Members of the Keizer City Council unanimously approved changes to the city charter at its July 6 meeting.
As a result of the vote, city staff will develop a ballot measure asking whether voters want to institute the changes. The council will vote at a later date to put the measure on the ballot, but there do not seem to be any hurdles in the way.
Members of a task force, comprised of residents and city leaders, scrutinized the language of the charter during the past six months with an eye toward removing a section that marginalizes LGBTQ+ residents.
The removal of the offending section, Section 44, is the major change recommended by the task force, but its members also found other ways to make the document more inclusive, such as using less gendered language throughout the document. There were also numerous changes to the organization of existing language to make it more readable.
In the final portion of a public hearing at the council meeting Monday, Pat Fisher, a member of the task force, spoke in favor of sending the revisions to voters.
“The removal of Section 44 is long overdue. I feel it for myself and friends and family members that live or work in Keizer. We owe it to them and the next generation and I urge council to move forward with this, but take a proactive stance and articulate the need for the changes throughout the community why it is needed,” said Fisher, who made it clear she was speaking only for herself and not the task force.
Fisher said it should be made clear in the run-up to a vote that there are multiple reasons that make the changes. For some, she said, there will be emotional reasons. For others, there will be concerns about future business that want to establish in Keizer. For still others, it will be a legal issue that Section 44 is outdated and unenforceable.
“We need voters to feel comfortable voting ‘yes’ to approve the changes,” Fisher said.
She implored the city council to take additional steps to promote inclusivity if the charter changes meet with voters’ favor.
“If it is approved, the council should then take up the inclusivity and non-discrimination resolutions,” Fisher said.
She added she would like to see the city council continue conversations on how councilors are elected when the city returns “to a normal public outreach process.”