Council takes first steps toward charter review

The Keizer City Council took the first steps toward forming a city charter review committee at its meeting Monday, May 6.

The council wants the committee to take a fresh look at the city charter with one goal being the removal of anti-LGBTQIA language that has been in place since 1993.

The council determined that the committee will be comprised of seven members, two of whom will be appointed city councilors and the remaining five will be registered Keizer voters. The council still has to adopt a resolution that formally creates the committee, but those interested in volunteering will apply through the city’s Volunteer Coordinating Committee.

“We have a tremendous wealth of expertise in our community and the opportunity to bring them in for a short-term project,” said Mayor Cathy Clark.

Councilor Roland Herrera, one of the most ardent supporters of removing Section 44, the anti-LGBTQIA section, said he would like to see a focus put on diversity as the committee is formed. 

“We had one group look at the charter after this language was added and they recommended no changes,” Herrera said. 

While the revising or removal of Section 44, is a priority, the task force is expected to look at other potential changes that would bring the city charter in line with others in the state. Voters will have to approve any proposed changes, but the city can place a measure on the ballot at a reduced cost in 2020. 

Section 44, which was approved by Keizer voters in 1993, prohibits the city from: extending minority status to individuals based on sexual orientation and expending funds that “promote homosexuality or express approval of homosexual behavior.” Voters approved the measure with a 55 percent majority. 

The Oregon Legislature has already passed a measure making all such local provisions unenforceable, but then returned to the issue in 2017 with a statute putting any local government that tried to enforce on the hook for court challenges. Despite the neutering, the language has remained in the city’s founding document for 25 years.