There are benefits in having lived 66 years. Among them (found under the category “valuable lessons learned”) is the realization that we often feel pressured into making decisions without adequate opportunity to thoroughly read or understand what is being presented.
Honestly, how many people actually take the time to read or understand every single word of every document presented to them at a real estate closing? What about reading the many pages of terms in the agreement when you open an account online with a retail company? I think most of us have, at one time or another, just trusted our title company or assumed that the terms offered by our favorite store or credit card provider were honest and above board. Fortunately, most of the time they are trustworthy and things work out fine. But in the instances when things were not what you assumed or were told, the results can be devastating.
Being retired I now have more time to do the necessary research and thoroughly “read the fine print” before making significant decisions. Also, over the years I have developed a healthy dose of skepticism and realize that when a person or a group of people want me to agree to take some action, change what I am currently doing or buy something from them, it is usually for their benefit and not mine.
Such is the case for the proposed change for Douglas County from a Constitutional County government to a Home Rule Charter. Having thoroughly read this document, I have grave concerns — a few of which I will briefly share.
1. Currently the three full-time county commissioners share administrative duties and are directly accountable to the voters. Should this measure be adopted, a county administrator (manager) would be appointed by a board of five part-time volunteer commissioners who only meet twice a month. This appointed manager would have extensive powers, able to make a wide range of decisions all behind closed doors and would not be directly answerable to the voters. In order for a single administrator to handle the administrative work load of the three current commissioners, additional staff would be required. Estimates indicate this would increase current county expenses by approximately $400,000.
2. Under this new proposal, the county sheriff would be responsible for enforcement of state law and county ordinances, except as determined otherwise by the board. This means that the board could prohibit our sheriff from enforcing existing laws as they unilaterally determine. This would reduce the autonomy of our sheriff, who is an independently elected official and could allow the board to effectively nullify laws with which they may disagree.
3. Currently, all three county commissioners are elected countywide. This encourages all commissioners to pay attention to rural issues and desires as well as that of Roseburg. The new county charter system proposal significantly reduces rural input and concentrates political influence around Roseburg. Of the five proposed districts, all five incorporate large numbers of Roseburg voters.
Are there changes that could be made to improve Douglas County government? Arguably so. But the mechanisms for making such changes are already available and well established. Altering the entire governmental structure of Douglas County is both unnecessary and could lead to serious unintended consequences. Please do not feel pressured into making such a significant decision without thoroughly understanding what is actually being presented and what the so called Home Rule proposal actually states. As for me, I intend to vote against changing our current constitutionally based form of county government.