From left: Mayors Jim Auborn, Ron Hedenskog and Karl Popoff with letter they signed supporting Home Rule initiative.
The mayors of Brookings, Gold Beach and Port Orford gathered this week to sign an open letter in support of Measure 8-76, the Citizen’s County Home Rule Charter initiative on the May ballot.
The initiative would change the present form of government to that of a home rule, in which the county would be led by a five-person, part-time, volunteer board of county commissioners and managed by a paid administrator or manager.
County elected officials note that the form of government — currently general law — is not to blame for the financial problems facing the county.
But others, including the three mayors, believe the form of government, in part, leads to infighting on the current board and a change could help make improvements.
“As mayors of the three Curry County cities, we have observed the stark difference in how effectively and efficiently the cities and other local agencies are managed as compared to Curry County,” the letter reads. “This was also noted by the Curry County Citizens Committee … that recommended that the first action the (board) should take is to restructure county government.”
The letter was signed by Brookings Mayor Ron Hedenskog, Gold Beach Mayor Karl Popoff and Port Orford Mayor Jim Auborn.
Having a manager or administrator to deal with day-to-day problems facing department heads would then free up commissioners to better address issues at the state and national levels, make policy and develop long-term strategies for the county.
“The committee felt that greater efficiencies and cost savings could be obtained with a full-time professional managing internally,” the letter continues. “Commissioners would have more time to devote to strategy and advocate for the changes we need at the state and federal levels to make us financially viable and stable.”
The letter notes that home rule has worked for the three Curry County cities, school and port districts and other agencies.
“”We work with the council-manager form of government every day,” the letter reads. “It is not perfect. But it is proven; it works. The part-time mayors and councilors listen to the constituents and provide policy direction, while an administrator turns that policy into action, coordinates the work of all departments and is accountable to the elected officials.”
It continues to say the current form of government does not work. One example cited is that each commissioner serves as a liaison for various county’s departments and the departments are “disjointed” because the commissioners “frequently” have different skills, abilities, management styles and goals.
That is further exacerbated by the inability of the three commissioners to legally discuss issues with one another outside a public board meeting.
“We can see how disastrous this form of government would be in our cities,” the letter reads.
And the three mayors agree that, while the initiative might not be the “silver bullet” to solve the county’s fiscal crisis, but is a prerequisite for a solution that will benefit citizens.
“The voters of Curry County can now do what the Curry County Citizens Committee recommended two years ago — what Curry County Commissioners have refused to do: Make county government more effective and efficient,” the letter reads. “It’s time to reform Curry County government.”
Hedenskog even took a jab at commissioners Wednesday by pointing out that the three mayors didn’t need a facilitator to come to agreement on the letter. The comment was made after County Commissioner David Itzen Tuesday asked the Brookings City Council to participate — and partially pay for — a facilitator to help town and county elected officials work together to reach common goals. The city denied the request.
A commissioner-appointed board is also researching other home rule counties in the state in hopes of developing a recommendation about pursuing such a form of government — or, if the initiative is approved in May, to help advise commissioners about changes that might need to be made in the living document.