Letters to the Editor for Feb. 28, 2014

By Baker City Herald readers February 28, 2014 02:54 pm

Nonpartisan county race preserves local control

As chief petitioners we believe it is essential that all voters understand the effects of both the current and nonpartisan election process, and that representative government requires participation by the most voters possible.

Concerns have been raised about the loss of local control if county commissioners vacate the position. This has happened twice recently in Baker County involving a single commissioner.

The current process for a single vacancy involves receiving three suggested candidates from the county political party of the vacated seat; the remaining two county commissioners make the appointment in a public hearing.

This differs little from the nonpartisan process where the two remaining county commissioners receive applications from potential candidates, take testimony and statements from those candidates and the public in open hearings, and then they make their decision in a public hearing. The political parties and the PCPs may submit applications or testimony in this process.

The fact that the vacancy can be filled by any Baker County resident means the choice can be made based on ability and not on political party affiliation. If the voters think it was the wrong choice they can correct it at the next election.

The appointment by the governor of one or more vacant commissioner seats for nonpartisan elections only occurs when there is not a quorum seated (less than two commissioners) and the governor shall only replace the minimum number of commissioners needed to reach a quorum. The two, seated, commissioners will then make their appointment as described in the preceding paragraph. This minimizes the loss of local control.

How often does the governor appoint county commissioners? In Oregon the majority of counties choose their commissioners with a nonpartisan process (20 of 36) and there seems to be only one appointment by the governor in the last 20 years. What is of greater concern to us is the fact that a small number of voters will decide the next election. Based on the 2010 primary election results the next two county commissioners will be selected by only 12.4 percent of Baker County voters. Is that the representative democracy we want?

Randy Joseph

Chuck Guerri

Loran Joseph

Baker County Committee for Nonpartisan Elections