By JEFF ST. PETER
NORTH BEND Approximately 120 South Oregon Coast residents and state and county officials crowded the meeting room of the North Bend Community Library Thursday evening to voice their opinion on a proposed legislative redistricting plan for the state.
The vast majority of those in attendance voiced strong opposition to the plan presented by Democratic Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, who hosted the two-hour meeting, one of 21 he held across the state in the past two weeks.
Following the 2000 U.S. census, the state constitution required the Legislature to reapportion the legislative districts to reflect population changes.
A Republican-sponsored bill, passed by both houses of the Legislature, was vetoed in late June by Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber.
That left the project, by Oregon Constitution mandate, in the hands of Bradbury, who released his draft plan on July 16. (See related story this page.)
In North Bend, Bradbury faced a crowd that was respectful, but concerned about what his draft plan would do to the Southern Oregon Coast and its legislative representation in Salem.
Curry County Commissioner Marlyn Schafer told Bradbury that the new districts would hurt the South Coasts ability to present its legislative agenda.
I am very concerned about the proposed redistricting plan, she said. Effective legislators learn all they can about the needs of their communities, network with state agencies and act as an intervener on important issues.
I am concerned that the proposed redistricting will hinder our representatives ability to perform these duties effectively.
Schafer said separating the ports along the Southern Oregon Coast would have a negative impact on the communities.
We would lose the International Port of Coos Bay, port of Reedsport, and the port of Florence in the new Senate district, she said. Ports in our area are a big part of economic development.
A senator that has knowledge of the issues can effectively work for all of the Southern Oregon ports.
Instead of a single senatorial district running from north of Florence to the California state line, the proposed configuration of house districts (two house districts are combined to make one Senate district) would split the Southern Oregon Coast in half.
Proposed House District 1 would run from the California border to just south of Coos Bay. But it would shift east of its present borders (presently House District 48) to encompass Cave Junction and the western rural residential area of Grants Pass.
House District 2 would include the city of Grants Pass, running north on the eastern side of I-5 to a line parallel with Roseburg, but not including Roseburg, Myrtle Creek, Canyonville or Winston.
Coos Bay north to Florence (presently House District 47) would become House District 3.
House Districts 1 and 2 would become Senate District 1.
House District 3 would combine with House District 4 to become Senate District 2. House District 4 would include Newport, Depoe City and Lincoln City.
The result would mean several things:
Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, would continue to represent Brookings, Gold Beach and Port Orford, but also Cave Junction and west of Grants Pass.
Sen. Ken Messerle, R-Coos Bay, would represent Brookings, Gold Beach, Port Orford, Cave Junction and Grants Pass, but no longer represent Coos Bay, North Bend, Reedsport or Florence. This occurs because his residence, although listed as Coos Bay, lies just inside the proposed House District 1 border just south of Coos Bay.
Coos Bay, North Bend, Reedsport and Florence would still have a single house district (3), but share a Senate district with Newport, Depoe Bay and Lincoln City.
At the hearing, Bradbury listed the criteria he used in drafting his plan, which included Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS), precedent from a former secretary of state, and his own guidelines.
ORS 188.010 requires each district, as nearly as practicable, shall:
Be of equal population.
Utilize existing geographic or political boundaries.
Not divide communities of common interest.
Be connected by transportation.
Not be drawn for the purpose of diluting the voting strength of any language or ethnic minority group.
Two state House of Representative districts shall be wholly included within a single state senatorial district.
Bradbury utilized two criteria set by former Secretary of State Phil Keisling fully incorporating individual cities into a single House district when possible, and respecting county boundaries when practical.
Bradbury also added his own guideline of not dividing Native American reservations between House districts. Bradbury emphasized to the crowd that the plan was not final, nor was it flawless.
This is a draft plan, but it is my plan, he said. I know the plan is not perfect, but thats where you come in. Were here to hear what you have to say. Im committed to making changes if things need to be changed.
Forty of those in attendance then stepped up to the microphone to have their thoughts and opinions made part of the public record.
Those making public statements listed home addresses ranging from Brookings to Florence.
Of those who spoke, only four, or 10 percent, supported the Bradbury draft.
The remaining 90 percent in opposition were mostly concerned that the unity of the South Coast would be broken up.
Messerle and Krieger were the first to make comments.
Messerle said there are two primary goals set forth in ORS 188.010:
How can legislators best keep in contact and represent their constituents?
How can legislators be the most effective representing their districts in the process in Salem?
The senator said Bradburys plan fails on both counts.
I believe this draft plan seriously misses the mark, he said, and I strongly urge you to not adopt the present plan.
Messerle stated that geographic separation, travel obstacles and lack of community commonality would make the new Southwest Oregon House and Senate districts unworkable.
Common interests will be divided, he said. The coastal areas and I-5 corridor have different issues and interests.
People in both (political) parties are very much opposed to this plan. I strongly urge you not to implement this plan so we can continue to have a united South Coast district.
Krieger echoed Messerles concern over the possible loss of commonality in the new districts.
The community interest on the coast is different from that in Cave Junction or Grants Pass, he said. There are common economic and social values on the coast.
I urge you to keep the coastal House districts paired in a Senate district.
In a written statement, Port of Brookings Harbor Manager Russ Crabtree echoed the concern about the interests of the ports. The statement was a unified position with the Port of Gold Beach and Port of Port Orford.
Our concerns are for Senate District 24 and House District 48, which encompass several ports within their districts, Crabtree said.
To add, delete, or change the geographics represented within the existing districts will certainly only serve to create negative impacts on coastal communities and lessen their duly elected legislative representatives efficiency, simply because of the diversity in opportunities and obstacles facing different areas of the state, he said.
To summarize our position, Senate District 24 and House District 48 should not be changed as the proposed alternatives will not meet or exceed the criteria as established by (statute).
Brookings Mayor Bob Hagbom encouraged Bradbury to keep the status quo as much as is possible.
We are very contiguous in functioning the way we are today, he said. If you could see fit to keep us all together, we would appreciate it very much.
Former state representative Walt Schroeder of Gold Beach said the Bradbury draft plan shifts more power toward the metropolitan areas of Oregon.
The proposal by the office of the secretary of state gives Multnomah County an unfair and disproportionate representation in the Legislature, he said. Multnomah County has 19.3 percent of the population, but under the proposed plan would have 30 percent of the 60 seats in the House of Representatives.
This proposal would further strengthen the urban areas of Oregon while weakening the rural areas of the state, including the cities of Coos Bay, North Bend, Reedsport and Florence.
Of those who spoke in favor of Bradburys proposal, the common theme was that he had done his best to address a difficult task.
No one from Curry County spoke in support of the draft plan.
Bradbury must now present his final redistricting proposal to the Oregon Supreme Court by Aug. 15.
Those who want to oppose his plan will then have until Sept. 15 to file a petition requesting the court to review the plan for violations of state statute.
The redistricting plan will be finalized and implemented no later than Dec. 15.