How we BEGAN, were PRONOUNCED DEAD, and have been REVIVED
A Fact Sheet by James De Young, Mayor – August 2019
Damascus has a pioneer history that goes back to 1851 at the end of the Oregon trail.
Damascus signified a new beginning for the Apostle Paul as recorded in the Bible (Acts 9); and this led pioneer founder Ed Pedigo to suggest the name Damascus – a “new beginning” for them.
Metro imposed the Urban Growth Boundary on the Damascus area of about 10,000 acres and about 10,000 people (2002).
To preserve its heritage and determine its own character distinct from Gresham to the north or from Happy Valley to the west, the people of Damascus voted to incorporate the City (2004).
Mayors have been Dee Wescott, Jim Wright, Steve Spinnett, Diana Helm, and James De Young.
Very restrictive amendments to our charter such as voter approval of the Comprehensive Plan, prohibition of system development charges and franchise fees, and spending limits, have hamstrung the City.
Early on, many to the east wanted to keep Damascus rural and many to the west wanted to develop their property like Happy Valley.
Voters rejected all Comprehensive Plans, even though they are an absolute requirement for all new cities.
Disenchantment with the lack of progress and division led people to vote for disincorporation in 2013 or to skirt the charter regulations for de-annexations in 2014. The Appellate Court declared all such actions to be illegal or unconstitutional.
The Oregon Legislature devised special laws in 2015 (HB 3084, 3085, 3086) for Damascus, and required the City to vote on disincorporation in the May 2016 primary as Measure 93. This passed by a simple majority but fell short by over 600 votes of the super majority required by law. People assumed the City was dead.
Then-Councilor De Young filed legal action to challenge the vote as violating Oregon statutes, the State Constitution, and the City Charter. After three years the Appellate Court ruled that De Young “should prevail as a matter of law” (May 1,2019).
This decision nullified the vote of 2016. The City continued to exist. The Council never surrendered its Charter. The Councilors never lost their offices. According to the City Charter, Councilors continue in office until their successors are voted in, unless they choose not to be a Councilor or move out of the City.
During its three-year hiatus, the City lost to the County $8 million, property, vehicles, and documents. Happy Valley also annexed 1400 acres of City property.
Beginning in May 2019, the Council began restoring City government; they appointed people to fill vacancies, they appointed a Mayor (De Young) and City Manager, they held a half dozen meetings where they completed a budget, passed several resolutions, and set a tax levy at 0.57 per $1000.
The City is currently pursuing restitution and reconciliation with the County, the State, Metro, and Happy Valley; and is appealing the latest law directed against Damascus (8-14-19).