By JEFF ST. PETER
On the instruction of his board of commissioners, Russ Crabtree, manager of the Port of Brookings Harbor, is filing a petition with the Oregon Supreme Court to challenge the states legislative redistricting proposal.
And the port may not stand alone on the petition the City of Brookings and the Curry County Commissioners are considering joining the legal maneuver.
Following a multi-agency meeting in Gold Beach Wednesday afternoon in the county commissioners chambers (see related story, Page 7A), Crabtree said the port was going to take a proactive stance on Secretary of State Bill Bradburys redistricting plan.
The Bradbury proposal would split the present South Coast Senate district in two, separating Curry County from the majority of its neighbors north from Coos Bay to Florence.
It would also result in the loss of representation by Sen. Ken Messerle, R-Coos Bay, for Curry County.
Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, would remain the House member representing Curry County until the general election in the fall of 2002, when he would be eligible to run for re-election.
During a recent port board meeting, the commissioners unanimously instructed Crabtree to pursue any possible means at any cost to try and persuade the Supreme Court to review Bradburys redistricting plan.
On Thursday, the port manager said he was carrying out that mandate.
We are stepping forward, Crabtree said. We have contacted attorneys to file a petition on behalf of the Port of Brookings Harbor before the Oregon Supreme Court.
I was told by the board to spend the resources to do whats necessary, and that is what I am doing.
The petition will request the Supreme Court to review the Bradbury proposal in light of Oregon Constitution and state statute standards.
The prime argument in opposition to the submitted redistricting plan is that it fails to keep intact constitutionally mandated communities of interest, especially in relation to the South Coast, Crabtree said.
Crabtree said he plans to encourage other area governments, including the county, towns and other ports, to sign on.
The Brookings City Council on Monday empowered Mayor Bob Hagbom to make any decision regarding the citys interest in opposing the secretary of states plan.
City Manager Leroy Blodgett said he expected the mayor would support the ports petition.
I suspect if the petition is going to be filed, the city will sign on, he said. The city council voted to give the mayor the authority to speak for the council in support of any county-wide disagreement with Bradburys redistricting plan.
The city will prepare a letter to send to the Supreme Court justices to voice our concerns with this plan. The city is not happy with what was done.
Blodgett said the biggest problem for the city with Bradburys proposal would be the potential of state representation from someone unfamiliar with coastal economic and social matters.
Our representation needs to be aware of coastal issues, he said. With this plan, there is the potential for representation by someone who may not be familiar with coastal issues.
It doesnt matter whether that representation is Democratic or Republican, we need someone familiar with coastal issues, he said.
Whether the county commission will support the ports petition is undetermined, but will likely be decided at the commissioners regular meeting on Tuesday, Commissioner Marlyn Schafer said.
Schafer has been one of the more outspoken critics of the Bradbury plan and said she would personally like to see the county take a strong position in opposing it.
I would like to see the county send a letter against the proposed redistricting to the Supreme Court, signed by the commissioners, she said. I would (also) like to see a petition drafted by our county counsel.
Commissioner Lucie La Bont is concerned that because the issue may be partisan, the county should be leery of taking a stand.
I think we need to protect ourselves in being a non-partisan commission, she said at Wednesday meeting. We need to look to see if this is a partisan issue.
If it is, the county shouldnt have a part in it at all.
La Bont said the Supreme Court needs to look at Bradburys plan strictly based on the guidelines of the constitution and statute, not politics.
There is a process in place and it will be decided on criteria, she said. A lot of people are concerned that there wont be any coastal representation, but the population has changed.
I understand that the Senate Majority office will petition the Supreme Court on the basis of community of interest. We will see if the Supreme Court upholds the secretary of states plan.
Commissioner Rachelle Schaaf said that as of Wednesday she wasnt sure what action, if any, the county should take, but she was taking a serious look at both sides of the debate.
Personally, I am committed to writing a personal letter to the court to express my view, but I am carefully weighing what the countys role should be, Schaaf said.
Im gathering information and listening to the people. If its a question of (taxpayer) money being used, we may have to decide if it is appropriate to use county funds to challenge something like this.
Schaaf said she has some problems with the Bradbury redistricting plan.
I dont like the way its set up, its not serving the best interests of Curry County, she said. We wont have the representation to serve our needs and purpose. That for me is the bottom line.
The deadline for the filing of a petition with the Supreme Court on Bradburys legislative redistricting plan is Sept. 15.
Crabtree was confident the ports petition would be filed on time.