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April 08, 2007

Comments

It sounds a lot like when the Hanford bomb factory folks held "public hearings" in Portland in the '80s and '90s. A good half the time at the beginning of each session was taken up by paid government contractors and "private citizen" shills who came down from Tri-Cities to speak in favor of whatever lie the feds were selling that particular time around.

Money means everything in our culture and our government is run with that as its priority. With thinking like this, we'd never have had places like the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone set aside (the current ruling group still would like to undo such).

I've heard from Sen. Walker, chair of the Education and General Government Committee. I appreciate her taking time at 3:00 in the morning to reply to me, and have included her email verbatim below.

However, I still think she's off base. The meeting wasn't fair.

A public hearing on an emotional issue that sparked a lot of interest among the citizenry isn't the time or place for lengthy invited testimony aimed at educating legislators about a bill.

Do that in a work session. Don't do it during the time allotted for public testimony. I'm not disputing that Walker asked some good questions. The problem is, virtually all of the people who were questioned were opponents of SB 30.

Here's Sen. Walker's message:
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"Mr. Hines: You can post away as you wish. I run a very fair hearing and will not apologize for the way I run my committee. Without a crystal ball, there is no way to anticipate how many members of the public will show up for any public hearing. Our committee is scheduled for two hours. We went over 15 minutes as it was. There was another bill on the same day to accommodate an out-of-town witness that took 20 minutes. None of the committee members, except for maybe Sen. Westlund, had heard anything about this issue before it came on for hearing last week. And I would dispute the Bend Bulletin's accounting of the air time. If you wish to look at the committee log, please feel free to contact the committee administrator. Additionally, some people were confused when they signed up to tesify. While they may have been against the development, they signed up against the bill, which would have been contrary to their position. Their own confusion made it very difficult to know who was there to testify on which side of the issue.

It would have been irresponsible of me as the chair to not allow my committee to hear some background to the underlying dispute before we moved forward with additional testimony. The Water Resources Department came in at the last minute as a request of the bill proponents to provide further background as to how these resort destinations would impact the acquifer and underground springs for which the Metolius is well known.

I indicated I would be co-chairing a work group with the parties to try to come to some compromise, at which time the bill will come back for further hearing. That work group is scheduled for early this week. Maybe you think a compromise is unnecessary or unwise, but I can tell you the sense I have from my colleagues is the bill was going nowhere in its current draft; even the proponents of the bill were indicating they would be open to some "light footprint" development [emphasis mine]. The issue of local control versus state control is always controversial, particularly when cash-strapped counties are looking for a way to fund services. There are strong advocates on both sides of that issue.

I also indicated that anyone could submit written testimony who did not have a chance to testify. I took my file home this weekend (I got home from the capitol at 9:30 p.m. Friday night) and reviewed all that has been submitted so far, in addition to a DVD the Friends of the Metolius provided to the committee. You don't need to speak orally to have your voice heard. In fact, some of the most profound statements can be found on the Friends of the Metolius DVD with writings back to 1913. I would have loved to have had some of those stories been recorded as oral histories.

If you just want to complain about how the hearing was conducted, I don't find that very productive. Your blog tells me nothing about your position on the bill or what the Metolius means to you, other than a passing reference that you and your wife love the place. It is unfortunate you were so busy being "frosted" that you didn't seem to hear the questions I asked nor the responses they gave. Don't you find it rather interesting the county didn't send anyone with much background on the issue, nor did they have a credible response when I asked about the "affordable housing" piece of their zoning ordinance? You might wish to listen to the hearing again with an ear tuned to a different strategy.

It is now nearly 3:30 a.m. I have had less than 12 hours of my weekend for myself and my family, and need to be at the capitol at 9 a.m. I'm going to bed. Please feel free to provide written testimony to the committee, and to watch the committee postings for the next hearing date.

Sen. Vicki Walker"

I got an email from Paul, a Central Oregon Landwatch representative (see below). I agree with everything he says. You can't speak "truth to power" if you aren't given a chance to speak.

In Sen. Walker's email (see preceding comment), she says that supporters of SB 30 at the public hearing who weren't allowed to testify were invited to submit written testimony.

Well, they could have done that from home, by mail or email, without having to drive several hours to Salem and spend the night at a motel in order to be at a 8:00 am hearing.

Here's Paul's message:
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Thanks Brian. I'm glad you did this. Those with power--govt. officials and billionaire (literally)/millionaire developers got to testify---the people didn't. And I believe all but one of those who testified were getting paid--on salary or paid by developers. Those who were there on their own dime, who had to drive over the Pass the night before, rent a motel room, and take off work weren't allowed to testify.

Brian, I drove from Portland to attend the hearing as well. I work evenings, so getting up at 5:30 am after working until 10:00 pm the night before was difficult. I agree that it was difficult to not be able to testify; I don't have any dog in the fight except my love for a beautiful river that I love to fish and spend time camping near. However, I agree with much of what Vickie Walker stated in her posting; she did ask tough questions of all who did testify and her anger at Jefferson County was clear. It would have been nice to split the time equally between pro and con SB30 from the beginning, I don't know how time allocation is typically done in hearings like this. I submitted my testimony to the committee, I hope Ms. Walker has read it, and I feel proud of the turnout and the fact I made the effort to be there. It is very early in the process, it was an eye-opener to see and hear from the developers. I am highly concerned that Ms. Walker has never been to the Metolius. She needs to spend time there getting a sense of how spiritual the river is. I spend at least 20 weekends a year there with my wife, we don't own property there, I don't believe anyone should, it should be a sacred place for all to enjoy and none to own.
Ervin Siverson

Ervin, I share your admiration for the Metolius. But I still don't admire the way the hearing was handled.

My wife and I testify frequently before the legislature. In our experience, almost always invited testimony is separated from public testimony--especially on hot button issues where a lot of people want to speak.

It was absurd to have staff from the Water Resources Dept., who work right in Salem, talk on and on about the hydrology of central Oregon, while people who took a full day in order to testify sat in their seats.

The committee could have educated itself on its own time. The committee could have heard from the developers of the destination resorts at another time.

This wasn't a subdivision hearing, where a body was going to decide on a land use application. Like Sen. Westlund said, "this is about place, not hydrology" (or anything else).

I'm glad you weren't as offended as I was by the "stiffing" of public testimony. However, when you speak of the allocation between pro and con testimony, actually this didn't happen at all.

As I noted in the post, all of the "cons" were invited to speak. They got the lion's share of the time. The only "pros" for SB 30 were Westlund and Johnson.

I doubt there was a single person in the room, other than Jefferson County officials and the developers, who was in favor of the resorts.

Yet the committee will never know that, having decided to shut the public out of the testifying--other than the one Central Oregon Landwatch guy.

Brian - An Oregon friend sent me the URL for this post, so I dropped by to read it. I live in Canada, and have been to similar types of hearings (municipal, provincial, etc...) where I and others have signed up to speak and then been sandbagged and given 1 minute or less to speak after those from corporations, etc.. have had 20 minutes or more to prattle on, give powerpoint presentations, etc... It's insulting to the public to be treated in this way. The only way around this that I and others up here have found to deal with this kind of situation is to find a large public venue and hold our own "hearings". We did that for an issue up in our own area and filled the place with about 300 people -- far more than the so-called "public hearings" did. We did a lot of publicity ahead of the event -- so much so, that the "corporate heads" called and asked if they could reserve some time to speak, so we allowed that, but ran a timer clock allowing them a top limit of 10 minutes each to speak -- the same limit we gave to everyone else. They came in their suits with their briefcases, slide projectors, etc.. and attempted to hijack the meeting, but we just cut each of them off at the end of their 10 minutes. Things were run fairly, and they just tried to break the rules. We didn't allow that. There was absolutely no doubt by the end of the meeting what the general concensus of the "true public" was regarding the issue. I've seen this type of meeting held over a couple of issues and it really helped a lot in allowing the public to have a chance to be represented. In our case, most of the politicians made a point of "being there" at our meetings as they knew how it would look if they didn't bother to show -- which was good as they were basically "forced" to have to hear the truth from their constituents. Anyhow, good luck with things out there. I do hope that you get a better chance to make your point of view known on this issue.

Another public hearing has been scheduled for 6:00-8:00pm on April 26.
From Chair Walker:
Please note that I have today scheduled SB 30 for a public hearing and work session on the evening of April 26 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to accommodate folks who will be traveling from the east side of the mountains. If we have reached a compromise on this bill, then I will allow the first 20 minutes of the hearing to be dedicated to a discussion of the compromise, and the balance of the hearing devoted to public testimony followed by the work session. If we have not reached resolution, then public testimony will be taken in the following order: people who signed up but were not afforded an opportunity to testify at the previous hearing; any new testimony from members of the public; followed by testimony from the proponents and opponents only if time remains. We will then go into work session where no further public testimony will be taken.

I live in Portland, but share the love, devotion and protection for the Metolius River and surrounding area! I'm hoping everyone can spread the word about the upcoming April 26th hearing in Salem @ 600pm. Please ban together and offer rides/carpools to folks who are unable to make the trip over the pass themselves. Urge people to write personal expressions of what the river and area means to them and why. Submit their testimony on their behalf. Offer support and help make this process "user friendly" to those who might be overwhelmed or confused about how they might be able to help. Thank you!

For more information on Senate Bill 30 and how you can help, please visit:

www.noresorts.blogspot.com
www.metoliusfriends.org

Dear Ervin,
It appears that Ms. Walker did take your blog to heart. It sounds as though she intends to run a fair forum. Your very interesting and witty blog may make a difference in the fight to save the Metolius. Keep up the activism. We need people like you.

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