The evidence in Coos and Curry County is overwhelming, the public wants transparency
If we have learned anything these last two elections it is that South Coast voters don’t want to turn over their right to have a say to a small group of people or an administrator. Curry County soundly defeated a home rule charter* that called for volunteer commissioners and a paid administrator. The reasons given for the governance change were identical to those offered when Coos County was offered a ballot measure to support a similar setup here and that was to circumvent or get around Oregon’s public meetings law. An administrator can poll the board and work on each commissioner individually well in advance of the public vote. If the administrator is under the influence of a local cabal of special interests, well, the public doesn’t even have a fighting chance.
Despite being outspent the opposition to both of these measures prevailed and voters rejected the volunteer commission and the idea of an all powerful unelected administrator.
We are seeing the same kind of public push back with the efforts to put public money under private control. Citizens are demanding full transparency before agreeing to the idea of Jordan Cove Energy Partners paying a community service fee in lieu of taxes to two private nonprofits as part of a so-called Community Enhancement Plan. Again, these nonprofits, particularly the SCCF (South Coast Community Foundation) have been specifically formed to circumvent laws and procedures seen by some as too cumbersome or troubling. In the case of SCCF, the proponents want to bypass state school equalization laws and Oregon’s public meetings and public records law.
Commission candidate Don Gurney surprised incumbent John Sweet when he bested the Sweet in the primary. Gurney ran, in part, because he opposed the privatization of public money.
It is probably safe to say that voters everywhere object to these not so subtle takeovers orchestrated by local power brokers but I believe the evidence in Coos and Curry County is overwhelming. The architects and supporters of the enhancement plan, Commissioner John Sweet included, should take heed this November.
*A proposed Coos County home rule charter “The Voice of the Voters” specifically opposes hiring an administrator without a vote of the people.