Letter to the Editor for April 4, 2014
Partisan races = local control
A Baker County initiative petition to change the county commissioner seats from partisan races to nonpartisan races is currently being circulated by Sumpter resident Randy Joseph. Many voters think “nonpartisan” means neutral or not involved in politics. Not so!
County commissioners make and set policy, just like our state representatives and senators. Other elected county officials who are nonpartisan carry out policy — big difference.
It is easy to influence voters with a well-written statement, but it is also easy to deceive them when they have no idea what a person’s true affiliation is.
Baker County citizens — voters — need to keep local control of the replacement process when a commissioner resigns. If these seats become nonpartisan, then vacancies will be appointed by two individuals, one possibly being the governor all the way on the other side of the state. Where would these nominees come from? Who would vet them? The two commissioners left making the appointment? This smacks of a good-old-boy system.
ORS 236.210 and 236.225 in summary: If one Baker County Commissioner resigns, then the remaining two commissioners will make the decision for the replacement.
If two commissioners resign, then the governor of Oregon will appoint one commissioner to make a quorum and then the remaining commissioner, along with the governor’s appointee, will make the decision for the appointment of the third commissioner.
Is this really the voters having a say in local government?
In the past 30 years, there have been four resignations of county commissioners. In July of 1986 both Ben Dunleavy, a Democrat, and Rod McCullough, a Republican, resigned; in 2003 Paul York, a Republican, resigned, and last spring we had the resignation of Dr. Stiff, a Republican.
Baker County currently has the ability to mimic the primary with a nominating convention to determine the nominees for the county commissioner decision. The nominees are fully vetted and voted on by the dozens of elected precinct committee people (PCPs) from all over the county.
Numerous studies have proven nonpartisan races actually reduce voter turnout. Voters lose the ability to screen candidates for core beliefs. Nonpartisan elections equal no interest or research by the voters for the candidates — candidate beliefs are masked. We end up with less informed voters than we have today. (Google: Teams without Uniforms: The Nonpartisan ballot in State and Local Elections.)
A nonpartisan system is promoted by liberals and left-wing groups such as the legislative arm of SEIU, The League of Conservation Voters, and League of Women Voters among a few. The Oregon counties that have gone nonpartisan have done so with the help of these liberal groups and the Democratic Party — which really doesn’t quite smell right, not quite neutral. Nonpartisan races are the road to a single-party system. (If you like your party, you can keep your party! Yeah, right.)
According to the Association of Oregon Counties, there are currently seven counties that are nonpartisan under a home rule charter, which allows the county to define in its rules a replacement process.
Two counties are partisan under Home Rule governance. Baker County is not Home Rule, it is general law governance (statute driven). Seven other counties are nonpartisan and under the county judge format of General Law. There are actually only 13 counties governed like Baker County that are nonpartisan. Hardly the 20 out of 36 that has been stated by the chief petitioners, who are trying to compare apples to oranges.
Once Baker County voters understand the loss of local control, we don’t believe they will support this nonpartisan initiative.
For more information call 541-519-5035.
Van Diepen and Jones are members of the Baker County Republican Central Committee.