Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another Brilliant Ballot Initiative

Per BikePortland.Org, a ballot measure to be voted on in March in the city of Damascus, Oregon — a small town just 20 miles southeast of Portland (bow toward transit Mecca when you say that) — seeks to prohibit public mass transit.

Measure 3-350 (full text below) would amend the Damascus city charter in two important ways: It would direct the City to not “grant monopoly status” to any agency that wants to operate “public mass transit” in the city, and it would directly prohibit public mass transit within the Damascus city limits.

According to the text of the measure, prohibiting transit is necessary, “To insure that the City of Damascus is open as much as possible to the free flow of vehicular traffic and citizen travel within the city…”

According to City Manager Jim Bennett , this and three other measures on the ballot for a March 9th Special Election were brought forward by a group named ASK Damascus

Bennett refers to ASK Damascus as an “anti-government, anti-tax kind of a group” and says this isn’t the first time they’ve put measures onto the ballot. Two years ago, they were successful in passing a measure that requires a vote from the public before the City can increase any fees or new taxes.

Screenshot of banner from
As for Measure 3-350, Bennett says it could gain traction and possibly even pass:
“I definitely think it could get support. In a very small community like Damascus, since we’re so spread out, it’s really hard to gauge public support or opposition, but I’d say it stands a reasonable chance of getting adopted.”
Damascus has just around 10,000 residents, of which there are about 7,000 registered voters. Bennett estimates that, depending on the turnout (which he says would be about 1,500 to 2,000 voters), “it wouldn’t take more than 800 to 900 votes to pass something like this.”

Local transit blogger Chris Smith says that Damascus was one of several cities that opted out of TriMet back in the 1990s because they didn’t feel they were getting adequate value in exchange for paying TriMet’s payroll tax (which is their primary means of operating revenue).

Full text of Measure 3-350

Should Charter be amended to prohibit monopoly status for public transit providers and to prohibit mass transit rail within Damascus.

This measure would amend Chapter IX of the Damascus Charter by adding new language to Chapter IX to read:
Public Travel and Transport
To insure that the City of Damascus is open as much as possible to the free flow of vehicular traffic and citizen travel within the city,
a) the city of Damascus shall not grant monopoly status to any public or private provider of transport or transit.
b) No public mass transit rail will be allowed within the city limits.


  1. I bet Damascus got this idea from our glorious Green Township. Eliminate the public transit and keep those "undesirables" and poor people out!

  2. Bris,
    I think Damascussers are more concerned about keeping the rail parasites from stealing their money. Portland doesn't really have many people of color to keep out.

  3. I'm keeping this in my file for when Todd Portune tries to push his countywide transit tax to fund Metro.

  4. And why is COAST using Damascus as an example? I fail to see why Cincinnati would want to emulate a small town no one has heard of, compared with a city that is vibrant and people want to live in (Portland).

  5. Measure failed by 86 votes out of 3636 votes cast, or about 2.5%. Details here and here.


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