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Officials in Curry County were shocked Thursday when the Oregon Supreme Court unanimously rejected all but one of the 13 petitions filed in opposition to Secretary of State Bill Bradburys legislative redistricting plan.
The court rejected all constitutional challenges, including one filed by Ed Gray, port commissioner of the Port of Brookings Harbor, and Brookings Mayor Bob Hagbom.
The Court upheld only the petition filed by Sheridan Mayor Joe Fabiano, which sought to correct an error made by the U.S. Census.
The Census Bureau erroneously assigned the population of the Sheridan Federal Correctional Institution to a census block located outside the city limits, though the prison is actually inside.
The courts decision means that Bradburys redistricting plan will stand for another 10 years.
Curry County will be in House District 1. The district does not include Coos Bay, but stretches east nearly to Roseburg. It will continue to be represented by Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach.
House Districts 1 and 2 will make up Senate District 1, which also includes Roseburg and much of the Interstate 5 corridor south nearly to Grants Pass.
It will be represented by Sen. Bill Fisher, R-Roseburg. Curry County will no longer be represented by Sen. Ken Messerle, R-Coos Bay.
The Gray/Hagbom petition cited the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) that said districts should utilize existing geographic or political boundaries, should not divide communities of common interest, and should be connected by good transportation links.
Gray said Friday, To say the least, Im very disappointed. We didnt go in politically. We said this is law. That was completely washed out.
Basically, they (the court) have rewritten the ORS in Oregon. It means that every 10 years you can do whatever you want (with redistricting).
Its amazing with all the facts and law presented, our petition was not considered. The court acted very politically and proceeded to rewrite the constitution. I was completely shocked.
Gray said it was getting a little late in life to be losing his faith in the political system, but thats the way he felt.
It was a complete miscarriage of justice, he said. The South Coast could very possibly become a political orphan. It lost what little political power it had.
Grays petition was supported by an amicus brief from the Port of Brookings Harbor. Port Manager Russ Crabtree also said he was disappointed.
The benchmark set by the Supreme Court was unachievable, he said.
As a result of the decision, said Crabtree, Curry County will lose political influence, and will lose Messerle, an individual who understood us.
Crabtree said he will waste no time in establishing a relationship with Fisher and educating him about the issues facing the South Coast.
Were going to work with what weve got, he said.
Curry County Commissioners Marlyn Schafer and Rachelle Schaaf also voted to back Grays petition with an amicus brief.
In voting against that action, Commissioner Lucie La Bont said she would have preferred the district to not change at all, but predicted a petition to the Supreme Court would be a waste of time and money.
La Bont was out of the office Friday and could not be reached for comment.
Schafer was shocked by the decision. She said she was at a conference in Seaside when she started hearing from state officials that the court would make Bradbury redraw parts of the plan. Then she heard he would have to redraw all of it.
When the actual decision left the map unaltered, Schafer said it showed that even people who work for the state dont have inside information on the court.
I was pretty surprised, but we made a good case. I dont think it (the decision) was good for Curry County, she said.
Im disappointed, but its done, she said. Well go on from here.
Messerle was unavailable for comment Friday, but Krieger said, Its kind of what we expected.
He said the redistricting was supposed to follow criteria like transportation links, communities of common interest and no political advantage.
Krieger said any jury, any person with common sense could have seen that Bradbury did not base his plan on the criteria, but the court didnt.
He said the court lacked integrity and blatantly showed it to the citizens of Oregon.
Like Crabtree, though, Krieger plans to make the best of the situation. He will represent a different district now, one that includes Winston and Dillard.
He said he is looking forward to meeting his new constituents, and will begin to do so this week.
He said the redistricting actually empowered him politically, increasing the advantage of Republican voters over Democrats by 2.5 percent in his district.
Krieger said while that may mean something around Portland, party affiliation doesnt make as much difference in rural areas.
He said what it will mean politically is that the legislature may not have another senator from the coast, at least not from Coos or Curry counties.
Mr. Bradbury didnt serve his old district very well, said Krieger.
Bradbury, in a Thursday press release, saw it differently.
The Court has decisively ruled that with the exception of a minor error by the Census Bureau, he said, this is indeed a fair, balanced and legal plan.
I worked hard to ensure that my redistricting process followed the law and incorporated Oregonians input, and I have always been confident that this plan would stand up to any significant court challenge.
Bradbury said he had carefully and thoroughly followed the criteria of the ORS in his redistricting. He said he did not aim to benefit any political party or individual and made sure that as many Oregonians as possible had an unprecedented opportunity to provide testimony on the plan.
We have heard a lot of rhetoric from folks who didnt like this plan over the last few months, said Bradbury, but the Supreme Courts decision clearly shows that theres a big difference between rhetoric and reality.
The reality is that I worked very hard to meet my constitutional responsibilities to the people of Oregon, and today the court affirmed that I succeeded in fulfilling those duties.
He said he knew about the problem with the census data on the Sheridan prison even before petitions were filed. He was pleased that the court gave him the authority to make the change.
The final plan, including that change, will go to the court by Dec. 1 and go into effect Dec. 15.
I am certain that the districts that will go into effect in December will be the best possible districts for Oregon, said Bradbury.