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For a Voice In Annexations

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 October 2002 Newsletter

October 5, 2002: ELECTION SPECIAL


We’re just a month away from the November general election – and all is not well! We predicted in our last newsletter (June 18, in the midst of the 3rd special session) that there would be a 4th special session and that we’d still be without a solution to Oregon’s budget crisis. We missed on the number of special sessions (there have been 5), but there’s still no long-term solution on the books. There have been some funds shifted around, plus a cigarette tax hike (which is likely to produce LESS revenue, not more, as other states that tried the same thing have found out) – but nothing realistic.

Accounting gimmicks such as these are largely responsible for the mess Wall St., pension funds and our national economy are in. We have repeatedly asserted that Oregon’s budget crises at the state and local levels have a root cause – and that root cause is runaway growth that has not paid its way. But not once did we hear this issue discussed in the special sessions. Nor do we hear it discussed in city council chambers around the state. Instead, we repeatedly hear the timeworn – and thoroughly discredited – argument that we have to "grow our way out" of this situation. We’ll do it by continuing the same old tactics that have gotten us where we are today – and where we DON’T need to be tomorrow!

It starts at the state level through Strategic Investment Fund giveaways. State subsidies are followed in local county jurisdictions by huge property tax waivers and Enterprise Zones for the Hyundais and Walmarts, etc. City governments then have to provide infrastructure and services for the new developments – but most cities have budget crises of their own. The new businesses usually pay well below a livable wage, so the new employees are paying little state income tax. They can’t afford home ownership, so they aren’t paying property tax, at least directly. But they and their families DO use the schools, libraries, fire and police services – which are already stretched razor-thin. To a large degree, this is because the Legislature refuses to allow cities to collect system development charges for these 4 (most expensive) services required to maintain our quality of life.

As you all know, two independent studies – one public and one private – both concluded that growth does not begin to pay its own way in Oregon. But we continue to grow by leaps and bounds. How bad can it get? You read the papers. You watch the news. State Police: to be or not to be? Adequate school funding: to be or not to be? Human services: to be or not to be? Hunger: worst in the nation. School year: shortest in the nation. Transportation infrastructure: gridlocked and falling apart. Prisons: closing – and releasing thousands more criminals to our communities. The list goes on and on. We MUST find a way to fund all this growth – or we’ll NEVER fix this mess!

So – HOW ARE WE GOING TO FIX IT? OCVA believes – along with many others – that part of the solution is to find an additional source of revenue. Many feel this is best done through tax hikes – but that will not solve the ROOT PROBLEM of underfunded growth. OCVA believes it is morally reprehensible that communities are prevented by state law from recovering the true cost of growth. This needs to be changed by the 2003 Legislature.

OCVA further believes that the law requiring a 20 – year supply of buildable land within a city’s UGB forces our fastest-growing communities to accept that growth without providing a means for them to pay for it. This amounts to the granddaddy of all state unfunded mandates. It too must be changed by the 2003 Legislature.

These proposed changes will be fought tooth and nail by the building and development interests just like they have fought us tooth and nail on voter annexation. The same old arguments will be used (e.g., affordable housing…which they blamed on voter annexation, while at the same time they were drafting legislation to outlaw exclusionary zoning!). But ironically, it is precisely these funding issues that have driven the voter annexation movement! To overcome that opposition, it will take another coalition. To that end, as you know, two resolutions were drafted by OCVA’s Bill Atherton (running for re-election to Metro and can use all the help we can give him!). One of these would amend the 1989 System Development Act to allow (but not require) cities to recover through SDCs the cost of schools, police, fire and library services incurred by their communities due to growth. The second resolution would repeal the state law mandating the 20-year buildable land supply requirement.

Letters seeking support for these resolutions were mailed to every city council and mayor in Oregon last April. Cities with a combined population of nearly 190,000 have signed on in support. A follow-up letter to the cities that have not yet taken a position was mailed on Sept. 17. Alternatives To Growth – Oregon (AGO) has joined us in this crusade and plans to do similar mailings to legislators, school boards and associations. We also plan to lobby the League of Oregon Cities to support these resolutions – even though some of their member cities are already telling them to sign on by their support.

To summarize, we have offered two ideas that do not involve accounting gimmicks. They will go directly to the root cause of Oregon’s (state and local) budget crises. And they will directly address the issue of taxpayers being unfairly forced to subsidize growth (to the detriment of both their communities and their wallets). But OCVA, AGO and other organizations can’t make these things happen on our own – we need your help. FIRST, we’re asking all of you to talk to your mayors and city councils. All have received the aforementioned letters and resolutions (remember – these are also available on our website). Find out where they stand – and if they claim to NOT have received these, let us know! SECOND: it’s election time. Talk to the candidates. Pin them down on where they stand on these critical issues.

Remember when the powerful building and real estate interests vowed to "kick us in the head" on voter annexation? Remember how that battle has turned out (so far)? We CAN make these resolutions a reality! SO – LET’S ROLL!

OCVA CANDIDATES UP FOR ELECTION: We’ve already mentioned Bill Atherton’s race for Metro. Getting Bill (503-636-6365) re-elected is more important now than ever. OCVA’s Kevin Frostad (503-668-5236) is running for the Mayor’s office in Sandy. OCVA’s David Dodds (503-636-7341) is up for re-election as mayor of West Linn. All have defended your right to vote on annexations while addressing the fairness issue in growth funding. True change comes with accountable leadership!

VOTER ANNEXATION UPDATE: Lebanon is the latest city to approach us for help on a voter annexation initiative. The underlying reason is a plan to upgrade the local WALMART to a new "superstore." It appears that most people there are against the idea – except the city council, whose attitude, according to Jim Just with Friends of Linn County, appears to be "growth at any cost – damn the consequences!" One of our other contacts told us that the existing Walmart has already killed off a number of the local businesses. Drive through downtown Lebanon and look at the empty buildings.

Walmart’s tactics are well-known. Virulently anti-union, it is your typical low-wage and low (or no) – benefit employer. They have been accused of using predatory pricing to drive a town’s existing stores out of business. In Lane County, other supermarkets (Albertson’s, Safeway, Fred Meyer) are demanding major concessions from their workforces. The stated reason? WALMART. Walmart has several stores in the area and is considering more. Cities, as already mentioned, have to provide the infrastructure for a new Walmart – and we’ve already discussed the other costs involved of such development.

The Lebanon VA initiative was filed on Sept. 27. Friends Of Linn County is supporting the effort. If you’d like to assist, contact Irina Just, President of Friends Of Linn County, at 541-258-8990, or John Puma at 541-259-2296.

In other voter annexation news, the "leadership" of Happy Valley is at it again. Recall that Happy Valley’s mayor was behind the latest unsuccessful attempt to outlaw voter annexation in the 2001 Legislature. Now, they’re trying to suspend Happy Valley’s voter annexation charter amendment for 5 years with a referendum on the November ballot. This is similar to North Plains’ attempt to repeal its VA charter amendment earlier this year. That referendum was overwhelmingly defeated. We’re told that the reason is that the city wants to annex 3,000 acres of land within its Metro Expansion Zone. We can only speculate that city leaders are doing this because they think the voters would deny the annexation.

Speaking of North Plains – we reported last time that the city council, not understanding the word "NO," was going to put ANOTHER voter annexation repeal on the September ballot. But according to our representatives in North Plains, public disgust and anger over being so blatantly ignored by city leaders, prompted the council to withdraw the ballot measure. It seems to us that the councilors had second thoughts about committing political suicide in November.

We, of course, continue to have 30 cities that still have "the vote." We have no doubt that the OBIA and its allies will try again to void our city charter amendments and outlaw voter annexation in the 2003 session (only 3 months away) – just as they’ve tried to do in the last 3 sessions. So once again, we have to be ready to fight. As we’ve always said, We have to win every time. They have to win only once.

EUGENE: A major battle is developing over Eugene’s River Road/Santa Clara area, home to about 35,000 people. The area is currently a patchwork of in-city and rural properties. An "urban services study" has been completed and some city officials are openly advocating annexation. We’re hearing the same arguments we always hear (e.g., "county residents are getting a free ride") and tensions are mounting. We’ve been working with the River Road/Santa Clara Property Owners Association, which does not want the area to become part of the city. Our goal is to make sure these people have the final say on any annexation. The Lane Council of Governments (LCOG), which was heavily involved in the unsuccessful Springfield UGB annexation plan in 1994-5 and the successful Bend UGB annexation of 1999, is also involved here, although (thankfully) apparently to a lesser degree. We expect more cities around the state to mount annexation attempts on their UGBs in the next few years.

STATE ELECTIONS: As we’ve already mentioned (more than once), NOW is the time to be pinning your candidates down on these important issues. We’re trying to do a little "house"cleaning, so to speak. Recall that there were only 4 state reps who voted against our anti-SLAPP bill, according to the House roll call records we received: Cedric Hayden (District 7) and everyone named Smith (3 of them). Our Springfield UGB chapter conducted a campaign to defeat Hayden in the May primary: he lost the election by less than 200 votes – and we think we accounted for a good portion (maybe all) of those. We think we have a chance to unseat Greg Smith (District 57) who recently received some unfavorable press in the aftermath of a run-in with police over an alleged traffic violation (speeding) for which he reportedly claimed "diplomatic immunity." The other 2 Smiths are Patti (District 52) and "Tootie" (District 18). We believe their "NO" votes on HB-2460 clearly revealed where they stand regarding representation of the voters vs special interests.

In Senate District 8, held by the Honorable (and we mean that!) Cliff Trow for many years, longtime friend and ally Barbara Ross (D) is pitted against Frank Morse (R). Barbara (541-924-8866 or 541-752-3605) has proven her dedication time and again to the noble goal of representing the electorate – not special interests. We’d have likely lost the voter annexation war back in 1997 had it not been for Barbara’s and Cliff’s courageous and tireless efforts. She has more than earned a "promotion" to the Senate. In Senate District 20, also longtime friend and ally Kurt Schrader (D) is running against Jesse Lott (R). Kurt (503-266-2432), as you all know, has been in the front lines with us on voter annexation, SDCs, SLAPPs and all our battles. As an added bonus, Martha Schrader, (the brains of the family…so says Jeff) is seeking Kurt’s former House seat in District 39! Martha (503-266-2432) is running against Wayne Scott (R).

In Senate District 17, former representative Charlie Ringo (D, 503-690-8818), who worked with us on the school SDC bill in the 2001 session, is pitted against longtime adversary Bill Witt (R ) who killed that bill by not letting it out of committee, and who has voted against us on everything. Finally, in House District 21 former Salem Mayor, and longtime ally Mike Swaim (503-362-4011) is running against Billy Dalto (R.). Everyone who’s been reading our reports knows that no more dedicated "champion of the people" exists than Mike. Mike has been most effective in bringing OCVA’s issues to the forefront.

Times are very tense and troubled right now for a number of reasons. Despite the major issues now confronting the human race, we are fortunate to live in Oregon. It is a place where concerned citizens CAN have a voice in the process and CAN make a difference in our future. The people we’ve mentioned above and elsewhere in this newsletter are and have been part of the solution – not the problem. OCVA has offered suggestions on how we can confront the challenges of maintaining public services and our quality of life. These people have supported us – and we need to support them. IT CANNOT BE MORE CLEAR: WE MUST CHANGE THE WAY BUSINESS IS DONE IN THIS STATE. The "status quo" isn’t going to cut it any longer. We need LEADERSHIP to carry the needed changes forward. These people, and others like them, can provide that leadership.

The important thing is to understand the positions of your candidates, especially when it comes to the all-important issue of the voters vs special interests – and cast your vote accordingly.

In closing, we’ll again thank all of you for your continuing and tireless, collective effort to support the causes we all believe in. Keep up those efforts – and be sure to vote!


Jeffrey R. Lamb                   Jerry J. Ritter


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