In September, we called for an honest debate surrounding Home Rule. The jury is still out on whether that’s been happening, but what has become evident is that this issue demands your attention and involvement.
At stake is a fundamental change of government at the county level, something that will affect every single Douglas County resident.
The News-Review Editorial Board has spent the past few weeks interviewing both critics and supporters of the proposed charter, and we’ve remained split on which side to take — but probably not for the reasons you’d think.
Overall, we believe the idea of moving to a charter-like system could be beneficial for the county. The right administrator could possibly help our county on both administrative and economic issues much like many of the local city managers have worked successfully in their municipalities — so long as a talented candidate can be wooed into the position.
We also believe that having five commissioners on the board that controls the fate of more than 106,000 residents, more than 5,000 square miles of diverse lands and a budget that is hemorrhaging cash, is better than a board of three — paid or unpaid. We also see the value in having three elected representatives make a quorum instead of two.
What we don’t believe is that the charter will sacrifice public safety, cripple the sheriff’s ability to do his or her job, or provide an avenue for the systematic oppression of your constitutional rights.
What makes us apprehensive is the fact that we still don’t know who wrote the charter. Supporters told us that it was a group of people who weren’t thrilled with how county government was being managed, but they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, give us a list of names.
We’re not even sure who wrote it, they said.
Which meant we weren’t able to ask why Clatsop County was chosen as the model instead of a charter from a county more similar to our own. It meant we couldn’t ask why the decision was made to take away the commissioners’ salaries, and we couldn’t ask why more public input wasn’t sought during the drafting process.
We asked those questions to supporters of the charter, and we got answers, but we’re not confident they were the right answers, because again, we don’t know whose idea this was.
At best, it’s hypocritical for a group to blast the current administration for its lack of transparency while withholding such information. At worst, it’s deceptive.
So here we are, after weeks of interviews, research and discussion, still hopelessly divided. Ultimately, if the idea of the charter is more appealing to you than the concept of supporting an initiative with an unknown author, vote for the charter. If you like how things are being run, or if the mystery of the unknown worries you, vote against the charter.
Because again, if you scrape away all of the political finger-pointing and baseless bickering by bureaucrats, 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.
What’s most important is that you vote, because giving everyone else the opportunity to dictate how your county government will be run without your input is unconscionable.