Two Jackson County land-use ballot measures miss the mark

In the May 2012 primary election, Jackson County citizens will be voting on two citizen initiatives primarily dealing with amending our county charter and land-use issues. They are Ballot Measures 15-110 and 15-111.

While well-intentioned, these initiatives miss the mark in several critical areas. While our county charter allows for some leeway in how we can conduct business as a county in a number of areas, it does not allow for us to circumvent state law or the state Constitution.

While I personally have never been a fan of many aspects of Senate Bill 100 and have often stated that more local discretion and control is needed, these initiatives create legally challengeable issues and appear to be unconstitutional as well. I fully realize that for many, this is a very emotional issue, and makes for great rhetoric by aspiring politicians during an election season. These measures are simply the wrong way to go about the process of making meaningful change.

Ballot Measure 15-110 creates generalized statements of policy without defining or revealing the full impacts of that policy if written into the charter.

Ballot Measure 15-111 in essence creates an unfunded mandate, at unknown costs, and attempts to resurrect Measure 37 claims that were granted by the county which, in turn, were nullified by the passage of Measure 49, an action subsequently affirmed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. All of those efforts by the county were to adhere to the laws that were passed by the citizens of the state of Oregon, not just Jackson County. To have done otherwise would have been a violation of state law.

There is another answer that is being finalized as of this writing. House Bill 4095 allows for the creation of regional definitions of farm and forest land.

This was a bipartisan, collaborative effort to correct long-standing errors on certain land designations in Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties. Our local legislators were instrumental in bringing HB 4095 forward as a pilot project.

Jackson, Josephine and Douglas County planning staff as well as our legislators have for the better part of a year been working diligently to bring this forward and finalize the details for implementation including obtaining funding for the work to be done. This was no small task and it required multiple partners in the process, including Oregonians in Action. Gov. John Kitzhaber is finalizing an executive order putting this law into effect. This is how the process can work to our benefit.

Ballot Measures 15-110 and 15-111 speak to long-standing frustration with Oregon land-use laws as applied in Jackson County, but please do not be misled by the political hype and hyperbole. Measures 15-110 and 15-111 will only confuse, compound and cost time and dollars in legal challenges to the county if the measures are passed. The decision is ultimately yours.

C.W. Smith is a Jackson County commissioner.

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