News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Detroit charter update failing

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

The attempt by the city of Detroit to update its charter apparently has failed.

Ballot Measure 24-466, which if approved would have replaced the previous charter, was failing by 53 votes to 49 in the most recent results released by Marion County elections officials.

The results will not be certified until Dec. 5, and it remains unclear whether more Detroit ballots will be added to the results. 

Under Oregon election law an automatic recount is triggered if the vote is within 2 percent. 

Although the margin currently is just four votes, because of the small number of voters, that represents 3.9 percent of the vote.

The key piece of the replacement charter would have changed the residency rules for candidates for mayor and city council. Currently, five of the seven slots must be filled by a person whose primary residence is in Detroit. The updated charter would have eliminated that residency requirement. Other charter updates would have corrected misspellings and formatting errors and replaced gender exclusive references. 

All six sitting councilors and Mayor Jim Trett backed the new charter, councilor Denny Nielsen told The Canyon Weekly.

After the 2020 wildfires in the Detroit area it became harder to pin down exactly what constituted a permanent resident, said Nielsen in explaining the rationale for the ballot measure. Many residents whose homes were destroyed in the fires were temporarily living elsewhere while they rebuilt, although they had every intention of returning to the Detroit area to live full-time.

Also, Nielsen said, backers of the measure noted “the significant investment of a secondary home” and asked the question “why not allow those individuals to be part of the leadership structure?”

Nielsen noted that one public meeting was held to discuss the measure at the new Detroit Community Center. The session was well-attended but no negative comments were aired, Nielsen said.

“As hard as we tried to involve the community,” Nielsen said, “it’s just not easy.”

Nielsen noted that the city had a “great group” of people on the task force that reviewed the charter and that the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments helped out “with the legal side of things.”

It remains unclear if councilors and Mayor Trett will move forward with a second attempt at a charter update should Measure 24-466’s defeat be certified.

“But if we do,” Nielsen said, “we must do a better job of communicating with residents, whether it’s on social media or in other ways. We need to draw people out to get involved in the process.”

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