A miniature horse belonging to the 11-year old daughter of a woman fighting an adjacent Measure 37 claim in Yamhill County has been killed—shot through the eye with a pellet gun.
The News-Register headlined its story about the multiple shootings (another horse was injured) "Land-use feud colors shooting probe." A week after Michelle Michelsen filed a LUBA appeal on the 12-lot proposed subdivision next to her property, the horses were shot.
Pretty darn suspicious. Not surprisingly, the investigation is centering on John Kroo, the Measure 37 claimant. The newspaper story says:
Before she opted to take the case to LUBA, which could lead to a lengthy delay, Michelsen said she got a letter from Kroo warning there could be "consequences" if she continued to throw up legal roadblocks. She told the News-Register she turned the letter over to law enforcement officials.
She said she decided not to pursue the threat issue further, however, after the county sent Kroo a letter warning him against engaging in any direct contact with her with regard to their land-use dispute.
Given that backdrop - and the fact the horses were grazing in a remote pasture, unlikely to attract the attention of outsiders and requiring the perpetrator to climb over a fence to gain access - the Measure 37 fracas quickly came to her mind when she discovered the horses had been shot.
Now, it's possible that someone had another reason for shooting a horse in the brain. But that's unlikely.
Regardless, this is an opportunity for everyone involved in the debate over the fate of Measure 37 to step back and consider how they're contributing to an atmosphere where passions too often outweigh reason.
I'll start with myself. I often blog about Measure 37. I sometimes go over the top in my language when I'm seriously irritated about a land use injustice. But that's rare. Almost always I focus on facts, not raw emotion.
And I'm proud that I get along with Leroy Laack, the Measure 37 claimant whose 42-lot subdivision we and our neighbors are fighting. He and I disagree about his development plans. We agree about the need to remain as civil as possible, even in the midst of heated appeal hearings.
A lot more blame for inflaming property rights passions has to go to Oregonians in Action. At the moment their web site is unnaturally calm.
However, not too long ago it was filled with large fonts, red "ink," and exclamation point-filled warnings that the legislature was about to take ALL YOUR RIGHTS AWAY!!!!! Which wasn't true at all.
The bill they were up in arms about, HB 3569, is dead. It would have put a hold on large claims until the fall vote on a Measure 37 fix. I wasn't wild about it, but I give a lot of credit to Reps. Brian Clem and Vicki Berger for seeking the middle ground on a polarizing issue.
Shock! A Salem Democrat and a Salem Republican got together and came up with a mutually agreeable bill. What's shocking is that this should be such a shock. Bipartisanship used to be an Oregon hallmark.
Not any more, by and large. And especially not with Measure 37 reform.
It's an open secret that Republican moderates in the state legislature say privately that Measure 37 needs to be fixed. However, publically they still are being yanked around by the Republican leadership and Oregonians in Action.
So some of the blame for creating a climate where horses get killed over Measure 37 falls on Republicans who won't move an inch on a ballot initiative whose failings are so obvious, it needs to be shifted by a mile.
A Measure 37 fix should have been passed directly this session, not referred to the voters. Now we're going to have to suffer through more than four months of the-sky-is-falling rhetoric. Mostly from the pro-Measure 37 side, I'll predict.
Hopefully the death of a little girl's horse will wake Oregonians up to the need to reform Measure 37 so it doesn't cause more senseless conflict between neighbor and neighbor.
Michelsen said that Kroo was "like a father" to her before their land use dispute.
Before Measure 37 changed everything, Michelsen said, "He told me he did not want to see anybody develop the land. I said, 'That's great. I'm a country girl, and I want the country to be the country.'"
Most Oregonians agree, I'm pretty sure. We'll find out in November. Until then, let's ratchet down the extreme rhetoric on both sides of the Measure 37 debate.
One horse killing is way too many.