Of the Keizertimes

The mayor and a city councilor want to delay implementation – and a public vote – of a cell phone fee.

A group called Citizens Against New Telecom Taxes was founded to fight it, with a goal of putting the telecom ordinance passed late last year by the Keizer City Council to voters in a May special election.

But Mayor Lore Christopher and Councilor David McKane said in a joint statement Monday they want to hold off on enacting a 3 percent fee on cell phone service and various other fees related to telecom technology. Instead, the goal is to have voters decide in November, McKane said.

“I think the recommendation is going to be not to implement the fee. How we do that I don’t know,” McKane said.

“Obviously folks want to vote on it because they got the signatures, so we need to do something to put it to a vote,” Christopher said.

Councilor Brandon Smith added having an election on the matter in November 2011 could reduce costs associated with a special election. When there are more items on the ballot, costs for individual governing bodies go down, he said.

“Also in November you have higher voter participation than you do in a May election, so more voices in theory will be heard,” Smith said.

City Attorney Shannon Johnson said the council would most likely have to repeal the ordinance allowing them to set the fee. In order to put it to a November 2011 ballot, councilors would have to vote to do so.

If the council votes to repeal it, then the May special election issue “would be moot,” Johnson said. “It would not occur.”

This is because the chief petitioners for Citizens Against New Telecom Taxes filed a petition for a referendum on the telecom ordinance passed by councilors. If the ordinance were repealed, then there would be no rule to fight.

However, Johnson said, councilors could still give him alternate directions at the Monday, Jan. 18 council meeting.

Nathan Rietmann, treasurer for the anti-fee political action committee, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

McKane, who was the only vote on the council against the fee, likes the new course of action.

“I think letting people decide for themselves will go a long way in proving the current leadership of the city of Keizer is willing to let the people decide an issue like this themselves,” McKane said. “I think it’s a good thing.”

“We were also concerned about the cost to citizens,” Christopher added.