Whatever happened to the days of honest debate?
As talk over the proposed Home Rule Charter has revved up in the past few weeks, so too has the spread of political propaganda. Last week a flyer sponsored by the anti-Home Rule campaign found its way into The News-Review. On it, a photo of Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin pleading residents to “Vote No!” on the measure.
Which would have been fine, except for the information printed on the back:
“Stop Extreme Environmentalists,” it read.
“Say NO to your gun rights being taken away,” it pointed out.
“Say NO to crippling the Sheriff’s ability to do his job.”
All points that at best, are misleading and inflammatory, and at worst, are just plain wrong.
There’s no evidence that the initiative is being led by “extreme environmentalists.” Instead, supporters of the charter are a broad-based, bipartisan coalition running a grassroots campaign involving knocking on doors and collecting mostly small donations of under $100. Some aren’t thrilled about the logging in county parks, but their concerns are more numerous and more diverse. Some disagree with county’s handling of the library, for example, or the privatization of the health department.
There’s also no evidence that the new charter will take gun rights away. In fact, the United States Constitution provides evidence to the contrary.
Opponents of the charter point out that the sheriff’s clause included in the new charter says the sheriff will be responsible for “the enforcement of state law and county ordinances, except as determined otherwise by the board.”
It’s a huge leap to assume that a conservative board of commissioners — or any board — would even attempt to infringe the gun rights of its citizens, and if it did, the sheriff or the citizen impacted by the decision could take the issue to court and win because of the protections the Second Amendment offers.
It’s also a pretty weak argument to say that the charter would cripple the county sheriff’s ability to do his or her job. The position would remain an independently elected official with the same obligation to uphold state and federal law. Clatsop County has had the exact same clause since 1988 and the sheriff there said no one has ever interpreted the language to mean that the commissioners can dictate what state and federal laws the county enforces, because those laws trump local law and the power of local government — that’s just how the system works.
The flyer also warns of job loss and a power-hungry county administrator with unlimited power and little oversight.
First, no positions will actually be lost, other than the three paid commissioner seats, meaning only Commissioner Tim Freeman, Chris Boice and Gary Lief’s monthly incomes are threatened, not yours.
Secondly, under the new charter, the elected commissioners make policy decisions and direct the administrator to carry them out. The new administrator does make administrative decisions, but the board of commissioners can fire the administrator whenever they, or the voters, please. It’s the same way most city governments operate, including the city of Roseburg.
At the end of the day, there are plenty of good arguments for and against Home Rule, but because of questionable strategies and deceptive flyers being handed out, our community’s town square has been poisoned. These are baseless scare tactics and we are insulted that the people behind the flyer would resort to fear mongering, instead of fruitful debate, to shape our county’s future.
Because with or without the new charter, your public safety isn’t at risk and your protections offered by the Second Amendment aren’t at risk, because nothing is at risk.
All this decision boils down to is whether you feel a professional manager would help the county or whether the added level of bureaucracy would reduce transparency; whether you want your elected commissioners to work full- or part-time; and whether or not you like the idea of having commissioners represent specific districts within the county.
We don’t have a recommendation on how you should vote, but we hope that our community is allowed to have an honest, meaningful debate. We deserve one.