Something remarkable happened in Hearing Room B of the Capitol tonight. Twenty eight supporters and opponents of Measure 37, including Laurel and me, testified on legislation proposed by the Land Use Fairness Committee.
Every single person disliked Senate Bill 833. At one point a committee member observed, "Finally, we've brought everyone in the room together on Measure 37."
As the Oregonian reported, SB 883 would give state and county agencies 540 days to process Measure 37 claims filed between October 15 and December 5 of last year, rather than the current 180 days. SB 833 also would fast-track claims for a single-family house.
The committee seems to have shelved SB 505. This is Gov. Kulongoski's proposal to put a temporary freeze on all claims, with the exception of requests to build a single-family home. SB 883 is a wishy-washy alternative that pleases no one.
Laurel and I ended up in the same three-person testimony block. A trio is called up to sit at the testifying table, where you each get two minutes to say your piece. This is excellent practice for pithy speechifying. Time flies when you've got a lot to rant about, and just 120 seconds to get your points across.
While the pro-Measure 37 guy who sat between us argued against any delay in processing claims, I feverishly ran possible jokes through my mind.
A legislator had just made his "we've brought everybody together" comment. I was wearing an anti-SB 883 sticker that I'd picked up in the lobby, undoubtedly produced by Oregonians in Action—my arch enemy on land use issues. It seemed like a great chance to lighten up the Hearing Room B atmosphere with a witty observation.
But the committee chair, Sen. Prozanski, was ruthlessly holding people to the two minutes. Every witticism that popped into my head would take at least 20 seconds for a set-up, punch line, and appreciative laughter. I was unwilling to spend 1/6 of my precious testifying time on a joke.
So I basically read my written testimony with as much pizzazz as I could muster. Which you can read here: Download sb_833_testimony.doc
To their credit, the members of the Land Use Fairness Committee do an admirable job of looking like they're interested in what members of the public have to say. Laurel gave them kudos in her remarks for being able to listen to so much Measure 37 testimony over the past few weeks, much of it emotional.
Of the twenty-eight people who testified against SB 883, fourteen had reasons related to being against Measure 37, and fourteen had reasons related to being in favor of the law.
Dan Goffin, a farmer and member of the Marion County Planning Commission, said that "agriculture has been gut-shocked" by Measure 37. He mocked the notion that governmental land use laws have markedly reduced property values, noting that his land once was worth $15,000 and now is over $1,000,000. "That's a pretty good return," he said.
The most nonsensical pro-Measure 37 statement came from a woman who intoned, "God gave me the right to control my land when He created the earth." I dearly wanted to know more about the theology behind that statement, but questions weren't being asked by the legislators and I never got a chance to talk to the woman.
Before the hearing started I got to meet another of the owners who are trying to develop a 217 acre Measure 37 subdivision adjacent to our Spring Lake Estates neighborhood. He came up and introduced himself. I shook his hand and said, "Nice to meet you. I'm part of the group fighting your proposed development."
"Oh, so I guess you want to make this country into Venezuela and socialize all of our private property," he said to me.
That didn't seem like a promising beginning to a dialogue about Measure 37 and land use planning, but actually we ended up having a pretty good discussion. He agreed with what's becoming my favorite anti-Measure 37 argument: it shouldn't be a guarantee to get rich.
Other than that, we mostly argued with each other. Except when it came to Senate Bill 833. We both were wearing "Stop SB 833" stickers.
Thank you, Land Use Fairness Committee, for enabling Oregonians to find common ground on at least one Measure 37 issue: SB 833 deserves to be dumped.
[Next day update: The Salem Statesman Journal includes quotes from me and Laurel in its front page story about last night's hearing. And an AP story quoteth me even more.
Thank you, AP. I labored for more than a minute on getting the Band-Aid analogy just right in my testimony. It's good to know that effort of that magnitude pays off in press coverage.]