GOLD BEACH Curry County Commissioner Lucie La Bont spoke in support Monday of the redistricting plan designed by Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury.
She said she would prefer the state House and Senate districts remain as they are now in Curry County, but with the census requiring redistricting, she thought Bradburys plan might be the best alternative for the state.
She thinks Bradbury met the criteria of the law. She does not believe a petition to the state Supreme Court would succeed.
Given that, she does not think there would be any point to holding a meeting scheduled by Commissioner Marlyn Schafer for Aug. 29 to discuss the redistricting.
Schafer disagreed. She said the redistricting plan for the House was not bad, but said the Senate redistricting will have a huge impact on Curry County.
She said she scheduled the meeting for 2 p.m. Aug. 29 in the commissioners hearing room in the courthouse annex after talking it over with Commissioner Rachelle Schaaf.
We cant do anything about it, said La Bont. I dont see the reason for the meeting. I wont support an appeal to the Supreme Court. Is this meeting partisan?
Schafer told her that it wasnt. She said Curry Countys legislators, Sen. Ken Messerle, R-Coos Bay, and Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, will come to explain what is going on to representatives from cities, ports and chambers of commerce.
Its gone beyond that point, said La Bont. What do you hope to accomplish?
Schafer said she didnt know, but thats what she would learn at the meeting. She said she thought it was a good time for everyone to sit down and talk.
Schaaf said those at the meeting could, at the least, strategize on how to make Sen. Bill Fisher, R-Roseburg, familiar with South Coast issues.
Fisher currently represents portions of Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties in Senate District 23. Under the redistricting plan, he would replace Messerle as Curry Countys state senator.
In the House redistricting plan, Curry County would still be represented by Krieger, whose district would be expanded nearly to Roseburg, but would no longer include Coos Bay.
La Bont said she spent Sunday reviewing public testimony on the Internet from around the state regarding the redistricting.
Because of population loss on the coast, she said, one of the coastal House districts had to go east.
She said criteria set by the Oregon constitution does not allow splitting cities into different districts, which would have happened to Corvallis if the Newport House district had been expanded east.
She said several people at the North Bend meeting on redistricting testified about economic connections between Curry and Douglas counties.
Moving the House district toward Roseburg was the only logical place to move a coastal House district east because of this economic development connection, she said.
La Bont said the House district could have been moved east into Josephine County without splitting a city, but the public testimony at the North Bend meeting was overwhelmingly opposed to it.
She said moving the House district north would have split Coos Bay. Under Bradburys plan, she said, the district would have about 14,000 people from Douglas County, giving Curry County a voting advantage.
La Bont said the Senate district is an expansion of the House district.
That is why we are in with Roseburg, she said. My conversations with people show that there are mixed feelings about it. Most in Curry are upset because Sen. Messerle will no longer be our senator.
She said the criteria specifies district lines cannot be redrawn to be advantageous to any elected official.
If he (Bradbury) had purposely drawn the line to accommodate Sen. Messerle, said La Bont, the plan would not have met that criteria.
I do not feel that Curry County has the dollars to spend on petitioning the Supreme Court on this matter, and after reviewing the criteria I believe the county would not have a case, she said.
Therefore, she said, I will look at the advantages rather than look at the disadvantages.
Among the advantages, she said, is that the South Coast will now have two senators to represent it rather than one.
Our good relationship with Sen. Messerle and bringing a new senator into our fold and educating him to our issues can be an advantage, said La Bont.
I would have preferred that the districts stayed just the same, but that is not the reality, she said.
The reality is that unless someone can prove that the criteria has not been followed, and has the money to petition the Supreme Court, this is what we have for the next 10 years.