Clackamas County considers a 5-person nonpartisan board

On Thursday (and again on June 28), Clackamas County's three-member County Commission will consider a report from a citizen task force that recommends that the County shift to a five-member County Commission.

In addition, the task force recommended that the board shift to a nonpartisan format, but that the members continue to be elected county-wide and to four-year terms. One of the five members would be elected by voters as the Board Chair.

(Multnomah County, for example, elects a board chair county-wide, is nonpartisan, but is divided into four districts.)

Currently, members of the Commission are unable to meet informally to discuss issues - since any gathering of two Commissioners constitutes a quorum.

From the Oregonian:

Three people can't represent a population of 365,000, Verne Duncan, chairman of the task force, said. The board of commissioners have too much work for just three people to do, he said. "You need additional support."

The larger board of commissioners should be nonpartisan, because the Democratic and Republican philosophies on divisive topics such as abortion have little bearing on the kinds of decisions that commissioners make, such as where the county should build bridges, task force members said.

The commissioners should be elected countywide so politicians won't have drawn-out battles about district lines, task force members said.

If the Commission accepts the recommendation, voters would consider the change during the November 2007 election. If approved, two members would be elected in 2008 - and three in 2010.

Read the Oregonian coverage. See who was on the task force. Read the report (PDF).


  • Garlynn -- (unverified)

    These are excellent recommendations, and would lay the groundwork for good government in Clackamas County that has been missing thus far.

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    I certainly hope this goes through. I can't imagine sitting on a board where you can't even talk with another member of the Commission without it falling under open meetings rules. After all, it only takes 2 people to have a quorum.

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)

    This is an excellent idea. Unfortunately, this is Clackamas County we are talking about here. County voters are notoriously negative - it was big news when they finally passed a law enforcement levy recently, after turning down any tax measure for years, even one to support libraries. All it will take is for some demagogue to start ranting about "two more paid elected leeches sucking from the taxpayer's teat, along with all their bureaucratic flunkies" and the measure will go down in flames.

    Or maybe I'm just a cynic ...

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    The five person board would be a big improvement. I would prefer commissioners elected by district as opposed to at-large in order to increase local accountability and decrease campaigning costs. A large portion of the money raised by commission candidates comes from business interests that either contract with the county or depend on county policy to establish their business environment. This makes it quite difficult for commissioners to make decisions in the best interest of county voters when affected business interests do not agree.

    UPO, unfortunately, makes a valid point.

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    I was thinking the same thing. Would also make all parts of the county feel like they are represented. I know eastern Clackamas County often feels left out of things.

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    Now there's a good pickup line to use in Oregon City bars:

    "Hey, what say you and I form a Clackamas quorum tonight?"


  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)

    Garlynn: These are excellent recommendations, and would lay the groundwork for good government in Clackamas County that has been missing thus far.

    Bob T: Well, non-partisan is the way to go (or back to) whether it lays "the groundwork for good government" or not. Portland is a good example of how a non-partisan local governing body can be non-partisan and un-good government at the same time.

    Bob Tiernan

  • Eric J. (unverified)

    Portland is also an example of making mountains out of molehills. Re: Randy Leonard, duct taped sidewalks, and IKEA signs.

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    Tom & Jenni --

    If you check out the task force report, you'll see that they considered a bunch of other ideas - including districts - but decided to keep it simple... mostly to address UPO's concerns - and make sure it passes.

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    Yea, I saw that. I can understand wanting to stay simple to get it passed. But those who live in areas of the county that already feel under-served are more likely to vote "no" because they don't see this as helping them. It'd be interesting to know he make-up of the task force, as far as what areas of the county the people are from. Often times, those in the areas that feel under-served will not participate.

    Districts aren't too bad of an idea. Here in Gresham, from what I can tell 5 of the 7 members of the council (including the mayor) all live in the same precinct. A sixth lives in the precinct next-door.

    And before anyone starts thinking "well Gresham is small, that's not unusual..."

    • Gresham is not small - it is about to hit 100,000 residents. It is the fourth largest city in the state.

    • There are 13 precincts in the city

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    Verne Duncan, Milwaukie - Chair Gregory Chaimov, Milwaukie - Vice-Chair Glen Boreth, Molalla David Bugni, Estacada Chris Groener, Oregon City Michael Jordan, Canby James Kosel, Oregon City Cynthia Mohiuddin, Lake Oswego Linda Moraga, Clackamas Ray Phelps, Lake Oswego Ernest Platt, Damascus Susan Trotter, Milwaukie Gregg Weston, Lake Oswego

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    p.s. Seems heavy on Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, and Oregon City. Only one from unincorporated Clackamas (the folks that have the most at stake with the county government) - and seemingly nobody from Damascus or Happy Valley, the high-growth areas.

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    Nobody from Boring or Sandy, either.

    As I figured, it's pretty heavy on western Clackamas County. That pretty much follows the trend for areas that feel left out - they're less likely to get involved since they feel they won't be listened to anyway. Many feel it would just be a waste of their time.

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    I suspect that they focused more on other sorts of diversity - rather than geographic.

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    If it's like a lot of these boards, they didn't have many people interested.

    They have to remember, though, that you need geographic diversity as well. Especially when it is something that will be coming up for a vote and you have a large portion of your represented region that is unhappy with you.

  • Meg R (unverified)

    "Nobody from Boring or Sandy, either."

    Or the entire mountain on up to Govt Camp either. Those of us here in eastern Clackamas County have long lived in a no-man's land as far as any county services go.

    Try making it down to Milwaukee from up here to apply for food stamps or other services when you have no transportation.

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    Meg R:

    Exactly. I've always felt geographical diversity is important on task forces such as these.

    And I know what you mean - it isn't easy to do. I had to do the trek into Portland (closest place was near 122nd/Division) when we were on WIC. Thankfully there was a food stamp office in Gresham. But then there's all the requirements that go with WIC, like going to educational classes. And trying to get in to go through the class so you can get the farmer's market vouchers.

    It's even harder in Clackamas County where many people on the east side are without public transportation.

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