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March 17, 2010

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Good analysis. I think we need to stress that these are non-partisan positions. If you are fed up with the failure of partisan officials to do the public's work, this alone should be reason to vote for the charter.

Right on! And on top of this is the fact that the opposition assertion that passing home rule charter would result in less representation for rural parts of the County overlooks a critical fact: they are under-represented now!

Let us not fix what isn’t broke. In my lifetime home rule charters have been referred to Marion County voters three times and all three times it was defeated. The creators of measure 24-292 have brought this issue to voters because of differences in opinions on land use planning.

The real issue is control. With three commissioners, each is elected by and is a representative for the entire county. Proponents of Measure 24-292 have suggested that having five commissioners instead of three will allow the board to be more “collaborative.” A glass of wine after work and private meetings behind closed doors two by two by two by two is not my idea of more “collaborative.”

You may remember this type of decision making happened with a rather large decision in Multnomah County. The decision made by this type of back door “collaborative” system required by law the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. No notice. No citizen testimony. No public meetings.

This same type home charter process has Lane County, the proponents model for success, in a lawsuit for breaking Oregon’s public meeting law. This is not how Marion County does business.

Marion County Commissioner’s office has an administrative budget of $1.9 million. Lane County Commissioner’s office has an administrative budget of$ 3.1 million. Saying that Measure 24-292 won’t cost tax payers more is a bad joke.

In a recessionary climate we need job creation and transparency in government. The last thing we need is a law that protects secrecy and encourages back room deals. We were smart enough to vote “no” the last three times this politically disguised collaborative system was proposed. Let’s make sure we are smart enough to vote “no” again.

Concerned Citizen, I don't see what you're concerned about. Virtually every governmental or elected body has more than three members. The U.S. Senate has 100, the U.S. House of Representatives has 435. The Oregon Senate has 30, the Oregon House has 60. The Salem City Council also has more than three members. Three is by far the exception, not the rule.

These other bodies do just fine with "two by two" (or whatever) conversations between decision-makers. It's ridiculous to claim that only a deliberative body with a maximum of three people can make open, fair, and transparent decisions.

In the case of the commissioners, their assistants have to do the negotiating, since two commissioners can't talk to each other about an issue due to Oregon's open meeting law. So now unelected staff assistants have big roles in decisions, which is the sort of hidden government most Oregonians don't want.

Blogger Brian:

You missed the point. When there are five commissioners, meeting two by two, can be extremely effective. When you have 30 or 60 or 100, it is not.

Going to five commissioners is a set-up for back-room deals. Right now the commissioners cannot meet without it being open to the public. Should this measure pass, then two of them can meet, and talk about whatever they want, policies included. Then, they can go to another commissioner and talk, in twos, and the public doesn't have to be informed.

Not only that, saying this form of government is "more representative" is a lie. I live in South Salem and right now, I get a say in ALL three Marion County Commissioners. If we go to five, I only get a say in ONE elected commissioner. That is LESS representation, regardless of how it's spun.

This is a bad measure.

No, I consider that it is you, not me, who has missed the point. In any Oregon governmental body the public meeting law allows any number of members short of a quorum to get together and discuss a policy issue.

In a five member body, that allows two members to meet. In a nine member body, that allows four members to meet. Every governmental body allows this, other than an archaic three member board like Marion County has -- where the members have to hire high-paid assistants to do their getting together for them in order to avoid running afoul of the public meeting law.

The Keizertimes has endorsed Measure 24-292, offering up some great reasons for voting "Yes." Read them here:
http://keizertimes.net/?p=685

Excerpt:

"Making the ballot non-partisan will not remove the influence of party politics, nor will it transform the local political scene to more resemble Multnomah than Marion County.

What it will do is give voters more choices, a wider palette of ideas for where our county should go. County commissioners’ political sensibilities should reflect the voters in their area.

A very smart person reminded us recently, there’s no such thing as a Republican or Democratic pothole. It’s just a pothole that needs to be fixed.

To extend the metaphor, this isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. In the end, it’s a lack of local accountability or representation, and a lack of ballot access, that needs to be fixed. It’s for that reason we support Measure 24-292."

Back door deals will happen if the commission goes to five. It happened in Multnomah County and it is happening in Lane County (which is being sued for illegal meetings).

When has expanding government ever cost less? Never. This will cost more money, especially when they "cut" those advisory positions, then realize how much work there is, and have to hire people back. In addition, when they cut the treasurer's position, that work will have to go some place, right? Someone has to be accountable for a $300 million-plus budget. You don't just plop that down on anyone's lap.

And finally, one of the worst things about this charter is if passed, commissioners can raise taxes without voter approval. Currently, they cannot do that.

This is a bad, bad measure.

No, it sounds like you think government is working just fine, and doesn't need any changing to make politicians more accountable to voters/taxpayers.

Well, you're welcome to your opinion. But you're in the minority. Polls show that most people are mad as hell at how government -- county, state, federal -- is kowtowing to special interests and has forgotten how to work for the people who elected them.

Measure 24-292 will allow Marion County voters to elect non-partisan commissioners by district, which will help assure that the commissioners are accountable to regular citizens rather than the Chamber of Commerce types who are leading the fight against the Measure.

No, what this measure will do is cater to special-interest groups who have commissioners in their back pockets and allow the citizens of Marion County to get taxed even more ... without having a say.

Government is NOT working fine right now. Look at the White House. Look at Congress. Look at the Oregon Legislature. All of them think raising taxes in a down economy is a GOOD thing. Just what we need ... more government ...

No, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. The voters will decide.

When you refer to special-interest groups who have commissioners in their back pockets, I assume you mean the large businesses who control the Salem Chamber of Commerce -- which is the main group opposed to this initiative.

But the Measure is trying to bring more accountability to ordinary citizens into county government. So this is why special interests like the Chamber of Commerce are opposed to it. To my mind that's a fine reason to vote for the Measure.

Since you're a believer in open government, why don't you share your real name and background, like I do? That would help me and others understand "where you're coming from," as the saying goes.

Blogger Brian is your name and displays your background?

You keep referring to the Chamber of Commerce ... but what about the special interest groups who support the measure? League of Women Voters, Audubon Society?

This charter was brought to the voters by land-use activists. Plain and simple.

And there is no accountability in the new form of goverment ... they can meet in private, and I, as a voter, can only have a say in one of the commissioners, not all three like I currently do. Any way you try and spin it, that is less say.

My name is Brian Hines. It's on my blog, in the left sidebar. You can visit my website and learn all about me.

Obviously you're strongly interested in Measure 24-292. Why don't you share your name and background, as I have?

Several of your comments decried the supposed secrecy that the Measure would bring to Board of Commissioners deliberations, yet you seem reluctant to be open about your own motivations for opposing the Measure.

I believe in openness and transparency. That's one of the reasons I support the Measure, since it will bring more accountability to county government.

If you feel the same way, I assume you won't mind using your real name and sharing some personal details about yourself so others who read this post will be able to know who has been having this comment conversation.

It's not about me - it's about the charter.

There is no "supposed secrecy" - look at the Lane County lawsuit.

It's funny, but you keep saying the same things over and over ... and yet don't want to address the concerns I have brought up.

That sounds exactly like the proponents.

Your concerns don't make sense, so how can I address them? If a child is afraid of the Boogie Man under the bed, all an adult can say is "there's no one there; your imagination is making him up."

Same applies to the untruths being spread by Dick Withnell, Mark Shipman, and other Salem Chamber of Commerce types. They're trying to scare Marion County citizens into voting "no" on the Measure because they don't have any good arguments to use against the measure.

I've debunked those boogie man myths in several posts:

http://hinessight.blogs.com/hinessight/2010/04/no-on-measure-24292-letter-is-full-of-untruths.html

http://hinessight.blogs.com/hinessight/2010/04/marion-county-charter-change-desperation-breeds-deception.html

And here's a Keizertimes editorial in favor the Measure that offers up further reasons to vote "yes."

http://keizertimes.net/?p=685

Here, be specific (I won't hold my breath):

More representation? How is only getting to vote for one commissioner, as opposed to all of them, better for the county?

Taxation. How is allowing commissioners to tax the people of Marion County without voter approval a good thing?

How is being able to circumvent public meeting laws a good thing for Marion County and its people?

Why is it that those in favor of the measure talk about groups who endorse it, yet when a group opposes it, it's a "special interest" group? Seems hypocritical to me.

Great for the Keizer Times. I believe the paper in Woodburn came out against it, didn't it? Let me guess: the Keizer paper is full of "truths" because it spoke in favor of it, but the paper that spoke out against it was full of "untruths" - right?

The bottom line is more government has never, in the history of this country, or state, cost less.

No, here's some responses:

You say: "More representation? How is only getting to vote for one commissioner, as opposed to all of them, better for the county?"

I say: This is exactly how representation works at the city (Salem), state (Oregon), and national (United States) levels. We elect people who represent us at a "district" level. I don't want every state representative to be elected statewide, just as I don't want every county commissioner to be elected countywide. You want a lot of distance between elected officals and the people they represent; I want less distance.
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You say: "Taxation. How is allowing commissioners to tax the people of Marion County without voter approval a good thing?"

I say: Show me how this can happen under the proposed Charter.

The HAVE website addresses this myth:
http://www.haveavoiceeveryone.org/web-content/pages/myth12.html

"There is nothing in the Charter that allows this (raising taxes without a vote of the people).

ORS 203.055 Referral or revenue related ordinance.

Any ordinance, adopted by a county governing body under ORS 203.035 and imposing, or providing and exemption from, taxation shall receive the approval of the electors of the county before taking effect. [1973 c.282 §6; 1975 c.736 §3]"

Why do you make stuff up? It's amazing how the opponents of the Measure are so willing to fabricate deceptive untruths. People are fed up with this sort of political game-playing.
------------

You say: "How is being able to circumvent public meeting laws a good thing for Marion County and its people?"

I say: This is an utter falsehood. The Charter doesn't change Oregon's public meeting law. Again, stop spreading lies.
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You say: "Why is it that those in favor of the measure talk about groups who endorse it, yet when a group opposes it, it's a "special interest" group? Seems hypocritical to me."

I say: I call the Chamber of Commerce a special interest group, because it represents the interests of a narrow subset of county residents. If you disagree, that's fine.

I'll agree, though, that every group, and every individual, has unique interests. The question is how general these are, how much they reflect the interests of the citizenry at large, versus a few.

I used to belong to the downtown Salem Rotary Club, which was open to a wide variety of people -- including business owners, who I enjoyed meeting and talking with.

But I couldn't belong to the Salem Chamber of Commerce, because it is a much narrower organization. That's why I call it a more special "special interest" than other groups with broader public representation.

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