BRADBURY'S FINAL PLAN DRAWS FIRE

August 17, 2001 11:00 pm
 ().
().

Secretary of State Bill Bradbury filed his final draft of his legislative redistricting plan this week, which immediately drew fire from local officials.

Bradbury did make changes to his plan before submitting it to the state Supreme Court on Wednesday, but the changes have been received in Curry County as being worse than his initial proposal.

Petitioners have until Sept. 15 to file challenges to Bradburys final plan with the court.

During an Aug. 2 public hearing on redistricting hosted by Bradbury in North Bend, state legislators, officials and individuals from Brookings-Harbor to Florence offered strong opposition to the secretarys plan that would separate the present state senatorial district in two.

As now drawn, House Districts 47 and 48 compose Senate District 24, which includes Brookings, Gold Beach, Port Orford, Bandon, Coos Bay, North Bend, Reedsport and Florence.

Sen. Ken Messerle, R-Coos Bay, presently represents Senate District 24, while Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, is the District 48 representative.

Under Bradburys first draft, Krieger would have represented House District 1, which would have been redrawn to include most of House District 48, and Cave Junction and rural areas west of Grants Pass.

Messerle would have represented Senate District 1, which would have included the new House District 1 and Grants Pass, and excluded Coos Bay, North Bend, Reedsport and Florence.

Ninety percent of the 40 individuals who spoke on the record at the North Bend public hearing opposed breaking up the present Senate district because of the strong coastal economic and social ties.

There was also strong opposition from those in Coos Bay and further north because they would lose the representation of Messerle, who lives just south of Coos Bay.

In an announcement on Wednesday, Bradbury highlighted the role of public input in his creation of the final district lines.

The publics input about what they want redistricting to look like was the key element in moving from the draft plan I released a few weeks ago to the final plan I released today, he said. These public hearings and opportunities for the public to submit written comment werent just window dressing far from it.

I firmly believe that Oregonians are the best experts on what a redistricting plan should look like.

I listened carefully to what Oregonians had to say and I made significant changes to my redistricting plan in response to their input.

Specific to the concerns voiced by residents and officials on the South Coast, the secretary said the strong opposition voiced in the region had guided the redrawing of legislative district lines for the final proposal.

Bradbury removed the rural Grants Pass/Cave Junction area from House District 1, shifting the boundary north and east of Coos Bay and North Bend in Coos County and toward Roseburg to include Winston.

New Senate District 1 would not include Grants Pass, nor Coos Bay or Florence. Instead, Bradbury created House District 2, which includes Roseburg, Myrtle Creek, Riddle, Canyonville and Glendale.

House Districts 1 and 2 would compose the proposed Senate District 1.

Although Messerle would continue to reside within the boundaries of House District 1, he would represent Senate District 5, which consists of House Districts 9 and 10.

House District 9 includes Coos Bay, North Bend, Reedsport and Florence. House District 10 includes Yachats, Newport, Depoe Bay, Lincoln City and parts of Yamhill County extending toward, but not including, McMinnville.

Under the new plan, Messerle would no longer represent Curry County.

On Friday Messerle said it was unclear whether he could continue to represent a senatorial district in which he does not reside beyond the next general election in November 2002 or until his elected term is up after the 2004 general elections.

At that point, unless he changed his residency, he would have to run for the new Senate District 1 seat, presently held by Sen. Bill Fisher, R-Newport.

Messerle said the new plan was not what he hoped for.

I am very disappointed, he said. This really caught me off guard.

I did not expect this change at all. I thought (Bradbury) would put the (South Coast) senate district back the way it was.

This is a drastic change.

Messerle said the new senatorial district he would serve makes no sense.

Under the new plan, I would be representing parts of Yamhill County, he said. Thats getting close to Portland.

This is absolutely bizarre.

Bradbury missed the point of the opposition voiced at the public hearing, Messerle said, and the new plan would be even more disruptive to his serving the needs of the South Coast electorate.

The (Central) coast has different coastal issues than the South Coast, he said. It is a different constituency entirely.

This new plan really disrupts everything.

I have spent a lot of time establishing contacts along the South Coast to address their issues. Now I would have to do it all over again with people who didnt elect me.

The problem could have been resolved in a simple manner, Messerle said, leaving one to think the final plan taints the legitimacy of Bradburys redistricting effort.

It could have been resolved very easily, he said. I live within a mile of the new line, it could have been moved easily.

This tells me that it has to have been political, it could have been fixed so easily.

Curry County Commissioner Marlyn Schafer expressed shock at Bradburys final decision.

This is devastating, very devastating, she said Friday. This does not work for us.

How can we lose the knowledge and consistency Messerle brings to the legislative table for the county?

We finally have a powerful team in Messerle and Krieger, and Bradbury comes along and takes it away from us. We cant afford to lose someone who has been so effective for the South Coast.

Schafer said she has doubts as to whether Bradbury listened to those who spoke so strongly against breaking up the South Coast senatorial district.

It amazes me that Bradbury seemed to hear us, she said. I thought he would make those changes.

I have no qualms with Sen. Fisher, but Messerle is the best representative for our district. (Messerle) cant represent people who dont live in his (House) district.

Schafer is already working to coordinate communications and efforts among those officials along the South Coast who will want to protest the final redistricting plan.

Ill work with the commissioners to see what action the county will take, she said. And Im going to call a meeting of the countys key players and see if we cant coordinate our efforts.

We need to get to the table to see how we can work together. We all need to be on the same page.

We are definitely not going to sit back and let this happen.

Russ Crabtree, manager of the Port of Brookings Harbor, said the new plan ignores the needs of the South Coast ports.

It was ludicrous (for Bradbury) to do this, he said. We are represented so well by Messerle and Krieger and we need to work to keep that integrity.

They know the ports and how to represent them.

Crabtree agreed with Schafer that area officials need to work together to stop Bradburys final plan from being implemented.

We need to get actively and aggressively involved to resolve this problem, he said. We need to be coordinating our efforts.

The City of Brookings is also disappointed with the Bradbury plan, according to City Manager Leroy Blodgett.

The one thing we tried to get across (to Bradbury) was that Cave Junction had little in common with the coast, he said. Roseburg, Myrtle Point and that area has even less in common with the coast.

This is really bad now. These areas are even further removed from the coast.

We were better off with the original draft.

Blodgett said the city would probably not be directly involved in petitioning the state Supreme Court, but that it will actively support the effort to stop Bradburys final redistricting proposal.

Krieger, who would still represent Curry County under the new plan, said it will not only harm the South Coast, but all of rural Oregon.

It does nothing to help any part of rural Oregon, he said on Friday. It provides another eight or nine seats for the Portland area.

When you look at rural Oregon, it makes it impossible to represent fairly.

Krieger was pointed in his criticism of Bradbury and his effort.

Its pretty much what I expected of him, Krieger said. If you take a serious look at the map, its either partisanship or incompetence.

It disconnects areas of geographic commonality and common economic and social interest. This is as bad a job as Ive seen done since Ive been involved in politics.

The Republican (legislative) plan was better, even the Democratic (legislative) plan was better. I hope the Supreme Court looks at this and sees it for what it is.

Bradbury is also receiving criticism at the state level.

Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton, the senate majority leader, believes the final plan doesnt hold water, particularly for the coastal region.

I think the secretarys plan is ill-conceived, he said in an interview with The Pilot on Friday afternoon. Its gone from bad to worse. He ignored the comments of the people. We didnt need to change the coast.

Mr. Secretary, you have done a poor job.

Nelson said he thinks the plan will be changed by the court because it wont meet Oregon constitutional mandate.

Its unconstitutional on its face, he said. With 30 percent of the representation coming from an area (Multnomah County) with 19 percent of the population, it flies in the face of the constitutional mandate of one man, one vote. This is blatant, improper redistricting.

Nelson said he believes a petition will be filed by the Sept. 15 deadline, and he hopes that when held up to the states constitutional and statute mandates for redistricting, the court will require Bradbury to make changes.

If any petition requesting the Supreme Court to review Bradburys final proposal is filed by the deadline, the court has until Oct. 15 to determine if the plan meets legal standards.

If the court does not dismiss the petition, it will direct Bradbury to correct his plan to meet constitutional and statute requirements by Nov. 1.

The secretary will then have until Dec. 1 to submit the corrected plan, which the court will review, correct and implement by Dec. 15.

The deadline is in place so the new legislative districts will be in effect for next years general election.