The League of Women Voters recently hosted a public meeting about Douglas County’s local government options that drew 100-plus people. Two speakers from Lane County — a retired county manager and a practicing attorney who also teaches local government law at the University of Oregon School of Law — explained key provisions of the proposed Home Rule Charter and invited audience members to write questions, on cards, before the break.
During the break, I helped sort the cards, putting similar questions together. The question asked most often concerned Sheriff John Hanlin’s consent to use his photo — in uniform — on signs and literature opposing the charter. Clearly, his decision to use his office this way hit a nerve. Legally, public officials are prohibited from politicking while on the job. Since the photo shows our sheriff in his uniform during the day, in front of our courthouse, it raises the suspicion that this policy was violated. Regardless of whether Sheriff Hanlin violated the policy or not, I am more concerned about the headline he allowed his photo to be used with: “Stop Extreme Environmentalists.”
“Stop Extreme Environmentalists”? Really? Home Rule has nothing to do with environmental policies, extreme or otherwise. Our speakers explained that there are two forms of local government in Oregon: “General Law” and “Home Rule.” The city of Roseburg already uses Home Rule.
Under Home Rule, elected city councilors or county commissioners typically hire a professional manager — someone with a degree in public administration — to ensure that work is performed efficiently and legally, in a way that inspires public confidence.
Perhaps if Sheriff Hanlin had had the benefit of a professional manager, he would have been advised against this kind of ugly politicking, which engenders fear, borders on lying, insults his neighbors, and tarnishes his good reputation.