Yesterday I listened to the Kremer and Abrams talk show on KXL. The conservative member of the duo, Rob Kremer, was frothing at the mouth about how 61% of the voters had voted for Measure 37 and now a single judge had struck it down, thereby thwarting the will of the people.
Outrageous, fulminated Kremer. He thought Judge Mary James should be recalled. Yeah, that would teach a lesson to judges who have the temerity to be independent and exercise their duty to uphold the constitution. Rob, do you recall the notion of “checks and balances” from your high school civics class?
Sometimes the will of the majority usurps the rights of a minority. It didn’t matter how many people were in favor of slavery, denying women the right to vote, or keeping schools segregated. Society eventually came to see that each of these policies was unfair.
Just as Measure 37 was. Exempting some owners from land use laws just because their property has been under family ownership for a long time is patently unfair. As I’ve noted before, my wife and I live in a groundwater limited area where you have to jump through a lot of hydrogeological hoops if you want to build a house on anything less than five acres.
But a nearby Measure 37 claim sought to put 80 homes on 215 acres of farmland. The claimants didn’t think they should have to comply with a Marion County ordinance that protects existing wells in groundwater limited areas. How fair is that? Everyone should have to play by the same rules when the game is keeping wells from going dry.
Further, it’s obvious that Oregon voters didn’t know what they were voting for when they marked “yes” next to Measure 37 in 2004. Laurel did a lot of calling before the election and she found that most people knew very little about this initiative. Here’s what a recent poll of Oregonians found:
More than two-thirds said growth management makes Oregon a more desirable place to live. Respondents strongly favored public planning over market-based decisions and wanted to protect land for future needs instead of using it now for homes and businesses.So how does this mesh with the fact that Measure 37 passed handily? Answer: voters were deceived by misleading Oregonians in Action advertising. All they saw was poor Dorothy English, an elderly lady who couldn’t build on her land. They didn’t see the reality of Measure 37: irreplaceable farmland being bulldozed for subdivisions.
I believe in listening to the will of the people. However, Oregon’s initiative process is a terrible way of putting our ear to the civic ground. A dull rumble of Yay or Nay is all that can be heard after a vote is taken, not the crisp, clear guidance of a genuinely informed citizenry.
Lastly, how about the hypocrisy of right-wing talk radio? “Damn that activist judge who overturned the voter-approved Measure 37!” echoes over the airwaves.
But why wasn’t there a similar outraged cry when the Supreme Court recently held a hearing on the Bush Administration’s attempt to overturn Oregon’s voter-approved assisted suicide law?
On the front page of today’s Salem Statesman-Journal was a story that said a national poll has found that 64% of the public and 62% of physicians said that “physicians should be given the right to dispense prescriptions by patients to end their life.”
Assisted suicide is a much simpler issue to understand than land use planning. I’m quite confident that the will of the voters is to allow people to die with dignity. I’m not at all confident that Oregon voters want to allow selected property owners to do whatever they want with their land, regardless of the effects on the environment and their neighbors.
First, living in the hills of the Coast Range, I agree with your comments about Measure 37. One thing that our legislature hasn't dealt with but should (if this law ever comes back to threaten rural planning again)-- for those who want to subdivide farm or forest land that they have benefitted from lower property taxes for years, it's time to pay back that difference. They want to reap a benefit from something the Oregon taxpayers for years have paid them to not do. Now they want all the profit but no payback. We don't seem to have very creative legislators or they are on the wrong side of this issue...
Second, I really like your blogs-- all of them. Intersting reads. I saved a newspaper article in August about your site but at that time I was only limitedly interested in blogging. I have been exploring it more the last month and went looking for the article on yours. Great thoughts :)
Posted by: Rain | October 18, 2005 at 09:40 AM
Apparently you do not have property that has been rendered worthless by liberal, antigrowth, anitbusiness, anti-democratic legislation. Yes, Measure 37 does exhibit some whiplash effect, as 30 years of continous erosion of property rights does tend to get your attention, IF you own said property.
Your "poll" is totally suspect because you most likely left out a different choice or point of view that could/would go against your agenda. Perhaps you could ask if the state really needs to totally prohibit the development of property within 20 miles of all the major metro areas? This would leave the other 95% of the land in Oregon available for whatever. My parents split their property near Oregon City over 20 years ago into 3 parcels. They sold one 5 acre parcel that was rezoned to not allow any house, and that owner lost about $50k dollars. Meanwhile, the other two lots reclassified to one 'plot', with a one house limit per plot, effectively making a 10 acre pc of land worthless. This land has had one crop of trees on it in 38 years. It really would have been nice for me to build ONE house on this property next to my folks to look after them in their waning years. I could have put some people to work building the house, and even banked some money so my kids could go to college easier. I know all this has a major affect on your private life, and needs to be stopped at all costs.
It's just that all the 'costs' are born by the property owners that did not have a single say in the rezoning of their land.
I do actually hope that you get the opportunity to have something you own appropriated by the state, all for the good of 1000 Friends of Oregon.
Oh, and the first commenter, if this realtively small tax abatement was paid back you would have no problem with Measure 37?
I think your agenda is showing thru.
Posted by: dave | October 18, 2005 at 10:20 AM
no, I would still not favor it, and I live on a farm that receives that tax break (which also cannot be divided). I would hate to lose the break which to you might not seem like much but has been a big help to us. I also would like to see Oregon stay with farm land being farm land and not like so many other states with subdivisions popping up haphazardly.
If someone wants to care for aging parents on any rural property, you can put a mobile home there with a deferral for the purpose of a parent who needs help. We did that on our farm and it stayed until both parents had died. It won't profit anyone with something to sell later; but if the real desire is helping out the folks, it works.
Posted by: Rain | October 18, 2005 at 01:25 PM
The poll mentioned in the post was done by Oregon Business Association and PSU. OBA is a non-partisan organization.
Posted by: Sid | October 18, 2005 at 03:48 PM
No one has ever said you would lose your tax break, that would occur only if you developed your property.
So the real crux is profit? Seems somewhat un American to be against profit.
But then, if you think that your opinion about someone else's private property matters legally, then that kind of shows your basic mindset, worldview, etc.
And Sid, OBA might be non-partisan, but is strictly left politically. Semantics. The truth is you believe your property rights to water supercede someone else's, even though they had those rights to begin with. I guess it's as long as it is not your ox?
Posted by: dave | October 19, 2005 at 12:21 PM
Being a youngster and having to see all of this political garbage thats being spewed back and forth, It would be nice if people took a step back started speaking english once again.
mesure 37 does what now? It was told to me they couldn't change the land value on property i own. So, the goverment would have to pay me if it de-valued my land? Or lets say i want to buy property, i can't develope my own land? Im all for regulations that prevent sewage and other non-friendly things into the enviroment, but the less goverment is involved with anything that involves people the better.
Lets get rid of the red tape that is our goverments B.S. Its time for a clean slate people. And no, its not by my hand that it will happen.
FYI, get a food supply.
Posted by: Isaac | October 20, 2005 at 01:26 AM