Port of Brookings Harbor Commissioner Ed Gray has taken the lead in filing a petition with the Oregon Supreme Court to contest a legislative redistricting plan.
Because state law requires that challenges to the proposal, submitted by Secretary of State Bill Bradbury on Aug. 15, be filed by an Oregon elector, and not an organization or political entity, Gray decided to step up to the plate on behalf of South Coast residents who oppose the redistricting plan.
Bradburys plan would divide the present Senate district, which extends from the California border to north of Florence along the Oregon coast, in two.
The secretarys proposal would also mean the loss of the representation of Sen. Ken Messerle, R-Coos Bay, for Curry County residents.
Since the introduction of Bradburys original draft on July 15, opposition to the redistricting plan has grown up and down the coast, as well as across the state.
When the Curry County commissioners decided on Wednesday (see related story) that the county couldnt legally file a petition because it is a political entity, Gray took the initiative.
Currently, as I mentioned in Gold Beach (on Wednesday at the commissioners meeting), we have a senator (Messerle) who covers eight ports along the South Coast, he said Friday, from Siuslaw to (Brookings).
The plan would split us in two. We wouldnt have the quality representation we do now.
Gray said there were two other factors in making his decision to file the petition.
The people in Roseburg (who would be in the new senate district with Curry County) dont have the same concerns as we have on the coast, he said. I-5 interests just arent the same as we have with the ports.
And (Bradburys proposal) is against Oregon law, which states legislative districts must retain communities of interest, and this definitely does away with that.
Those concerns motivated Gray to act. It made me start thinking about doing it, he said. It is the only way we can fight this plan.
With a deadline (for filing a petition with the Supreme Court) of the 15th, time is of the essence. Time is fleeting. Its time to act, so I decided to act.
Tarlow Jordanscharder, a public law attorney from Portland, is drafting Grays petition, according to Russ Crabtree, Port of Brookings Harbor manager.
Ed, as an elector, is filing the petition, he said on Friday. The port will file an amicus brief in support of Eds petition based on the issues of geographical and political links, communities of interest and transportation issues.
Both the petition and brief should be filed by mid-week (next week).
An amicus curiae brief is filed on behalf of a person or organization not particular to the litigation, to advise the court in respect to some matter of law that directly affects the case in question.
The port may not be the only political agency filing an amicus brief.
The City of Brookings could take supportive action on Grays petition, City Manager Leroy Blodgett said on Friday.
The city will consider joining in with the port and county on any petition or (amicus) brief filed to challenge the plan, he said. The (city) council gave authority to the mayor (Bob Hagbom) to represent and speak on behalf of the council on this matter.
He is also empowered to make any decisions to act on behalf of the residents of Brookings, so he wouldnt have to seek further approval from the council if we decide to enjoin the litigation.
The county commissioners are undecided on what action to take until they have received advice from counsel, Commissioner Marlyn Schafer said Friday.
At this point, we are waiting to see what Ed files, she said. At that point, Ill probably call a special commissioners meeting so we can vote on what our next step will be.
Grays petition will not be the only one filed with the Supreme Court, nor will it be the first.
Sen. Tom Hartung, R-Cedar Mill, filed a petition on Tuesday. He is enjoined on the petition by Rep. Jim Welsh, R-Elmira; his wife, Danele Welsh; Jerry Mathern of Jacksonville; and John Betts of Woodburn.
Hartung is basing his challenge to the Bradbury plan based on political motives.
Oregon statute prohibits using political data or partisanship in drawing legislative district boundaries, which Hartung claims is the motivating factor behind the secretarys proposal.
Melissa Williams, chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader David Nelson, R-Pendleton, said she is aware of other petitions that were filed this week or will be filed before Sept. 15.
Two or three have been filed this week, she said Friday from her Salem office. I have also heard that petitions will be filed from Happy Valley, Sheridan and Tigard.
Williams said South Coast residents have a strong argument, according to members of the Republican Senate Caucus.
Our guys are just concerned about how the way these lines are drawn will affect the electors, she said. So many of the House and Senate districts join communities with no common links.
What does Roseburg have in common with the (South) coast? Valley issues are different. And how often would representatives from Roseburg get to Brookings?
It just doesnt make any sense.
A call to Sen. Kate Brown, D-Portland, Senate Democratic Leaders office was not returned by Fridays news deadline.