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CL EMS measure passes, then fails

A measure that would provide funding for local emergency medical services seemingly passed handily in the city of Cascade Locks during Tuesday’s primary election, with 138 votes in favor and 78 against, representing an approval of nearly 64 percent.

However, the measure technically failed due to a clause in the city charter that prevents measures from passing in non-general elections if voter turnout is too low, according to Cascade Locks City Administrator Gordon Zimmerman, which it was in the case of Tuesday’s election. Zimmerman reported the issue has been turned over to the city attorney for legal review.

How Hood River County Voted:

Here are selected results from Hood River County in the May 20 Primary Election.

Candidates in italics were nominated statewide.

United State Senator, Democrat

Jeff Merkley — 1,320

Pavel Goberman — 34

William Byrk — 45

United States Senator, Republican

Monica Wehby — 623 (50.0 percent)

Jason Conger — 467 (37.5 percent)

Mark Callahan — 78

Timothy Craley — 33

Jo Rae Perkins — 39

U.S. House District 2, Republican

Greg Walden — 1,136 (85.35 percent)

Dennis Linthicum — 193 (14.50 percent)

U.S. House District 2, Democrat

Aelea Christofferson — 691 (62.5 percent)

Frank Vuillet — 195 (17.9 percent)

Barney Spera — 193 (17.7 percent)

Turnout: 3,244 votes out of 11,165 (29.06 percent)

Ballots cast by affiliation (and percent of total registered)

Democrat — 1,492 (46 percent)

Republican — 1,365 (41.7 percent)

Nonpartisan — 397 (12.2 percent)

The measure in question, Measure 14-52, proposed adding a service fee to each city electricity customer’s bill who lives within the “designated or contracted ambulance service area.” The money from the monthly fees — which ranged between $6 and $9 — was supposed to bolster revenues for the city’s EMS department.

Voters turned out to support the measure … but not in large numbers. According to election returns, the total voter turnout for Precinct 12, which includes all of Cascade Locks, was 39.06 percent.

Zimmerman said a clause in the city charter prevents a measure from passing in a non-general election — such as a primary — if voter turnout is below 50 percent, regardless of how much voter support the measure receives.

“If I don’t vote, it’s a ‘no’ vote,” Zimmerman explained.

The clause was added to the charter in November 2008 after city voters put forth a petition initiative, which passed (voter turnout for that election, which featured a presidential race, was significantly higher at 81 percent). Zimmerman said he did not know what prompted the initiative, which was in place long before his tenure with the city.

Despite the low turnout, Zimmerman was thankful for all the votes of approval for the measure.

“We appreciate the tremendous amount of support — almost two-thirds support — we got from the community,” he said.

Zimmerman said the city would likely try to get the measure on the November ballot, but in the meantime, the council might have to make some tough decisions, including budget cuts, although Zimmerman noted he was not sure if that would necessarily be the case.

“We’ve got to go back and figure out what to do,” he said. “Ultimately, it will be a council decision about what to do.”

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