By JEFF ST. PETER
If the South Coast is going to retain its present state senatorial district, it will only happen because the Oregon Supreme Court believes it is legally justified.
Ed Gray, Port of Brookings Harbor commissioner, and Bob Hagbom, mayor of Brookings, filed a petition this week opposing Secretary of State Bill Bradburys redistricting plan with the court to challenge the dismantling of the Senate district.
Bradburys plan, submitted to the court for validation on Aug. 15, would split the present South Coast senatorial district in two, and remove the representation of Sen. Ken Messerle, R-Coos Bay, from Curry County.
Gray initiated the petition, and was joined by Hagbom, after it was discovered that only Oregon electors, and not organizations or government entities, could request the court to review the plan in light of the states constitution and statutes.
The petition challenges Bradburys redistricting plan on three constitutional and statutory points:
The secretary of state lacks the jurisdiction to have undertaken the redistricting project.
The petition argues that since the Legislature passed a redistricting plan, there was no need for Bradbury to take up the task.
It states that Gov. John Kitzhabers veto was unconstitutional, as the constitution only requires the Legislature to pass a plan, but says nothing about needing the governors approval or being subject to his dissent.
The constitution requires that county lines not be divided wherever possible.
The Bradbury plan divides Coos County in both House and Senate districts.
The division of Coos County could easily be remedied by reinstating the basic structure of the coastal senatorial district.
3) The secretarys plan does not comply with three Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) guidelines for redistricting:
It does not utilize existing geographic or political boundaries.
It violates the directive to not divide communities of common interest.
It does not meet the requirement of being connected by transportation links.
The petition then suggests three possible solutions to the court, based on the above arguments:
1) Adopt the redistricting plan approved by the Legislature this spring.
2) Leave the present legislative districts in place until the Legislature can take action.
3) Mandate that Bradbury re-establish the South Coast senatorial districts as closely as possible to the present district.
Gray had previously stated that he took up the mantle to challenge the Bradbury plan because of his concern that Curry Countys voice might not be heard in Salem.
The plan would split us in two, he said. We wouldnt have the quality representation we do now.
The people of Roseburg (who would be in the same senatorial district with Curry County in the secretarys plan) dont have the same concerns as we have on the coast.
And (Bradburys plan) is against Oregon law, which states legislative districts must retain communities of interest and this definitely does away with that.
Hagbom enjoined Gray on the petition because he wanted to make a statement.
It gave me the opportunity to join in this process as a citizen, he said Friday. This is a cause I feel very strong about.
I have reviewed the facts and feel very concerned that the issues listed on the petition need to be address by the Oregon Supreme Court.
As of Friday, two briefs of amicus curiae have been filed with the court in support of the petition.
According to Blacks Law Dictionary, Amicus curiae means, literally, friend of the court.
A person with strong interest in or views on the subject matter of an action, but not a party to the action, may petition the court for permission to file a brief, ostensibly on behalf of a party but actually to suggest a rationale consistent with its own views.
Such amicus curiae briefs are commonly filed in appeals concerning matters of public interest . . .
The Port of Brookings Harbor and City of Brookings joined to file one of the briefs.
The other brief was jointly filed by Coos and Curry counties.
In the port/city brief, pages of legal reference, case law and opinion, combined with documentation are presented to the court justices in support of the petitions points and proposed remedies.
The brief itself is 21 pages long, but gives reference to additional letters and records of testimony addressing the various issues supporting the ideal of South Coast continuity.
The Coos/Curry brief is 14 pages in length, and often gives voice to testimony Bradbury received from South Coast residents during a public hearing on his draft redistricting proposal in North Bend Aug. 2
Including the Gray/Hagbom petition, a dozen have been filed with the Supreme Court to challenge the Bradbury plan:
Sen. Tom Hartung of Beaverton and four others, alleging the plan was drawn to favor Democrats in specific legislative districts.
Danele Welsh of Elmira and 59 others, stating the Legislatures plan was not subject to a governors veto, and it failed to meet ORS requirements.
Scott Burge, Patrick Donaldson and Cletus Moore, three Portland area residents who contend that ballot measures in 1952 and 1986 took authority from the secretary of state to write a plan.
Clyde Brummell of Portland and Henry Kane of Beaverton accuse Bradbury of abusing his discretion in including parts of Multnomah County in 18 House districts.
Sheridan Mayor Joe Fabiano and Yamhill County Clerk Charles Stern who say the census figures Bradbury utilized for the City of Sheridan are inaccurate.
Rep. Jeff Kropf and four other Linn County residents, stating that dividing the county into four Senate districts violates the constitution.
Five members of the Wilsonville City Council, including Mayor Charlotte Lehan, who are claiming their community was placed in an inappropriate House district.
Jim Goan, mayor of Eagle Point, who states that the town has no ties to and is separated by the Cascade Mountains from communities in Crook (Prineville) and Lake (Lakeview) counties, which it joins in a House district proposed by the plan.
Shady Cove Mayor Robert Anderson, who shares a similar complaint with Goan.
Seven residents from Eagle Point, White City, Shady Cove, Butte Falls and Prospect, who also share the same argument with Anderson and Goan.
Unspecified residents of Happy Valley, whose argument has not yet been disclosed.
The Gray/Hagbom petition will be argued orally before the Supreme Court justices at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3.
The Supreme Court has until Dec. 15 to make a final decision and implement new legislative districts.