politics

Baker City Residents Vote To Sell Old Backhoe

By Kristian Foden-Vencil (OPB)
Portland, Ore. May 20, 2020 6 p.m.

Oregon voters were choosing mayors and considering millions in public spending Tuesday.

But in one odd ballot item, Baker City residents were also voting to sell an old backhoe.

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The vote happened because Baker City’s charter — drawn up in the 1880s — contained a clause that prevents commissioners from disposing of any city equipment worth more than $10,000 without a vote of the people. The history of that clause is not clear.

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That meant that in Tuesday's election, residents had to vote to get rid of a 25-year-old backhoe used for hauling gravel and clearing roads.

Baker City voters approved the sale of this old backhoe in Oregon's 2020 primary election May 19, 2020. An old rule in the city charter required Baker City to put sale of city equipment in excess of $10,000 up for a vote.

Baker City voters approved the sale of this old backhoe in Oregon's 2020 primary election May 19, 2020. An old rule in the city charter required Baker City to put sale of city equipment in excess of $10,000 up for a vote.

Courtesy of the city of Baker City

Mayor Loren Joseph is pleased the sale passed. But more importantly, he’s glad an amendment to the charter passed — allowing commissioners to sell things with a simple council vote.

“We didn’t want to have to go through this again down the road,” said Joseph.

The city also held another vote Tuesday on whether to end the $10-a-meeting pay for commissioners. Joseph said with seven commissioners, there’s substantial paperwork.

But residents voted to keep paying commissioners their stipends.

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