Mel Cheney

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.

Mel Cheney, a longtime Roseburg resident, is retired executive director of the Community Cancer Center, a former Roseburg city councilor and a Vietnam veteran.

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(7) comments

You can't make this stuff up: There was no bid process; no price comparisons. Just Tim Freeman writing a check from the County's bank account [yes your tax dollars] to his friend Mel Cheney.


Sadly it is going to shock some people that there is deep corruption within our local government, but there have always been deeply disturbing issues with regard to the commissioners. Having watched them for many years I cannot recall them pro-actively doing anything that has had a future benefit for the county, rather they seem to be consistently playing defence, cutting funds, stopping programs and limiting growth. I want people in this position to be forward thinking, perhaps risk-takers, looking for ways and means to benefit Douglas County, not adhering to regressive measures that do nothing but continually keep us on the back foot. Douglas County hasn't been growing for over 20 years and I'm sick of it.


Sadly, Mel Cheney has knowingly distorted the truth in his guest column. The District Attorney tried to pull the same stunt and declare that Home Rule is not constitutional when in fact it is purely and wholly constitutional and the judge has now ruled on this twice.

And, as the former Director of the Cancer Center Mel too worked for a board which by the way included Tim Freeman. Freeman and Cheney go waaaaay back. Of course Cheney wants to keep the Status Quo . . . as his friend Tim Freeman handed over county contracts to him. Wake up Douglas County! A professional County manager has an ethical code of conduct they must follow . . . unlike the behind the door/closed door shenanigans the News Review has already reported on. Yes, do as Mel asks, read the fine print . . . perhaps on the checks he's received from Commissioner Freeman.


Each commissioner now has a personal secretary. Will there be cost savings there?

This fear mongering over the sheriff losing power comes from radical groups like the Oath Keepers. Show me where other counties with Home Rule have experienced problems with their sheriff, and you'll have a point. And why did Gary Lief go meet with Ammon Bundy, the convicted felon who took over the Malheur Refuge?

Representation for rural areas would be better, not worse. Our three current commissioners are all from Roseburg.

Commissioner meetings need to be held in the evening so all citizens can participate. Decades overdue.


Commissioner Gary Leif met with Ammon Bundy? Would be interesting to know why.


You bet, I'm proud that I went over to Harney County. I spoke with all parties, FBI, Local Officials, Local residents, other groups and the Bundy's. I wanted to know what to do, if something like that happened in Douglas County. Also, I got a chance to listen to the Bundy's reasoning. I explained to them, that I believed that they were doing it the wrong way and it should be in court and other ways instead. I also told them I was concerned that someone would get hurt and suggested a legal way would be better. I learned a lot about procedures if something like this happens and what a Commissioner responsibilities are and how important they are. It really gave me a good inside look. Thanks for asking... DC Commissioner Gary Leif


I don't see how this would cost $400,000 more since none of the proposed 5 member board would receive a salary. Is the saving from the 3 current commissioner salaries included in that figure? How many times per month do the current commissioners meet? What makes you think they are accountable to anyone? Do they answer and give the same amount of attention to each person who calls that office? Or do they make sure that issues that are important to them are pushed through? The last commissioner that took time out of his busy schedule to help me was Mike Winters. And he just reminded the planning department that they needed to follow their own guidelines. The current set-up obviously isn't working.

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