by Kris Bledsoe of Grand Island, Yamhill County. Kris is an artist, clinically trained hospital chaplain, small farmer and retired bank executive. Kris has a bachelors in Economics with an emphasis in natural resource management and a masters in Pastoral Care. She was raised on a small cattle ranch in the Willamette Valley.
On Tuesday, February 15th, I attended the House Judiciary Committee's public hearing on proposed bills HB2181, HB2182, and HB 2610. Since I had never attended a state committee public hearing before that day, I wanted to make certain I understood the protocol. I called Representative Jeff's Barker's (Co-Chair of the House Judiciary Committee) office to get the information I needed. The man who answered the phone was most kind and generous with information. He told me they expected a large crowd so that testimonies were likely to be limited to 3 to 5 minutes. He even told me to bring lots of change for the parking meters.
I worked all morning on my testimony to make certain that I hit the high points and kept my testimony short. I even rehearsed it and timed myself so that I would respect the process. I arrived early and signed in and waited my turn. I was naive enough to believe that this hearing was for the public so every effort would be made to "hear" the public.
Co-Chair Wayne Krieger ran the hearing. First he lectured everyone about being polite and also about keeping testimony short so that as many people could speak as possible. This all seemed fair and reasonable. I came early and was high on the list. My testimony would be even shorter than requested. I had done my homework.
Everything that happened at this hearing was gravely disappointing to me. People were not called in order. People who came even after the hearing started were called. It seemed to be a "club" and I was not a member. Those who spoke represented organizations. Those who were in support of the bills were allowed to ramble on and on. Oregon land use law seemed to be on trial. Representative Krieger did not follow the list at all. By the end of the hearing none of the individuals who were opposed to the bills had the opportunity to testify.
I was frustrated and seriously disappointed. When the hearing was closed I went up to Representative Krieger to voice my disappointment. I was angry and my voice was louder than my usual very soft voice but by no means loud. He immediately said, "geesh you people!" I am not certain what group he was lumping me with but I knew this insult was not deserved. He was very disrespectful. I told him that I had been told each speaker would have a limited time so others could speak. He said who ever told me that was wrong. He, himself, had said that at the beginning of the hearing. When I told him that he threatened me by telling me he was going to call the police.
Let's be perfectly clear. No one would ever consider me a threat. I am a 60 year old arthritic small statured woman. He was on the other side on the desk from me. I was at least three feet away from him and he was on the other side of a big piece of furniture. I, of course, stopped talking but was quite bewildered. It is not okay to disagree with a State Representative? After he left the woman who was standing there told me that he had that right if I made him uncomfortable. There is no way I made him physically uncomfortable. He was bullying me. I was the one who felt threatened!
I learned a lot today. I learned that if you are a private citizen you are not really welcome at public hearings. I learned that the hearing are just for folks who all already spend countless hours together to talk about what they think. I learned that if you disagree you can be arrested. I learned that no one was surprised by any of this. I was naive. Now I am not. I will never go to any public hearing at the state again. I wasted my day believing that this truly was an open process.
I don't expect a reply, just wanted you all to know why us "ordinary" citizens don't come to public hearings. Representative Krieger complained, during the hearing, that they hear from the same voices all of the time, I think that is the way it is planned.
Feb. 16, 2011 | |