Marion County charter change loses, but isn't lost

By Brian Hines of Salem, Oregon. Brian describes himself as "a progressive blogger who has been involved in Marion County land use issues for some time." He typically blogs at Hines Sight. Previously, he contributed "GOP flack Chuck Adams sleazes up Marion County charter change campaign"

Last night, the final episode of ABC's Lost series was titled: "The End." I'm hoping, and expecting, that this won't be the case with a citizen initiative (Measure 24-292) that was rejected by Marion County voters last week.

As I said in a post-election blog post about lies spread by opponents of the Measure -- notably the Salem Chamber of Commerce, county District Attorney Walt Beglau, and the three current county commissioners -- "Some elections put an issue to rest; others keep it alive."

Meaning, if voters had been exposed to an open and honest debate about the merits of a charter change that would bring about home rule, enlarge the Board of Commissioners from three to five members, and elect them on a non-partisan basis by district, I and other supporters of the Measure would have been a lot more likely to say "the people have spoken."

Instead, the No on 24-292 campaign sleazily run by GOP flack Chuck Adams earned a "Worst Campaign" award from the editorial page editor of the Salem Statesman Journal.

Dick Hughes castigated Measure opponents for claiming ad nauseum that passage of the charter change would result in Sheriff's Office layoffs, even though proponents demonstrated that with the elimination of the county treasurer position and a few administrative staff changes, the Measure would save taxpayers money.

A complaint that election law violations have occurred likely will be filed. But even if these are upheld, this won't bring the Measure back to life. For that to happen, two of the three current Marion County commissioners will need to be replaced by charter change supporters so a Measure 2.0 can be referred to voters by the Board.

These would be Sam Brentano and Patti Milne, two right-wing Republicans. I was pleased to read a Blue Oregon post about three incumbent Clatsop County commissioners being thrown out of office because of their backing for a liquid natural gas terminal on the Columbia River that was highly unpopular with county residents.

Similarly, here in Marion County Commissioners Brentano and Milne have been on the "yes" side of some notorious land use decisions. In my own neighborhood, for example, they voted to approve a 217 acre Measure 37 subdivision on high-value groundwater limited farmland over the objections of the county's own water experts and Planning Commission.

Given that two-thirds of county voters supported Measure 49 in 2007, which protects the very resource land Brentano and Milne wanted to pave over, they're definitely vulnerable to the sort of campaigns that were successful in unseating the Clatsop County LNG terminal advocates.

This year Commissioner Milne is up for re-election. She's being opposed by a strong Democratic candidate, Jason Freilinger, who recognizes that wise land use planning can go hand in hand with economic development.

If Freilinger wins in November, charter change supporters will be halfway to having a majority on the Marion County Board of Commissioners. In 2012, Brentano can be voted out of office. And then Measure 24-292 can be reborn for an informed consideration by voters -- since a charter change will garner a lot more attention and have a more visible soapbox if it is proposed by county leaders.

Hey, it took Lost (the TV series) over five and a half years to reach what was hopefully a satisfying conclusion. Much-needed improvements to Marion County government proposed by Have A Voice Everyone can be accomplished much sooner, even with the disappointing "opening episode" in the May 2010 election.

  • (Show?)

    Thank you so much for staying on this issue so diligently, Brian. I know how hard it is to consistently stick with these stories because of their layers of complexity. I very much appreciate your efforts here.

  • (Show?)

    You lost 77-23.

    To quote something that was said to me after M66/67: "YOU LOST, GET OVER IT!"

  • (Show?)

    Michael, why should I (or any other supporter of the Measure) "get over it"?

    If a basketball team loses 77-23, are they supposed to give up the sport? Or do they practice harder, find a different game plan, and expect to win next time?

    And if the other team played dirty, they'll take steps to be sure the rules are followed in the next game.

  • (Show?)

    Hi, I am big fan of Marion County charter. But they are not playing like they were playing before. Very upset with the performance.


    County Travelling

guest column

connect with blueoregon