Our Defense of local democracy scares commisioners

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Together, we can send a clear message to our County Commissioners to keep their hands off of our initiative process.


Community Rights Lane County’s Expansion for Local Democracy Scares the Lane County Commissioners Prompting Their Proposal to Block Citizen Initiatives

Background 

In the wake of the Lane County Circuit Court’s perceived failure to stop the democratic will of the people, the Lane County commissioners are considering giving themselves the ability to block any Lane County measure that they decide is not to be “of county concern”– thereby eliminating voter participation in the initiative process.

According to the Register Guard article, four of the five commissioners instructed county staff to revise an ordinance on the issue that was originally submitted by private attorney at the behalf of unnamed clients. Pete Sorenson, the only lawyer on the Commission, is notably, the lone dissenting vote against this assault on the people’s democratic rights.

Commissioners are posed to restrict the people’s authority – on advice from the Lane County Counsel – despite June 3, 2016 ruling from the Honorable Charles Carlson of the Lane County Circuit Court who ordered that the Lane County Self-Government Charter Amendment could not be kept from the ballot based on a pre-election challenge that it did not address “matters of county concern” because it is unconstitutional to make the determination at this stage of the initiative process. Commissioners and the County Counsel are ignoring the inconvenient ruling.

The Commissioners’ proposal should be rejected for the following reasons:

1. The proposal is unconstitutional. The right of Oregon citizens to enact measures via the initiative process is protected by the Oregon and U.S. constitutions. Furthermore, challenging a ballot initiative based on its substantive or constitutional validity prior to it being voted on is illegal.

  •  Judge Charles Carlson ruling on recent challenge against the Lane County Community Self-Government Charter Amendment ballot initiative “Just as, on the state level, a statute’s constitutionality is evaluated after its enactment, so too, on the county level, an initiative measure’s constitutionality is evaluated only after it has been adopted.” 
  •  Addressing the county’s authority over “matter of county concern”, Oregon law provides: “Nothing in this section [ORS 203.035] shall be construed to limit the rights of the electors of a county to propose county ordinances through exercise of the initiative power.”

2. It exceeds the roles and responsibilities of County commissioners. The legislature and the people are separate, but equal law-making authority. One cannot interfere with the other; and one cannot suffer encumbrances that the other does not.

  •  The County Commission has no legal authority to act as judge, jury, and executioner against ballot measures created by local citizens.
  •  If the County Commission proposes an unconstitutional law – as we are witnessing – no one has any legal authority to challenge the proposed law until it is enacted. So, too, is the rule for the people’s law-making power.

The County Commissioners (Peter Sorenson excepted) claim the goal is to stop measures that, if eventually challenged in a court of law, would be ruled illegal. However, they have no crystal ball to reveal which measures would actually pass and then go on to be legally challenged and ultimately, fail in court

  •  Peter Sorenson, Lane County Commissioner, importantly noted that the thought of “vetoing legislation before it advances” is “a really bad one.”
  • This calculated effort is a boldfaced attempt to weaken the rights of people in our local community and beyond.
    • The individuals acting on behalf of the corporate interests that prompted the Commissioners’ proposal (and the commissioners backing it) are motivated by their dislike of the Self-Government initiative measure and limitations placed on the timber and chemical industries.
    • This effort seeks to obstruct the ability of local voters to enact laws that protect our community from harms resulting from corporate practices. They don’t want you to have the power to make your own decisions. 
    •  Furthermore, if the commissioners (and those influencing them) are successful in enabling this proposal here, other counties and cities will do the same.
  •  If this ordinance were enacted, the County Counsel cannot be relied on to advise the Commission concerning the initiative and referendum process.
    • County Counsel is currently advising the Commission how to interfere with the initiative process in violation of bedrock constitutional principles that protect the people’s initiative rights.
    • Counsel Counsel is ignoring Judge Carlson’s highly relevant decision concerning the illegality of reviewing “matters of county concern” pre-election.

County Counsel lack of understanding of the people’s law-making powers undermines any confidence that the Commission would receive proper advice if this ordinance were authorized.

3. Notably, the Community Rights initiativesthat have caused this false-flag assault on the initiative process – seek to strengthen the people’s authority to secure and protect “their health safety and welfare”.

  •  The Lane County Community Self-Government ballot initiative would give local voters the power to enact laws to protect “their health, safety and welfare,” in spite of any conflicting state or federal law that would disallow the people’s chosen protections.
  •  This initiative specifically does NOT authorize local laws that would limit existing civil liberties, fundamental rights, or other protections.
  •  The Freedom from Aerially Sprayed Herbicides initiative recognizes Lane County residents’ right to be free from aerially sprayed herbicides while banning the aerial application of poisons that contaminate people, animals, water, and more, in Lane County.
  •  The Right to a Local Food System initiative protects Lane County residents’ right to local food free of GMOs while banning GMO agriculture in Lane County.
  •  The aerial spray and local food initiatives are just two of many issues in which the Oregon legislature – through anti-democratic laws – has taken away local communities’ rights to decide issues of health, safety, and welfare for themselves.

Stand-up for the Rights of Nature & Community.

References: 

Register Guard, June 30, 2016 Op-Ed exposing outrageous effort of the Lane County Commission to interfere with the people’s initiative authority: http://registerguard.com/rg/opinion/34527156-78/hands-off-the-initiative.html.csp

Register Guard, June 29, 2016 Lane County Commissioners mull proposal that would allow them to block some ballot initiatives: http://registerguard.com/rg/news/local/34524107-75/lane-commissioners-mull-proposal-that-would-allow-them-to-block-some-ballot-initiatives.html.csp

Our Community, Our Rights: https://communityrightslanecounty.org/ordinances/our-community-our-rights/

Lane County Community Self-Government Charter Amendment: https://communityrightslanecounty.org/lane-county-community-self-government-charter-amendment/ 

Campaign to End Aerial Herbicides: https://communityrightslanecounty.org/ordinances/freedom-aerial-herbicides-campaign/ 

The Proposed Law: http://www.lanecounty.org/Departments/BCC/Documents/2016_AGENDAS/062816agenda/T.10.B.pdf