It’s often said that Measure 37 pits neighbor against neighbor. True. But this ill-considered effort to trash Oregon’s land use laws also pits testifier against testifier.
I learned that yesterday afternoon as I fought my way through a crowd of people trying to sign up to speak before the Joint Committee on Land Use Fairness. Fortunately, I found myself standing behind a diminutive friend, Frances Chapple, who makes up in assertiveness what she lacks in stature.
She helped clear the way for me to the sign up sheet. I got on the first page and waited for my two minutes before the committee, which was gathering background information on Measure 37 before drafting proposed changes to the law.
The members got an earful. And not for the first or last time. My wife had testified at a similar hearing last Thursday. Yesterday not everyone got to have their say in the two hours allotted for testimony, so they’ll be carried over to another hearing tomorrow.
It’s an emotional issue. People on both sides of the Measure 37 debate spoke passionately. Being all too familiar with the problems Measure 37 has brought to Oregon, not surprisingly I felt that the opponents had by far the better arguments. Such as, mine.
I made so much sense in my 120 seconds or so, I expected the committee to stand as one and applaud. The packed audience too. But as so often happens, my brilliance went unrecognized—apart from Corbett’s John Christensen, a kindred anti-Measure 37 soul who told me after the hearing that he liked what I said, and a neighbor who phoned today and left some praise on our voice mail.
Soon I’m going to write up a recollection of my largely extemporaneous remarks and submit them as written testimony. The committee members should be able to hold the truth that I spoke about Measure 37 in their hands. And this is: there’s a big difference between wanting to live on land and wanting to make money from land.
[Update on 2/9: I've written up a version of my testimony before the Land Use Fairness Committee. Gave it to committee staff yesterday. Sure makes a lot of sense to me. But then, I'm me. It's short. Take a read:]
This difference is reflected in the governor’s recently announced proposal, SB 505. This would speed up Measure 37 claims that seek to build only one house, while putting on hold other development claims—such as the 217 acre proposed subdivision on farm land in our neighborhood.
Lots of people spoke in favor of SB 505 at the hearing yesterday, even though the Land Use Fairness Committee wasn’t formally taking testimony on the bill. Philosophically it’s in tune with what I told the committee: there’s no reason why people who buy property for investment purposes should be protected from government actions that reduce the value of what they own.
As I’ve blogged before, government bodies do things all the time that change the value of investments. Stocks, bonds, commodities, precious metals, the list goes on and on. So why should those who invest in real estate be treated differently from other sorts of investors?
I told the committee that I owned some limited partnerships prior to passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. A financial planner had urged me to buy them for their tax benefits. Those benefits largely disappeared after 1986.
Did I cry, “Unfair! This is a government taking! Rules were changed in the middle of my investment game. Either I should be compensated for the money that I’ve lost, or the Tax Reform Act should be waived for me because I bought my limited partnerships when other tax laws were in effect.”
No, I didn’t. I never ever thought of this. I realized that investing is risky. Situations change. As they do, the value of an investment rises and falls. If you want a sure return on your money, keep it in a bank account.
Yesterday I heard talk about Measure 37 restoring “constitutional rights.” Huh? The Constitution doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make money on a real estate investment. It doesn’t guarantee that laws won’t change during the time you own a piece of property. Yet Measure 37 is predicated on the assumption that if the value of property has been reduced by government action, you’re entitled to be compensated.
That’s ridiculous. Most people who testified recognized this. They made a distinction between someone whose primary motivation is to live on their land, versus someone whose sole desire is to make money from their land.
A single home on a Measure 37 claim, no problem. A large subdivision on a Measure 37 claim, no way. In between a single home and a subdivision—that’s where the Land Use Fairness Committee will have to strike a balance.
The first hearing on SB 505 is tomorrow at 5:00 pm. Head on down to Hearing Room B at the State Capitol and have your say. I recommend that you get there by 4:30 to sign up early.
If there’s a small retired Willamette University emeritus professor of chemistry in line with you, get behind her. Frances knows how to work a queue.
Lastly, I enjoyed talking with the Measure 37 claimant, Leroy Laack, that the Keep Our Water Safe committee (headed by Laurel) has been battling. We don’t like Laack’s plan to plunk a 217 acre subdivision on farmland adjacent to our neighborhood. But I found Leroy himself to be eminently likable.
We’d shared time on a TV news story before, but had never spoken to each other. After the hearing Leroy approached me and we chatted for about fifteen minutes. Didn’t agree on a whole lot, but that’s okay. I respect his 79 year old tenacity, even though I wish he was determined to leave a beautiful vineyard as a legacy rather than a subdivision.