Ted Hallock: a champion for Oregon

Russell Sadler

State Sen. Ted Hallock was as devoted to his constituents as many contemporary legislators are devoted to their campaign contributors. Hallock had a practice of introducing any legislation that any constituent wanted no matter how off-the-wall the idea seemed.

If Hallock didn’t agree with the bill, he would come to committee and testify against it. But the voices of ordinary Oregonians were heard under the Capitol dome, if only briefly.

Hallock, who served 20 years in the Oregon Legislature from 1963-1983, was known for his fiery passions, but he was also a pragmatist who knew when to make a deal. His energy and work ethic were legendary.

Together with Gov. Tom McCall and a Senate colleague, Sen. Hector Macpherson, a Linn County dairy farmer, Hallock played a key role in passing Senate Bill 100, Oregon’s landmark land use legislation, in 1973.

In the late 1960s, Oregonians were living with the consequences of the post-World War II housing boom and its uncontrolled sprawl. The Willamette River and its tributaries were as polluted from untreated municipal sewage as pulp mill and other industrial waste.

Subdivisions were built on farm land with septic tanks which polluted the ground water. Farmers were forced off the land because subdivision residents did not want to live downwind of cattle and dairy farms.

Recreational subdivisions in Central Oregon threatened grazing land. and provided no sewage treatment. Condominiums built on the coast threatened privately owned timberlands and access to publicly owned beaches.

With McCall attacking “sagebrush subdivisions” and “coastal condo-mania” and building public support for legislation, Macpherson and Hallock took on the job turning public support into votes for Senate Bill 100.

It almost didn’t happen.

As the 1973 session prepared to adjourn, the conference committee on Senate Bill 100 struggled to reach a compromise that could pass both houses.

Hallock, determined to produce some land-use legislation that session, locked all the factions in a hearing room and refused to let them leave until they reached an agreement.

It took nearly 24 hours.

In the end an unlikely coalition of urban and downstate rural lawmakers reached a compromise.

Rural lawmakers liked the idea of protecting farm and forest land from incompatible development.

Urban liberals and suburban and rural conservatives agreed to urban growth boundaries that required high density development inside where existing cities could provide water and sewer service at the least expense.

A provision to compensate landowners for the financial consequences of downzoning was dropped after the real estate lobby refused to agree to a real estate transfer tax to raise the cash to pay the compensation. The compromise was a system of reduced assessments and reduced property taxes for the affected landowners.

The bill passed -- largely due to Hallock’s persuasion and pragmatism. And it has achieved it purpose, despite the claims of recent revisionists.

Despite the development around Salem, Marion County remains Oregon’s number one county is agricultural production revenues -- nursery stock. Umatilla County is number two or three depending on the price of wheat. Six of Oregon’s top 10 agricultural producing counties remain in the Willamette Valley because farm and forest land has been protected from incompatible development just as Hallock predicted.

Hallock did not live to see the effects of Measure 37 on Oregon’s land use. But he certainly set the stage for the discussion the Legislature will have on the business Hallock could not finish in 1973.

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