Oregon Communities

For a Voice In Annexations

Promoting and Protecting Citizen Involvement in Land Use Issues

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February 2002 Newsletter

(Note: E-mail addresses in this newsletter have been reformatted to reduce spammers' ability to harvest addresses from our web site.)

February 7, 2002

Dear OCVA Members & Friends:

You’re all well aware that it’s a different world now since our last Newsletter (July 2001). Storm conditions have enveloped our state and our nation. For any of our members who may have been affected by the events of September 11, we extend our sympathy. What can we say that hasn’t been said a thousand times already?

In Oregon, the Legislature meets in an emergency session this month to attempt to deal with the state’s budget crisis. And at the local level, many of our communities are experiencing budget crises of their own, at least some of which are due to state mandates concerning growth and land use issues. Here’s an update of issues in which OCVA is involved:

VOTER ANNEXATION: Our 30 member cities all have budget problems, but at least their citizens have a voice in how their communities grow and in who pays for that growth. Their voter annexation laws give them a degree of control that citizens in other communities don’t have. The city of Joseph is the latest community to approach us about implementing voter annexation. A citizens’ group has submitted a VA initiative to the city council. The council responded with the same runaround other city councils have hit us with, claiming they were elected to make these educated, informed decisions for the public. The council is doing everything possible to thwart the effort. We will continue to work with the Joseph group, and if anyone would like to assist, contact Millie Fraser & Liam O’Callaghan at 541-432-0135. Some things never change. We have also been working with a citizens’ group in La Grande, where the city council is threatening an ORS-195 annexation land grab, just as Bend did 2 years ago.

As we’ve repeatedly stated, passing the voter annexation initiative is only the beginning. It is CRITICAL that the cities then adopt implementing ordinances with specific criteria and protocol. Chief among these are requirements that cost and impact analyses be performed and made available to the voters before any annexation election. This is usually a very difficult process. Why is it so difficult? Once your community passes its voter annexation initiative, the entrenched status quo (building & development interests and their allies on the city council) do their best to prevent its implementation. They often prefer that the voters be kept in the dark about annexation impacts.

Currently, three of our largest member communities are going through this trauma: Salem, Grants Pass and Sandy. You all know what a bloodbath it was passing the voter annexation initiatives in these cities. In Salem, our largest member city, the growth and annexation issues swept Mayor Mike Swaim and a new majority on the city council into power. Predictably, city staff and the building lobby have made an attempt to gut the draft ordinance by eliminating impact and cost analysis requirements. A spokesman for the Marion-Polk Building Industry Association said, "we believe it is unwise and unnecessary to require volumes of new information" (Statesman Journal, 1/29/02).

We’ve enclosed a copy of the Statesman Journal article that covers the story. This is a never-ending tale: Citywatch and OCVA have fought long and hard to require that citizens be provided with disclosure and information. It’s called accountability. Industry and their special interests, as we’ve seen from the building lobby all the way to Enron, work just as hard to DENY citizens critical information they need. Citywatch President Jack Holloway described the previous city council’s deliberate effort to exclude key cost and impact information from the public as "cooking the books." We’re very proud of the efforts of Jack, Richard Reid and the other members of Citywatch for demanding an annexation ordinance with teeth. This issue will impact the mayor’s race.

In Sandy, OCVA Vice Chair Kevin Frostad reports that they have also been facing problems getting a good ordinance on the books (Sandy passed its voter annexation initiative in 1998). Sandy City Councilor Tina Frostad (Kevin’s wife) has succeeded – after 7 months of work in her new term – in getting a draft ordinance before the council for consideration. Tina deserves a lot of credit for her tireless pursuit in this effort.

In Grants Pass, OCVA Board Member Kathleen Doyle reports that their proposed ordinance was rejected by the council. The Grants Pass voter annexation battle was exceptionally ugly. The initiative was passed last year against brutal opposition by developers and the local government. This was actually the second try for the Grants Pass group. Their first attempt drew out all the opposition’s "Heavy Guns" in the state, from Governor Kitzhaber on down, who were successful in narrowly defeating the proposal. The Grants Pass council appointed a task force to develop an implementing ordinance – and stacked it with developers and realtors. We have only one seat out of 11 at the table. This is typical of how hard it is to get an effective voter annexation ordinance implemented.

It takes a special kind of person not to lose heart in the midst of such concentrated, arrogant and oppressive behavior. That’s why we’re so proud of our Board and membership around the state and the jobs they have done – from passing their voter annexation initiatives to developing effective implementing ordinances. It’s not just about giving the voters a voice, but also making sure they have enough information to make effective decisions.

BUDGET CRISES EVERYWHERE: The budget situation in Oregon mirrors the budget problems in most of our communities. The upcoming special session of the Legislature will attempt to address the state’s budget woes. But it won’t do anything to help our communities. Here’s how the Legislature COULD help our communities: Stop mandating that communities subsidize growth. What would be some of the ways to do this? 1) Allow full SDCs for schools, libraries, fire and public safety. 2) Repeal ORS-197.296, the law that requires cities to maintain a 20-year supply of buildable land in their UGBs. OCVA’s Board has already affirmed its support for these proposals and has long supported both. In an effort to build political support for these positions, we are enclosing a cover letter from OCVA’s Bill Atherton, a Metro Councilor, plus two resolutions dealing with both issues. We encourage all of you to present these to your local county commissioners and city councilors so that we can build support with state elected officials. We need to stop these unfunded state mandates! We’re also happy to announce that Bill will be running for re-election, and encourage everyone to help. Contact Bill by email at "atherton AT easystreet.com", or by phone at 503-636-6365.

How did we get saddled with the 20 – year land supply law and no SDCs for "the big 4" above? LOBBYISTS AND THEIR MONEY. How do companies such as Hyundai extract millions of dollars in tax exemptions from communities (e.g., Eugene), only to later shut their companies down, lay off their workers, and demand even MORE tax breaks? LOBBYISTS AND THEIR MONEY. How were Enron and Arthur Anderson (Enron’s auditor & consultant) able to devastate the lives of thousands of people while Enron’s top executives pocketed a fortune? LOBBYISTS AND THEIR MONEY. (OK…Jeff made me do this…IT’S THE MONEY!!!!).

Have you stopped to consider that our rivers are full and the drought is over? That oil prices are at their lowest in years? That natural gas prices are down about where they were (or lower) before last year’s "crisis?  So who’s now pocketing the money from the big rate hikes? How do you think energy "deregulation" came about? LOBBYISTS AND THEIR MONEY! We desperately need a heavy dose of accountability at all levels of government. Let’s start right here – and now - in Salem. We may not be able to solve the Enron fiasco or other national problems, but we can sure do something about plans to cut public services (many of which have already been slashed) to deal with a budget crisis that was created largely through bad public policy. When you "give away the farm" to attract income tax revenue through growth, this is what happens when you have a bust. There will ALWAYS be busts and it’s the communities that will bear the brunt of state budget slashing. Oregon’s quality of life has always been one of OCVA’s top priorities, and that’s what’s at stake in the emergency session. We encourage everyone to contact Governor Kitzhaber and your state elected officials and make your feelings known.

MORE MISCHIEF IN SALEM: We all know about some of the mischief that goes on in the state houses. A good example is HB-2231, passed in the 2001 session. You’d think that, for both energy and environmental reasons, governments should be doing all they can to encourage fuel efficiency. Certain automakers produce vehicles called "hybrids." They operate on a combination gasoline/electric drive system. They are capable of better than 50 MPG. But less gasoline used means less gas tax revenue. So, our illustrious legislators and Governor Kitzhaber decided to DOUBLE THE REGISTRATION FEE ON SUCH VEHICLES to make up for the lost gas tax revenue! And with the current budget crisis, maybe they’ll just outlaw these vehicles in the emergency session! The media are starting to have a field day with this foolishness, and rightly so. We have a tentative commitment from one state senator (who didn’t know about the bill…even though he was part of the gang that passed it) to look at repealing this in 2003.

AMERICA’S FAILED IMMIGRATION POLICY: No discussion of growth-related problems can be complete without at least touching on one of the root causes of growth. Currently in the U.S. and in Oregon, that culprit is immigration. Immigration, of course, is a very hot topic. If you want to see it reformed, you’re automatically labeled a "racist" or a "xenophobe." But some facts to consider: 1) There are now more than 8 million illegal aliens in America. 2) Some of them drove airplanes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. 3) The native-born U.S. birth rate is at or slightly below replacement level. The doubling of the U.S. population in the next century (according to the U.S. Census Bureau) will be due almost entirely to immigration and births to immigrants. 4) The Willamette Valley population is projected to increase by a million people within the next 20 years. You simply cannot separate Oregon’s population growth and land use issues from our failed national immigration policy. The only "solution" being proposed by government is to grant amnesty to illegals! OCVA’s Jim Ludwick is the Executive Director of Oregonians For Immigration Reform. OFIR is allied with other like-minded organizations around the country in an attempt to implement effective and meaningful immigration reform. Jim can be reached at 503-435-0141. OFIR’s email is "o4ir AT excite.org". OFIR’s website is www.oregonir.com.

UPCOMING ELECTIONS: This is an election year. We have always said that the true path to responsible government is to elect responsible people to public office who will make responsible and accountable (to the electorate…not special interests) public policy. OCVA has done well in this arena with members and supporters serving in positions on planning commissions, city councils, county commissions, Metro and on up to the state houses. David Dodds, Mayor of West Linn, has done a tremendous job of turning that city around from its vehemently pro-growth, anti-citizen input policies. People feel as if they’ve regained control of their community. David is running for re-election. The Jan. 28 Oregonian carried a good story about how David’s "slow growth message" is clicking with voters. Even the Presiding Officer of Metro acknowledged that "a lot of people feel that way." Salem Mayor Mike Swaim will not be seeking re-election, but is running for the House of Representatives. We would support Mike for any position he seeks – he’s earned that support! We encourage everyone to support Mike. Contact his campaign chair, Brian Clem, at "brianclem AT qwest.net" or by phone at 503-391-9970. Mike has endorsed Bill Isabell to succeed him. While we don’t personally know Bill, we’ve heard nothing but good reports and trust Mike’s judgement. We urge our Salem members and supporters to protect their hard-won gains in city government by working for Bill’s election. Contact Bill at 994 Cobalt Ct., SE, Salem, 97306 or "imizzy AT attbi.com".

On to the state houses: Long-time friend and ally Barbara Ross from Corvallis is running for Senator Cliff Trow’s (also a long-time supporter) seat. Both Senator Trow and Barbara Ross (when she was a state representative) worked tirelessly to preserve voter annexation against repeated onslaughts by development interests (e.g., SB 1137, SB-500, HB-3389 and others). They also supported us on our anti-SLAPP legislation. Senator Trow will not be seeking re-election. We want to sincerely and publicly thank him for his many years of excellent and RESPONSIBLE service to the citizens of Oregon. The new senatorial district includes not only Corvallis, but also Albany. We need to do all we can to get Barbara elected. She will make a great senator! Contact Barbara’s campaign manager at 541-924-8866.

We have been advised that Rep. Kurt Schraeder (D, Canby), one of our co-sponsors on the anti-SLAPP legislation, will be seeking election to the state senate. This decision was made before the recent court decision vacating the term limit law. Kurt has been there from the beginning with us on voter annexation, SLAPPs and school SDCs. We need to send Kurt back to Salem. Contact Kurt at 503-266-2432. As always, we encourage any of our members to seek public office, or appointments to planning commissions, advisory committees, boards, etc. There’s where the critical policy issues we’ve been discussing are debated and decided. Also, we’re pleased that another long-time ally, Rep. Lane Shetterly, is running for re-election. Lane has supported us on both the voter annexation and SLAPP issues. You can contact Lane at 503-623-8646. We can’t stress enough the importance of getting good people elected!

2002 DUES DUE: Unlike the lobbyists and Enron's CEO (and all his buddies in Congress and the White House), we’re basically broke – and also unlike the above individuals, Chapter 11 ain’t an option. You’ve all heard the story every year, so no need to beat a dead horse. Enclosed is your 2002 dues form. We ask that you continue to keep OCVA in business by returning your completed form and payment to us as soon as you can. We know it’s a different world now and all of us have competing demands on our resources. We hope we have earned your trust and support. Our mission is not finished: there is the opportunity for mischief in Salem at the emergency session, which we will have to watch closely. The 2003 session is less than a year away. We can be certain that there will be repeated attempts against our annexation ordinances, which (like all the previous attempts) we'll need to defeat. Nobody else is going to do these things for us.

During these depressing times, it is important to remember that we still live in a state where you CAN beat City Hall…and OCVA has done it time after time. Oregon is a special place. All of you have helped us since our formation 6 years ago (can you believe it???) to help keep it special. We’re very appreciative of that help as, we’re sure, are most of the citizens in your communities who now have a greater voice in growth decisions. But these are things that will ALWAYS need to be protected. This is how we see our continuing mission. And we WILL continue that mission with your help.

We have a lot to be proud of as an organization. It was not long ago when some of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the state vowed publicly to "kick us in the head." Well, our heads are still attached and held high. Even more notable is that OCVA has accomplished its mission on a shoestring budget (actually, basically no budget) and without paid lobbyists and lawyers. The point is that it is possible to defeat high-priced lobbyists and their money. The emergency session kicks in this month and more key services are likely to be cut. We’d like all of you to consider what impact full SDCs since the 1989 SDC act would have had on your communities’ budgets HAD THEY BEEN ALLOWED BY THE LEGISLATURE! That’s 13 years of missed opportunity!

We’ve all learned recently about the important things in life. We wish all of you a safe and healthy 2002 – and thank you AGAIN (and ongoing) for your continued support.


Jeffrey R. Lamb                  Jerry J. Ritter


This page last modified on 2005-09-19 08:39.