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For a Voice In Annexations

Promoting and Protecting Citizen Involvement in Land Use Issues

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Recommended Procedure For Pursuing A City Charter Amendment:


Revised Version, April 1998

This document is also available in Adobe PDF and MS Word formats.

1.  Before you embark on this endeavor, you need to understand the rules. You must assume that you’ll be conducting an action that city government will consider hostile. If you do not dot all the “I’s” and cross all the “T’s”, the city can be expected to use this to keep you off the ballot. Contact OCVA for a copy of the state ordinances governing city initiatives (the “ORS On City Measures” document in this packet). Read & understand them.

These are the state rules for city initiatives - But they do not preclude a city from having its own set of rules for initiatives - so - contact your city recorder, or if there is no such officer, your county elections official. Get a copy of the city elections manual. Be generic as to your reason: we’ve found that cities generally become very hostile when they find out about such an action. Ask also about any other city ordinances that pertain to citywide initiatives. It is critical that you understand the requirements.

Read and understand the section in the manual referring to the City Initiative Petition Process. Step-by-step instructions should be in the manual with the necessary forms. Your city or county elections official can answer your questions and guide you through the process. Typically, the number of signatures required is 15% of the number of people who voted in the last mayoral election. However, the city can require 15% of the total number of registered voters, as provided for in state law, if it wants to make it difficult for you.

2.  Form a citizens’ organization - it doesn’t have to be large. For larger communities, a formal political action committee (PAC) should be considered. You’ll need some kind of formal organization to keep track of expenses & contributions, and to gather signatures - if it comes to that. From the organization, select no more than 3 chief petitioners.

3. Draft a “prospective initiative petition.” OCVA has a sample “City of _____ Initiative Petition” document (available in MS Word or Adobe PDF formats) that has been used successfully in other Oregon cities. Use our suggested language. But again be forewarned: The city may have its own forms and rules. You’ll have determined if this is the case in step 1 above. Petition language is further discussed on page 2.

By taking the foregoing initial actions, you’re prepared and ready to go immediately if the next step fails:

4.  Formally present (in writing) a request to your city council at a council meeting that they submit to the voters, by referendum, an amendment to the city charter that will read as shown in the City Council Referendum Measure document (available in MS Word or Adobe PDF formats).

You may want to add exclusions for schools or public facilities. Such exclusions sometimes make a council more amenable to your request.

Note that this is NOT your prospective petition. This is a request for a council-generated referendum.

Some, though not many, councils have abided by these requests. This would save your group from going through the formal procedure of  gathering signatures on a petition - if the council abides by your request. If they do NOT abide by your request, proceed with the following steps:

A) Be Sure your prospective petition adheres to the following guidelines (see example:)

·       Chief petitioners must be registered voters of the municipality (city).

·       Caption: must not exceed 10 words

·       Question: must not exceed 20 words

·       Statement or Summary: must not exceed 85 words

·       Text: There must be a separate section specifically labeled “Text.” It is essentially a shortened version of the summary.

·       Include a statement declaring whether or not circulators will be paid for gathering signatures. If they are, the proper language is outlined in the state regulations.

OCVA’s suggested language meets all of the above criteria.

B) Submit the prospective petition to your city elections official (usually the city recorder) during business hours. Make sure he/she dates it and stamps it “received.” Ask for a copy of the stamped page.

What happens next depends on which rules apply. Under state law, the elections official is required to “immediately send two copies of the prospective petition to the city attorney” (ORS 250.275(1)) -or - must do so “not later than the sixth business day after a prospective petition...has been filed...” (ORS 250.275(2).

The attorney is required by state law (ORS 250.275(3) to review the ballot title - or provide one - no later than the 5th business day after receiving the copies. You can follow the rest of what happens next under state rules. We have enclosed the “ORS Regulations on City Measures” in your packet.

The city can be expected to delay any way it can. Use the state law as a lever...even if the city has its own rules. Make sure you photocopy and date all relevant correspondence to and from the city.

C) After you have secured approval of the petition from the city, you can begin gathering signatures. The state law gives guidelines for what the signature sheet should look like. Be sure you’re using one approved by the city! The approved petition language must appear on the reverse of the signature sheet. See the enclosed signature sheet used in the Albany petition as an example - But...again...your city may require something else.

D) Keep an accurate record of collections & expenditures. Both must be reported if expenditures exceed $500.

E)  Obtain more than the required number of signatures to cover the likelihood that some signatures will be ruled invalid. When done, copy your signature sheets and submit the originals to the city election official for validation.

F) Allow plenty of lead time for this process. Government works slowly! Refer to your city charter for lead time requirements. This can vary by location. Typically, signatures must be validated by your elections official 90 days prior to the election. Insist and check that the city follows all time requirements. There are 4 elections during the year: in March, May, September & November.

Your organization should NOT approach this process from the standpoint of being anti-growth. Instead, you are promoting the constitutional right of citizens to have input into local decision making. Citizen involvement is the cornerstone -GOAL #1- of Oregon State land use law!

This page last modified on 2005-11-21 08:50 .