Council approves sending charter changes to ballot


Keizer voters will have the opportunity to update the city’s charter for the first time in almost three decades this November.

If the changes are approved, it will remove the language put in place the last time voters were given the chance to amend the city’s founding document.

The Keizer City Council voted 5-0 to put changes to the city charter before voters on Nov. 3. Councilors Marlene Parsons and Laura Reid were absent. 

“I’m thrilled to see this, it’s been a long time coming,” said Councilor Dan Kohler. 

The council convened task force with an eye toward removing a section that marginalizes LGBTQ+ residents last year. The removal of the offending section, Section 44, was 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, and more readable.

While city staff are prohibited from promoting the charter changes, Mayor Cathy Clark said it was the responsibility of the council to advise voters on why the changes are needed. 

“It would behoove us as council to put together messaging to explain this to voters,” Clark said. 

Councilors Elizabeth Smith and Roland Herrera volunteered to lead the charge. 

Section 44, which was added to the charter 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.”  

The effort to pass the measure in Keizer was a last-ditch attempt by members of the No Special Rights Committee and Oregon Citizens Alliance to put in place such language wherever they could. After several attempts to have similar measures passed statewide, the groups targeted a more limited number of individual cities and counties where they thought the ideas might gain traction. Keizer was on the short list and didn’t disappoint the idea’s supporters when it hit the ballot box. Voters approved the measure with a 55 percent majority. 

Since that time, the Oregon Legislature 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 27 years.