On its face, the home rule charter seems a process-oriented method of reorganizing county government.
It’s more than that.
In this space we have argued the City of Keizer should consider dividing the electoral populace into wards, thereby making councilors accountable to their own neighborhood. What’s good for the city is good for the county.
Residents of North Marion and other rural areas – and Keizer, for that matter – deserve a commissioner who will fight for their specific interests.
That’s one reason we support Measure 24-292.
The opposition argues that countywide commissioners represent all of the county’s interests, but the county is too large and too diverse to expect there to be one “right” decision for everyone. What works for Turner may not be kosher for Keizer, and what’s best for state workers in Salem may not be ideal for farmers near Aurora.
The commission should be designed to reflect this, even if – by mere coincidence – the current commissioners hail from different areas of the county.
In addition, localized races could put the short-on-money, long-on-shoe-leather candidate in a more competitive position against a financially affluent candidate.
Running a countywide election is no small feat. The average person with a full-time job has to raise significant funds to reach voters countywide because there aren’t enough evenings and weekends to knock on every door in the county.
The decreased representation argument falls further short when you realize less than 25 percent of registered voters get any real say in who their county commissioner is.
Because of partisan primaries – and Marion County’s Republican leanings – the county commissioner’s race is essentially decided in the GOP primary. Voters who are registered as unaffiliated, Democrats, Libertarians, etc. need not bother getting lathered up about a commission race because they have virtually no say in it. Partisan politics are fine in the legislature and Congress, but serve no purpose in county governance.
Making the ballot non-partisan will not remove the influence of party politics, nor will it transform the local political scene to more resemble Multnomah than Marion County.
What it will do is give voters more choices, a wider palette of ideas for where our county should go. County commissioners’ political sensibilities should reflect the voters in their area.
A very smart person reminded us recently, there’s no such thing as a Republican or Democratic pothole. It’s just a pothole that needs to be fixed.
To extend the metaphor, this isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. In the end, it’s a lack of local accountability or representation, and a lack of ballot access, that needs to be fixed. It’s for that reason we support Measure 24-292.