The petition drive to update the Jackson County charter hits halfway point.
Denise Krause reports 5,513 signatures in hand -- 51% of the 10,500 required to get the three initiatives onto the ballot in November, 2024.
Denise Krause is the chief organizer and campaign manager of the Jackson County For All effort to update the Jackson County, Oregon charter. She reported the progress to an enthusiastic group of 100 supporters at a rally at a local winery Friday evening. The crowd included petition circulators and neighborhood team leaders who have been getting the three petitions in front of voters for two months.
The initiatives change terms that were in place in 1853, when Jackson County was formed in what was then the Oregon Territory, and which were maintained when the current charter took effect on January 8, 1979. A separate petition addresses each proposed change.
1. Change the position of Jackson County Commissioner from partisan to non-partisan.
My take: Five commissioners would mean more and better communication with citizens. There are contentious issues, currently about the jail and how best to deal with homeless people camping in public places, that need to be addressed. Commissioners need to hear from citizens; citizens need to hear from commissioners.
Moreover, there is a deep flaw in any three-person board. The Oregon Public Meetings law requires that whenever a majority of a governing body discusses anything related to county business, the meeting must be announced in advance, an agenda posted, and minutes taken. In a three-person governing body, every conversation is a "meeting." Commissioners cannot legally talk to one another if it involves county business. In the real world of co-workers standing beside each other, they can scarcely avoid breaking the law. The legal workaround is unsatisfactory. It requires that communication between commissioners be done through the County Administrator -- who becomes a "translator" and go-between. That substantially empowers the Administrator and weakens the representation and oversight function of commissioners. A five-member board would allow better idea-sharing to take place. They could better supervise the Administrator.
3. Reduce the commissioners' salaries. J
My take: I brought up commissioner pay raises in my campaign in 1980 and urged a cut in salaries. (I refused part of my salary and directed it to local non-profits.) The issue is even more relevant today. There is no real check or push-back in setting the commissioners' pay. They control the purse-strings on themselves. Since they aren't regulating themselves, the public needs to step in.
Denise Krause told the rally that the ballot signatures were going well.
We are 263 signatures over [the halfway point] and just today we got another big stack to put in. First of all this is a pretty easy sell. If you are circulating you find that it is a very easy sell. People want to sign these petitions.
I agree. This is an easy sell. These proposals make sense to people I have spoken with. The complaint is that it should have been done earlier.
There are three separate initiatives because Oregon law requires that initiatives be on single subjects. This is being handled by initiative, rather than the charter change being placed on the ballot by direction of the three commissioners, as it easily could be, because the three incumbent commissioners oppose the initiatives. This doesn't surprise me. They have a sweet deal.
I support the three initiatives. I have signed the three petitions. I have donated to the campaign. I served as auctioneer for the fundraising auction of desserts donated by supporters of the campaign and bought one of them -- beautifully decorated Christmas cookies. This is a grassroots effort, run entirely by volunteers on a shoestring. Jackson County For All has a useful and well-done website.
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