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Marion County voters in May will be asked if they want to increase the number of county commissioners to five from the current three and make the seats geographically based.
The Marion County Clerk's office confirmed that the group "Have A Voice Everyone" collected enough valid signatures — 5,828 — to get the initiative, Measure 24-292, on the May 18 ballot.
This is a great idea.
Marion is the only county of its size in Oregon to have only three commissioners. Two people can run the show, which often doesn't make for sound decisions.
Five heads would be better than three according to Ben Williams, who recently wrote an opinion piece in the Statesman Journal about the wrong-headed way the Board of Commissioners recently went on a land use decision that needlessly sacrificed irreplaceable farmland.
Download Better representation article
If the voters approve the initiative in May, the five commissioners will be non-partisan and elected by district, rather than countywide. More great ideas.
Why should it matter whether a county commissioner has a (R) or (D) after his or her name? We've already got plenty of rabid divisive partisanship at the state and national levels. Local governments should shun those political games and focus on serving citizens.
Who would be better served in Marion County by having a county commissioner represent them who lives in their general area. With the county population being roughly 300,000, if the initiative passes each commissioner would be elected in a district with about 60,000 people.
More people would run for a commission seat under this arrangement, since reaching out to the entire county in a costly campaign wouldn't be necessary.
My wife and I helped collect signatures for the initiative drive. We're glad it succeeded.
As the photo on the H.A.V.E. (Have a Voice Everyone) web site shows, it's crazy that two people can make decisions for an entire county (the woman on the left is the county legal counsel; two of the three commissioners, Sam Brentano and Patti Milne, are on the right -- along with a bunch of empty chairs that hopefully will be filled by two additional commissioners soon).
The Oregon League of Conservation Voters supports the initiative. But this isn't an Environment vs. Development issue, nor a Progressive vs. Conservative issue.
It's a representative government issue.
Citizens everywhere are justifiably frustrated with elected officials, since often they represent special interests rather than the general public.
When a county can be controlled by only two people, unwise decisions are more likely to happen than if five commissioners were at the table. Every other large county in Oregon has recognized the benefit of having more than three county commissioners.
It's time for Marion County to join them. (Here's FAQ's about the initiative.)