that will be part of my job. I need to a bit of forensic economic sleuthing about where the city’s property taxes, road funds, franchise fees, and revenue sharing are or went.

Being part of creating a new future for the city of Damascus is in my DNA. You see, I am the descendent of a guy named Kit Carson who helped Colonel John Fremont survey something called the Oregon Trail. So, my working again in Clackamas County is kind of a personal manifest destiny. It’s going to be another journey of discovery.


NOTE: News release issued on letter head of Richard H. Carson, Carson & Assciates, LLC.