Home rule efforts delayed

Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer August 13, 2013 08:58 pm

The committee collecting signatures to change the county’s form of government to home rule now plans to put the issue on a ballot in the spring instead of in November.

The Citizens Charter Committee, or C-3, has collected more than 400 signatures toward the 617 it needs to get it on a ballot.

“We missed the deadline,” said committee member Carl King. “But we’re still looking to May.”

Having missed the deadline hasn’t deterred C-3 members.

“It’s kind of what I expected,” King said. “It’s summertime; people are away. I’ve been away. I haven’t really put my nose to the grindstone, but I certainly intend to start collecting. There’s no question we’ll get them.”He said only a couple of people have declined to sign.

“One or two stick their hand out and reach for the petition before you get to explain it,” King said with a laugh. “And I’ve never had anyone argue with me about the merits of it. They’ve been watching the county commissioners try to reach agreement on a tax, which they don’t seem to be able to do.”

The county currently works under a system of general law, with three commissioners making decisions from the legislative to departmental level.

Home rule proponents note that two commissioners can’t even discuss issues, as they would then comprise a quorum and would have to post a public notice about such a meeting. That, proponents say, inhibits discussion and debate about ideas they might have that, lately, involve solving the county’s fiscal problems.

The C-3 committee proposes to replace the three-person board with five members who would only receive a $10,000 stipend and would work with a paid county administrator. That administrator would address day-to-day issues over all the departments except the Sheriff and District Attorney’s offices, thus freeing up the commissioners to deal with legislative issues at the local to federal levels.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” King said. “That was the intent of those of us who prepared it.”

He said the selling point for most of those who have signed the petition is the money proponents purport will save taxpayers.

“Three county commissioners cost more than $250,000 in salary and benefits,” King said. “And the new ones will cost $50,000.”

Commissioners, in the meantime, have advertised for people to fill a home rule charter committee of its own. As of last week, it had received 11 applicants for four seats.

The Curry County Home Rule Charter Committee’s purpose is to examine, recommend and submit a proposed charter to voters. The board has yet to set a timeline for the committee.

Other petitions

Elections officials, originally gearing up for an onslaught of petitions as deadlines approached, are now breathing a little easier, as deadlines pass and little is submitted.

The only signature sheet they’ve received so far is from the City of Port Orford, asking voters for a property tax of $1.90 per $1,000 assessed valuation for police operations for five years.

Other petitions they expected to see include those to request the recall of commissioners David Brock Smith and David Itzen, a $10 million bond to build a new hospital in Gold Beach, the home rule charter and the county’s request for a tax increase to fund public safety.

That deadline is 5 p.m. Friday; commissioners will discuss today (Aug. 14) and will likely submit paperwork asking for $1.35 per $1,000 valuation to the voters in November.

Smith has repeatedly noted that the more ballot questions facing voters, the greater the chances all will fail.

“The home rule deadline has passed, and we haven’t received anything,” said Shelley Benney, supervisor of elections. “The recall deadlines are Oct. 8 and 9, and the hospital … we haven’t heard anything more from them. Gold Beach was talking about something, but we haven’t seen anything.

“They could still come,” she added. “It’s just a matter of when. We’ll see.”