Measure 63 was largely overlooked by voters and media this year. That’s as it should be—everyone had bigger fish to fry—but it is worth taking just a moment to absorb the significance of the measure’s loss. Measure 63 was a bit like the end of every B-horror movie you’ve ever seen. You know: after the monster has finally been killed off, everyone relaxes… then suddenly, it’s back!
Predictably enough, voters trounced it. And the victory isn’t so much significant for its substance—the measure was a bad idea, but only a small bad idea—as for the message it sends. The message is this: citizens of democracies like land use laws. No really, they like them. And that’s so even though local laws and rules sometimes need fixing and could benefit from better implementation. I don’t know why it’s so hard for some folks to believe, but voters actually prefer having a say in how their communities are run. They don’t want land use anarchy—and they would really rather not abolish building permits as Measure 63 would have done.
Here’s the context. In recent years, an awful Oregon ballot measure spawned a rash of anti-land use initiatives (taking the form of regulatory takings measures) that spread zombie-like throughout the west. They were crushed in Alaska, California, Idaho, and Washington; and thrown out by the courts in Montana and Nevada. And then last year, Oregon voters took care of their own monster when they passed Measure 49, an initiative that put to rest the worst parts of the earlier law. It was a nail in the coffin of a very bad idea.
Or so we thought. Just when everyone finally relaxed… Measure 63 attacked!
It wasn’t a huge deal, but I’m glad it’s been put to rest. Ideas from Oregon have a way of spreading, so it was good to nip this one in the bud. Now that it’s done we can continue a real conversation about how to improve land use protections in ways that benefit individuals and communities at the same time.