City Charter Changes could appear on May ballot

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Tigard voters will have the final say on changes to the city’s charter that could up the size of the City Council and alter term limits for elected officials, clarifying ambiguities that sparked the current review and update.

The recommendation comes at the end of an 8-month charter review, during which a committee of community members, city officials, elected officials, and a youth representative met 15 times and combed through the charter, clause by clause, to amend the document.

The committee called for adding two new Council seats, noting most cities of comparable size have six Councilors. That would bring the body to seven voting members, including the Mayor, plus a Youth Councilor appointed to a one-year term with an advisory vote.

“It was just amazing even to be part of this ground-breaking change because Tigard’s charter hasn’t been changed like this since 1962,” said youth representative Zachary Clairmont, who graduated from Tigard High School last spring.

During its Sept. 19 meeting, City Council voted to tentatively put the revision on the May 2024 ballot. Current plans call for solidifying the ballot referral early next year. 

If passed, the committee recommends enacting the new charter in July 2024 to allow time for voters to fill the two additional council seats in November of that year.

The update also clarifies language around term limits, the question that sparked the review during the 2022 election cycle when confusing wording raised a question about then-Mayor Jason Snider’s eligibility to run for a second term.

Snider was first elected to council in 2012 and stepped down during his second term to run for Mayor in 2018. He had planned another bid in 2022.

If adopted, the new rules will allow officials to serve four consecutively elected or appointed terms for a total of 16 years with no more than two consecutive terms in the same position.

Terms of less than three years will not count against the limit, and a two-year break of service would be needed to restart the clock after maxing out service.

Tigard’s existing charter capped combined mayoral and city council service at 12 consecutive years, allowing no more than eight consecutive years in either position, but it failed to define “consecutive years,” and didn’t specify how much time out of office was needed to trigger a reset.

Nearly 100 people responded to a 2022 city call for input on the meaning, overwhelmingly saying elected officials needed at least one full year out of office to restart the clock.

Snider was deemed ineligible for re-election at an April 2022 meeting because a second term would have pushed him past the 12-year mark.

However, under the proposed change, he could have run again.

Snider’s next move is a bid for Roy Rogers’ District 3 seat on the Washington County Board of Commissioner in 2024. Rogers isn’t seeking re-election. 

The charter update is the first in more than six decades. Committee members compared documents from cities around the state to zero in on their recommendations and added a preamble.

It states: We the people of Tigard, Oregon, are a community that recognizes the value of all individuals. We exercise our power to the fullest extent possible under the constitution and laws of the State of Oregon and enact this home rules charter.

“We wanted to add a preamble for two reasons. One is to explicitly claim home rule authority. The other was to state our values. We spent a lot of time wordsmithing these two sentences,” Washburn said.

Other changes to Council procedures include shortening Council President terms from two years to one year to rotate the position through more people, and requiring candidates to be registered to vote in Tigard and live in the city for at least one year before running.

“We are looking for people who are community-oriented and civic-minded,” said Lindsey Washburn.  

It also eliminates a requirement that any Mayor must publicly oppose public transit, a rule that had already sunsetted and was no longer part of the charter.

The committee left a few procedural questions and the question of compensation for City Council members on the table for Councilors to solve. Councilors recommended an independent committee to determine compensation.

“We’re so grateful and appreciative of the work you’ve put forward and really come up with what I think is a very cohesive, much easier-to-read charter where everything makes sense,” Mayor Heidi Lueb said. 

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