Watching reactions to passage of Measures 37-and my original post here (Lessons from Measure 37) -it seems the issue isn’t whether the glass if half-full or half-empty. It’s whether the glass has been shattered, never to hold water again.
Former Oregon Congressman Les AuCoin writes for High Country News’ Writers on the Range: “When Oregonians passed Measure 37 by a lopsided margin of 60 percent to 40 percent, they signaled that they had become a different people….they changed the ethos of a state that had for 30 years celebrated open spaces, greenways and livable communities over development.”
One response to my post took it to task as presenting a dangerous “veneer of reasonableness” that ignores the reality that “the sky is falling.” Further, “People who care about the most minimally responsible land use and environmental regulation really shouldn’t spout this kind of nonsense to make themselves sound moderate. Oregon’s land use laws aren’t (well, weren’t) draconian….”
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So, the sky is falling. Land use in Oregon has been repealed. And the answer is to shout louder, invoke the ghost of Tom McCall more vividly and passionately.
Before I am excommunicated totally from the environmental community, let me once more say that I do believe the consequences of Measure can be severe. I do believe its passage is a dark day for Oregon. My difference is with those who believe the right response is to dig the trenches deeper and refight the battle we just lost.
What is happening on the ground rather than in the ether of the Internet is interesting and a bit more encouraging. Governor Kulongoski has forthrightly declared his opposition to waiving land use regulations, saying government should follow the path of compensation instead. In contrast to former Congressman Les AuCoin, he has declared the view that Oregonians voted for “fairness” in the land use system but in no way did they vote to repeal it.
Cities and counties have begun exploring local implementation ordinances that might reach both toward “fairness” and narrowing the worst of the potential consequences of Measure 37, as discussed by the League of Oregon Cities and covered in the Bend Bulletin.
True, these are tentative and probably inadequate steps. But they have one important quality about them: they treat the decision at the polls as legitimate while attempting to implement the decision without overreaching on either side. For those who want to continue to argue that the voters’ decision was in fact illegitimate, a fraud perpetrated on a gullible electorate by clever ballot-title writers-tell it to the voters.
I do agree with one point that is consistent through all the responses to my first post: it is essential that the media now cover the unfolding implementation of Measure 37 like a blanket. Governments responding to claims for compensation or waivers must act in daylight. The media must present a continuing saga of how it is working out. Who is filing for what? What are the effects of all these filings? And, is this what voters really wanted?
Only by this sort of coverage will the public be positioned to consider fixes to Measure 37. But, it has to be honest. It has to be real. It is to be enduring. The public will not buy stories of potential harm. And, importantly, they won’t buy any stories if they conclude that the intent is to undo Measure 37 completely.
This puts governments and supporters of Oregon’s land use system in a tough position: Striving for an honest implementation of Measure 37 that keeps faith with the voters on the fundamental issue of “fairness.” Seeking to mitigate the worst of the potential harm of the measure. And, all the while, playing it straight so that voters see and believe both the good-faith implementation and the dark side of Measure 37 that was obscured during the campaign.
I’m not against “shouting louder.” But it might work better if we stopped to listen first.