Frequently Asked Questions
What does the initiative for Ballot Measure 14-67 say?
Our suggested amendment prevents the City Council from disposing of city parks by sale, lease, or other means without an authorizing vote of the people. It's simple, and democratic.
Are our parks really threatened?
We believe they are. Eight years ago, the area that became Waterfront Park might have been lost to a hotel, commercial buildings, and other development. Local concerns brought us a park for everyone instead.
In the spring of 2019, the City Council decided to interpret its laws in a way that allows housing development on any part of its public parks. Although some city councilors expressed worries about what that decision might mean for Jackson Park or other parks, the decision to allow housing in a park. That means we have a precedent that allows future city councils to take away land from our largest parks (think of Jackson Park, Waterfront Park, Children’s Park, and Eliot Park) or to entirely eliminate smaller ones.
Is a Charter Amendment the best way to protect parks and natural areas?
We’ve seen that the City’s own laws for protecting parks can be modified pretty quickly by a simple vote of the City Council. Our suggested amendment prevents the City Council from disposing of our parks without first getting authorization from a majority of the city’s voters.
During the debate about disposing of one of the city's existing parks, councilors expressed concern about the precedent for other parks - to be answered by the city's legal counsel with a reminder that "...there are a handful of jurisdictions in the state ...that require a vote of the people before any park is sold... You don't have a charter provision to that effect. YOU OWN this park..." (audio from council session available upon request). Well, we'd like to give the authority for selling our parks to the people. We trust them.
We can’t predict what the city will need in the future. What if we need the park land for some other critical need?
If the city government feels it needs the land for something critical, it can present the question to the people. The city’s voters can evaluate the arguments for and against the issue, and make their will known through a vote.
Will this Measure stop the city from acquiring new parks?
No, not at all. This is a new scare tactic that opponents have dreamed up. We want new parks. When the city acquires land, whether it's in big chunks for a large park, or smaller sections to connect trails into a linear park, they will hold that land as part of the city's inventory of property. The land will not be a "park" until it is zoned that way, AND designated that way by city ordinance. At that point, it becomes a city park, and gets the protection against future sale without a vote. That's it. (And as for the statement that the city has put a dog park on hold because of the measure - come on! Councils have discussed the dog park since 2014 and done nothing. Their delay in action on that facility has nothing to do with the ballot measure.)
Is the proposed dog park really threatened by this measure?
Honestly, folks ... we like both dogs and toilets. Neither is harmed by Measure 14-67. The City has been talking about a dog park since at least 2014, so our Measure isn't what's kept it from happening. A dog "park" isn't a park on the city inventory, and isn't likely to be declared a park by city ordinance. It's a special use facility, and if the land for that dog exercise area is needed to expand the sewage treatment plant, then the council will let the sewage plant expand.
If you read the measure itself (PDF below) you will know that it only affects lands “designated, dedicated, or recognized” as parks. Our yet to be seen dog exercise area or other temporary use areas do not fall within the measure, and plans to expanded waste plant are not jeopardized.
Will this amendment delay the acquisition of future parks or natural areas?
No, it doesn’t affect acquisition or purchases. It extends protection once the land becomes a park. It would actually provide reassurance to prospective park donors who would want their donation to be used for the intended purpose.
What happens to new parks the city might acquire as the Westside develops
New city parks would receive the protection of the city charter as well.
We elect a city council in order to make decisions that affect the city and everyone living here. Why add a charter amendment that makes it harder for them to do their jobs? Isn’t this micro-management?
Most of us are glad to put the day-to-day city decisions and governance into the hands of the mayor and city councilors. However, some actions have such broad and long-term effects we think all voters should participate in the decision. Land is a limited resource. Urban green space is a rare commodity. We trust our city’s voters to decide on the future of our parks.
Does this protection extend to county parks? What about parks owned by the Parks & Rec Department?
This amendment only protects city parks, but we’d be delighted if the same protections were adopted to keep our other parks safe as well.
We are surrounded by thousands of square miles of state and federal forests where people can go to recreate. Why worry about a few acres of city parks
The city is fortunate in being in such an incredible location offering so many opportunities for interacting with nature. We think city parks are a unique and important part of that outside offering.
They’re the places you can walk or bike to in a few minutes to play a game with your kids, walk your dog, meet friends for a game, or sit and enjoy an outdoor dinner after a busy day. Kids play there, and they learn by playing. People of every background and generation meet in the parks. They promote health, and don’t require someone to travel far or bring expensive equipment with them to enjoy the health benefits.
For kids, a safe place that they can walk or bike to after school is critical. Most parents aren't going to send them off into the forests to play alone after school or early on the weekend mornings, right? And adding small new amenities like walking loops can bring in more seniors and adults, increasing the reach for people who want to engage daily somewhere close to home.
We want to protect those important community assets now and for generations to come.
What about the unintended consequences of amending the charter? Who really knows what this will do?
Oregon voters amend charters in cities across the state. Charter amendments reflect local concerns and values. Voters in West Linn and Corvallis amended their charters to protect parks from sale without the people's vote. Sandy's citizens used an amendment to give them a vote to approve annexations. Pendleton voters amended their charter to keep solid waste transfer stations away from homes. Oregon's voter initiatives show a healthy respect for the will of the people and city charters reflect those values.
We don't know the full effect of many kinds of legislation, but people take action when they believe that they are supporting a long-term benefit and acting responsibly. We expect this amendment to be needed or invoked only on the rare occasions when the city believes it has no alternatives for a project but to remove a park for another purpose.
I'm worried that this amendment will force the city into costly votes.
We expect that the decision to take away a city park for another purpose will be - and should be - rare. Such a vote will rarely happen. If it does, it will likely occur with no added public expense on dates when other issues are presented to voters.
Considering the value of our parks to the people - the value of the land, of the recreation, of the safe place for children to play - we think letting the people decide about the sale on those rare occasions is the right thing to do.
Who led this initiative?
The chief petitioners on the initiative are Brian Carlstrom and Tracey Tomashpol. A coalition of people ranging from business owners, sports enthusiasts, citizens concerned about environmental issues, nature lovers, and others have joined in to begin to gather signatures and lend their support.
Funding for signs and info have come from volunteers. There is no "big money" behind the scenes. There is no out-of-town group that is behind this. Who wants to save city parks? People who love city parks. That's it.
It's after November 5 - what happened?
We won! The city had a 48% turnout - very high in an off-year special election. 72% of voters voted "yes" - favoring the measure, and asking for a voice in what happens to their city parks. Many thanks to everyone who voted, and who participated in any discussion about the measure and did so civilly. We're proud to report that we think we had a 94% rate of civility in discussions!
I’m not a registered voter yet but I care about our parks. What should I do?
Please do register to vote - it's easy to do either online or at the office in Hood River at 601 State Street. It's too late to participate in the election to protect parks if you're not registered, but register anyway. Contact us if you want to get more info. Like our Facebook page and share facts about what the Measure does with your voting friends.
I can’t remember if I’m registered to vote or not.
When is the election?
Was there really a closed-door meeting where the City Council took action to sell a 5-acre park for $1 ?
Yes. The City Council announced an agenda for a Special Meeting to be held March 6, 2018 at noon. A copy of this agenda is available here. The only items on the agenda were (1) a call to order and (2) an executive session to discuss “real property transactions.”
The public is not allowed to attend executive sessions. The press may attend, but may not report. That’s to ensure secrecy.
A City is not allowed to make decisions in executive sessions, but needs to make them in public view. That’s to ensure transparency.
Oregon law requires that a public hearing be held if a city proposes to sell publicly owned real property. That’s to ensure transparency.
Leading up to the March 6 meeting,
That same day, March 6, the city signed an agreement which committed it to sell a 5-acre city park for $1 on fulfillment of certain conditions. A copy of the first and signature pages of this agreement is available here.
What happened during that executive session? We have to connect the dots.
That’s not transparent. That’s not open public process. It’s not how things are supposed to be done.
No matter how good the intentions of councilors were, violating the rules for open process wasn't the right thing to do. Our parks have been called "low-hanging fruit" - to be available for non-park uses. Let's add transparency to council decision-making by voting to bring future park sales out into the open, and with a voice and vote from everyone