oregon flagI know everyone’s in the throes of the Obama-McCain frenzy, but allow me to divert your attention to a minor ballot initiative in Oregon: Measure 63. Oh it’s fascinating, I assure you.

Measure 63 is the last whimpering gasp of the property rights measures that originated in Oregon. (If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll remember when I was as obsessed with pay-or-waive as I now am with cap-and-trade.)

Times change. It was just a few years ago when property rights radicals dreamed of essentially putting a stop to growth planning, and even rolling back basic land use restrictions. Unfortunately for them, it turns out that voters like land use laws. Kind of a lot actually. (See here, here, and here.) So the property activists have retreated from grand plans of world domination to petty little schemes that will still manage to annoy neighbors and undermine local governments.

All Measure 63 really does is end requirements for building permits when the improvement value is less than $35,000. It’s not such a big deal maybe, but it’s also kind of silly. For one thing, permits are really the primary means of ensuring that buildings conform to important health and safety codes. And as is so often the case with ballot measures, the language is a bit daft, leaving open several possible loopholes.

Later this month I’ll spend some time analyzing Measure 63 — or at least making fun of it. But I’m just too darn lazy today. Instead, here’s a quick roundup of the little that’s being said about the measure in Oregon…

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  • Here’s the official “No On 63” campaign’s somewhat spartan website. I’ve been surfing around, but I can’t actually find a “yes” campaign website. (I could scarcely find the “no” site, in fact.)

    The Portland Mercury doesn’t like it:

    If it passes, you’ll be able to do electrical, structural, or other technical work on your house without getting a permit, if the work costs less than $35,000! Hey, that seems safe.

    The Yamhill Valley News-Register says to vote no:

    If not tethered by building codes, do-it-yourself renovators have a tendency to take shortcuts. City and county inspections aren’t performed, and “little things” such as plumbing or structural work get covered by sheet rock, fixtures or flooring.

    Industries near and dear to the housing industry—real estate brokers, bankers and insurance companies—question the wisdom of the proposed law mainly because of safety concerns. From a risk standpoint, local insurance agents agree the permit threshhold is too high.

    The Oregonian reports that the Oregon Education Association, which officially opposes Measure 63, and the Oregon Nurses Association are giving a sizeable chunk of change to Defend Oregon, an organization that is working to defeat four ballot measures this year including Measure 63.

    Defend Oregon says:

    Measure 63 also endangers firefighters, police, and EMTs, who would face unknown structural risks when responding to emergencies.

    The Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon recommends voting no:

    Eliminating permit requirements will undermine the planning and public safety systems and deprive local governments of an important revenue source.

    The Oregon League of Conservation Voters also favors a “no” vote (and they promise some analysis next week).

    Update 9/17: OLCV has added some stuff. They seem rather grumpy about the measure.

    Measure 63’s full text, official summary, and fiscal analysis can all be found here.