Council approves sending term limits measure to May 2022 ballot

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Next stop: Tualatin voters

A proposal to amend the Tualatin City Charter to allow the city’s mayor to serve a second consecutive term – even if it puts them over the 12 years of elected service now allowed in any 20 year period – will go before voters next May. 

The Tualatin City Councilors voted 5-2 to place a measure on this issue on the May 17, 2022, primary election ballot at its Nov. 8 meeting. Councilors Valerie Pratt, Bridget Brooks, Maria Reyes and Christen Sacco, and Mayor Frank Bubenik voted in favor of this course of action, while Councilors Nancy Grimes and Cynthia Hillier voted in opposition.

The council’s move, which finalizes the exact language that will be sent to voters, follows months of debate that have generated intense public interest – and disagreement over how the matter should be decided. 

If approved by voters, the new rule would only apply to the mayor, and it also would require the individual to serve two four-year terms on council beforehand. It is intended, supporters say, to allow the person serving in that role enough time to thoroughly learn the requirements and nuances of the job. 

Where conflict has arisen, however, is not so much in the details of the ballot proposal, but in how that proposal got there in the first place. Tualatin residents Susan Noack and Beth Dittman originally asked the council to refer the proposed amendment to voters back in June. Dittman said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic makes the gathering of thousands of voter signatures needed for a citizen initiative impractical.

Many others, however, say that signature gathering is the only legitimate means of referring measures like this to voters in the first place, despite the fact that the council has the legal authority to do so on its own. 

“I think it does benefit the city to be able to have two terms as mayor, for the position as well as the amount of experience it takes to do it well and create regional relationships,” Grimes said. “I just think that being able to do it that way (with signatures) would have been a cleaner process from the point of view of the community. It would have been a more pure process and a less self-serving process.” 

The idea of easing the city’s two-term limit on elected service comes less than five years after Tualatin voters approved that policy by a two-to-one margin in favor.