Contributions to the pro-Home Rule campaign have nearly doubled in the last three weeks, but the $7,464 in total pro-Home Rule contributions are just over 6 percent of the $115,750 collected so far by the anti-Home Rule campaign.
Both campaigns have reported to the Oregon Secretary of State’s office their contributions continue to grow as the Nov. 7 election nears.
In essence, Home Rule would replace three full-time commissioners with five part-time commissioners, remove commissioners’ salaries, and create a paid new county manager position.
Proponents of Home Rule suggest a shakeup of county government will encourage new ideas for rescuing shrinking county budgets and promoting job growth. Opponents say it will harm county commissioners’ advocacy for timber harvests on federal lands that could restore county budgets and create jobs.
The bulk of the pro-Home Rule donations are contributions under $100, too small for the names to be reported, while business interests have donated thousands apiece toward the effort to defeat Home Rule.
Dora Haymond of Roseburg donated $100 to the campaign for Home Rule. She was upset when the county closed its libraries this spring, and said she believes the current commissioners are too entrenched in timber interests.
“I think we need some new ideas in our county, something that will bring us some prosperity,” she said.
Some of the smaller donations on the anti-Home Rule side are about ten times the amount Haymond donated. Haymond said she’s not surprised.
“Even though they give a lot more money, I’m hoping this grassroots effort will take hold. Even if my little amount is small, it might give them just enough impetus to keep trying and keep going forward,” she said. She also said the differences in moneys raised might show people that “big money is behind the current regime, and maybe we do need a change.”
Home Rule’s biggest supporter, financially speaking, is Henry Huddleston, a disabled Vietnam veteran who lives in Roseburg.
Part of his motivation for contributing is a beef with local law enforcement. Huddleston alleges, among other things, that he’s been wrongfully arrested, mistreated in jail, and that his 9-1-1 calls for help have gone unanswered.
He doesn’t have anything good to say about the county commissioners either.
“They don’t give a damn about kids. They close the library and then they take our money and give it to their buddies for things they weren’t meant for,” he said, referring to a recent controversy over whether $490,000 in Title III Secure Rural Schools money was properly spent on the Roseburg company Communities for Healthy Forests, which used part of the money for a video promoting timber salvage on burned federal forest land. Commissioner Tim Freeman has said the county will hire an independent auditor to review the county’s Title III grants.
The Roseburg city government is working on a plan to reopen the Roseburg library, which was shut down by the county government the end of May, and most of the smaller branch libraries have reopened with volunteer staffing.
Huddleston said he hopes for change under a new county government.
“You get a new gang of people to find out whether they’re crooks or not. Hopefully, they’ll be diverse,” he said.
Other pro-Home Rule donations include $500 apiece from Roseburg CannaKing Marijuana shop manager Dennis Rogers, Idleyld Park solar energy contractor Al Walker, and former Douglas County Democratic Party leader Sara Byers.
The pro-Home Rule campaign is the only side with an out-of-state donation. It’s a modest $300 from the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, which mostly donates to Democratic candidates.
Glendale-based timber company Swanson Group donated $6,000 to the campaign against Home Rule. Owner Steve Swanson said the system isn’t broken, so there’s no reason to “fix” it. In particular, he believes it’s important for the commissioners to continue their fight for increased harvests on federal timberlands.
Swanson provides jobs for 850 people, including employees at its Springfield facility, and he estimates there’s a multiplier effect of three to one, meaning three jobs are indirectly created for every one job in the timber industry.
“Federal timber policy is critically important to county government, to industry and to the population in general, and I believe we need to have elected officials that are making at least an attempt at influencing federal timber policy,” Swanson said.
He doesn’t believe the part-time commissioners under Home Rule would be willing to invest the time and effort to continue that effort.
“I have a hard time believing that five basically unpaid county commissioners are going to have the desire to travel back and forth to Washington, D.C. to advocate for timber policy on behalf of the citizens of Douglas County,” he said.
One of the largest donors to the anti-Home Rule campaign is Roseburg Forest Products, which donated $10,000. Eric Geyer, manager of business development and external affairs for RFP, said it opposes Home Rule for the same reasons as those cited by the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce. The chamber argued Home Rule would cost more, increase bureaucracy and hurt the economy, among other things.
“The current structure of government is doing a good job,” Geyer said.
Other timber and related companies which have contributed to the anti-Home Rule campaign include Douglas County Forest Products, Don Whitaker Logging and Hauling, Lone Rock Timber Management, Seneca Jones Timber Company, Murphy, Keller Logging, Gene Whitaker, PLIKAT Logging, and C&D Lumber. Their donations ranged in size from $1,000 to $7,500.
Other contributions include $1,000 from the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, $1,000 from Clinton Newell and $1,500 from Sutherlin Sanitary Services.