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North Clackamas mayors: Aggressive agenda for 2014

Local mayors treated hundreds of attendees at the annual State of the Cities event Wednesday to a sneak preview of their political plans this year, in addition to the usual review of challenges such as declining revenue and medical marijuana legislation.

Gladstone Mayor Wade Byers announced plans to run for a record 10th term as mayor. Happy Valley Mayor Lori DeRemer, who is in her fourth year as mayor (not 35th), also said she’ll seek another term.

But after pulling the plug on his Clackamas County commission bid about two weeks ago, Jeremy Ferguson also now ruled out another run for Milwaukie mayor. He had said Jan. 7 that he would leave the option open, but now he’ll be “entering into some new ventures.” He cited personal reasons for leaving politics after his term as mayor expires Dec. 31.

Oregon City Mayor Doug Neeley is term-limited, so he’d have to leave the City Commission for at least two years. Steve Spinnett said he would decide on a Damascus mayoral re-election bid in May after his city presents two options for a comprehensive plan to voters. His plan emphasizes property rights over environmental considerations.

Sponsored by the North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce, the Jan. 22 event provided other political fireworks that attendees have come to expect.

With a newly reached agreement over an eventual border between their cities, both Ferguson and DeRemer said they would welcome annexations. Milwaukie especially is struggling with decreased revenues and staffing cuts since the recession, so annexation would boost city tax bases.

“Our goal is to annex to the Clackamas River,” DeRemer said, and Ferguson responded that his City Council “too will be aggressively annexing,” although Milwaukie’s potential reach is much more landlocked by other cities than Happy Valley’s.

Sensing the tension in the room, former state Superintendent Verne Duncan used his role as moderator to lighten the mood. Duncan said he had a message from Canby’s mayor, whose city would be about 15 miles from Happy Valley’s annexation campaign: “Watch out for Lori.”

DeRemer let the crack go from Duncan, who is nearly 80 years old. But she openly challenged Clackamas County Chairman John Ludlow and Commissioner Jim Bernard in attendance.

“Let’s talk about transportation funding, Chair Ludlow,” she said, when he referenced their disagreements over which jurisdictions should pay for infrastructure.

When their dual jurisdictions came up again in her discussion of challenges in successfully developing the proposed Eagle Landing project, Bernard interrupted her asking, “Isn’t Happy Valley in Clackamas County?”

DeRemer responded, “We’re not just supporting the development, we’re supporting the entire region. ... We’ll all have to work together.”

As examples of cooperation, she gave their dual support of the Sunrise Project, the intergovernmental agreement on the Parks District and negotiations on the city’s proposed takeover of the library.

DeRemer wasn’t the only mayor with gripes against the county. Although he felt “quite positively” about the county “generally speaking,” Ferguson referenced issues at some county meetings, and Neeley said previous county commissioners would have been easier to work with on right-of-way issues. Neeley then said the county’s tri-city sewer-treatment plant’s plans to increase system development charges by 300 percent “should be a concern to you all.”

And on marijuana, Oregon City became the state’s second city after Medford to ban medical dispensaries.

“Distribution of medical marijuana is badly managed,” Neeley said.

Ferguson, who had seen a marijuana dispensary come and go in Milwaukie, has no plan to consider a ban. He said the city “treated them just as any other business” while expecting them to follow state laws. But it’s difficult to find sites for dispensaries in Milwaukie more than 1,000 feet from a school or day care.

That restriction also is an issue in Happy Valley and Gladstone. Byers said he couldn’t predict whether his City Council would support a ban, and DeRemer expected Happy Valley dispensaries would “almost be unallowable” in a restricted zone.