Signs can't speak. And yet, they can. Volumes. I'm going to tell you what I hear these two photos saying.
Last Tuesday signs urging a "No" vote on Oregon's Measure 49 sprouted on a Measure 37 subdivision in south Salem. It sits on groundwater limited farmland that would be perfect for growing grapes instead of asphalt.
The next day, the signs were gone. Vandalized.
I wasn't surprised. And yet, I was. Because our neighborhood is full of law and order-respecting people, not the sort who go around ripping down someone else's political signs.
There's a string of "Yes on 49" lawn signs on four separate properties across Liberty Road from the subdivision. They haven't been touched. So what does the disappearance of the "No on 49" signs tell us?
Our neighborhood is deeply frustrated with what Measure 37 has brought us: special property rights for a few at the expense of the many.
Understand: I'm not condoning vandalism.
All I'm saying is that I understand what led someone to do what they normally wouldn't – mess with the property of the Measure 37 claimants (Leroy and Jean Laack, Andrew and Margaret Rainone, M. Duane Rawlins, and Greg Eide).
We've been ignored, lied to, and forced to endure legal injustices. So I found it more than a little hypocritical that the property just got marked with legalistic "No Trespassing" signs.
See those bulldozers in the background? From September 17-21 they were busy building illegal roads on the subdivision until Marion County shut them down.
Does one illegality deserve another? No. But the illegal road construction, which tore up a piece of lovely Oregon farmland known as Twin Hills, almost certainly fueled the flame of someone's feeling: I'm mad as hell at these guys.
I share that feeling.
Playing the land development game as tough as you can by the rules is one thing; breaking those rules in a hell-bent attempt to get construction started before voters approve Measure 49 is a whole other thing (the property will be limited to three home sites if Measure 49 passes, because it is groundwater limited farmland).
A front page story in the Salem newspaper said that Bill Lulay of North Santiam Paving claimed there was an agreement with Marion County to start work without the usual construction permit. That isn't true. Here's what I've been told in writing by James Sears, director of Public Works:
The county did not have an agreement with the developer or their engineer to start construction without a permit.
Pretty simple. Laack and his co-owners started to build roads illegally without either a Major Construction Permit or a 1200-C erosion control permit from the Department of Environmental Quality.
And now they're all huffy about people trespassing on their property.
Guys, here's a thought: have you heard of the Golden Rule? You know, the doing unto others thing? If people see you obeying the law, they'll be more likely to respect your rights.
Here's another source of irritation among the fifty or so neighbors actively opposing this threat to our wells and springs. Over and over again in public hearings the Measure 37 claimants and their consultants testified, "We would never go ahead with the subdivision if there was evidence that it posed a threat to existing water users."
Well, pardon my bluntness, but that was B.S. Because the developer's hydrogeologist prepared a report of water availability in the area. Then, as required by a county ordinance, she submitted it to independent water experts for their assessment.
And it failed.
Legally that should have stopped the subdivision until a lot more information was collected via test wells, monitoring of existing wells, and such. But two Marion County commissioners, Sam Brentano and Patti Milne, voted to allow the subdivision to move forward anyway.
This atrocious decision is being appealed, and I'm confident we'll win. For now, we're left with both a legal and ethical dilemma – one which we feel we're on the right side of, and the Measure 37 claimants aren't.
Because they have to live with their broken promise to the neighbors. They said they wouldn't go ahead with the subdivision if there was evidence that neighboring wells and springs could go dry. There is. That's a fact.
Yet those bulldozers were out there working away last month, putting the lie to that commitment. Illegal road construction following broken promises following a failure to respect a county ordinance.
Which brings us back to the trashed signs. Again, I'm not excusing the vandalism. But when you push a neighborhood around by breaking laws and your own word, stuff like that is more likely to happen.
It's human nature. Treat people like trash and you run a greater risk of getting trashed in return.
So if you've an Oregon voter, vote "Yes" on Measure 49 when you get your ballot in a few weeks (we vote entirely by mail in this sometimes-enlightened state).
Measure 49 will go a long way towards stopping the neighbor against neighbor craziness that Measure 37 has spawned. It will restore much-needed order and fairness to Oregon's land use system.
And I'm confident that will lead to fewer sign trashings in the future. When people feel like they're being treated fairly, they return the favor.