Tuesday, November 22, 2005

It Could Be Worse -- We Could Be Oregon

After considering our "woes" such as land use referenda, legislators who talk of turning the authority for planning and zoning on its head, transit and transportation problems, you just need to read what's going on in some other places to not feel quite so bad.

Take Oregon. I think most are aware of Measure 37, which was passed by some 61% of Oregon voters in November 2004. As much as it was reviled by planners and environmentalisits there, local governments were moving ahead to comply with its provisions.

But all of a sudden, in October, a lower court judge ruled the measure unconstitutional and put its implementation on hold for state actions and land use actions in 4 counties.

So what do the other counties and municipalities do? Do they move ahead with implementation (after all, the court ruling was not for their jurisdictions) or do they wait for the outcome of the appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court (which may not come until the middle of next year)? As the National Association of Counties' County News notes, "counties not named in the suit need clarity on how they should be handling the situation. 'They would like some specificity and know what the rules of the ballgame are,' said Art Schlack, policy manager of the Association of Oregon Counties. ' There are 32 counties that are treading water while the Supreme Court determines whether the measure is constitutional or not.'"

Talk about muddled!

And, of course, in the midst of it all, the activists who were responsible for getting the issue placed on the ballot and who won, are decrying the action of the court in contradiction of the "will of the people"(sound familiar, O friends of Legacy Parkway, myself included?).

The Oregon Supreme Court has since announced that they will expedite the hearing on the appeal, recognizing the extreme bind such action has put everyone in. They will now hear the arguments in January.

An editorial in The Oregonian last Sunday makes a great point about judicial actions on such matters, saying that just because the majority in the heat of the moment on a particular issue want to do something that may deprive others of some rights or benefits, does not make it constitutional, as decided by those same people at some earlier time. "Judicial review is not about the power of majorities," the editorial states. "Indeed, it is often most important when the majority is loudest and most insistent."

Interesting stuff. Who says land use issues aren't among some of our most important local government issues?


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