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What do Corvallis, Albany and Philomath citizens have in common other than one city leaning liberal and the other two, conservative? Intelligent, dedicated, public officials, community leaders, and citizens who, like all families, have occasional differences but keep the collective good in mind to reach consensus and function, unlike our dysfunctional Congress.

Oregon land use planning is viewed as the national gold standard, thanks largely to goal No. 1: “citizen involvement.” This is once again under attack by special interest organizations in this short off-year legislative session.

Senate Bill 1573, crafted by the Oregon Homebuilders Association and using a bogus “declaration of emergency,” would trample on 32 cities’ home rule provisions (600,000 people plus) to amend their city charters through “voter annexation” laws. It would stifle their citizens’ ability to debate the impacts and costs of “growth” from extending infrastructure into their urban growth boundaries.

Under voter annexation laws, discretionary annexations are subject to voter approval. Corvallis citizens passed Oregon’s first voter annexation city charter amendment in 1976. Voter amendment laws have been challenged in the courts and the Legislature over the last 40 years without success. With Oregon’s Supreme Court upholding these laws, building interests have repeatedly tried to prevent citizens from deciding how big they want their communities to grow and from challenging why they have to subsidize that growth.

Oregon Communities for a Voice in Annexations, founded in 1996, has fought for and defended the public’s right to be involved in these critical decisions that have long range impacts on their pocketbooks and standard of living. A point in question is the “apartment bunkers” being dropped all over town and leaving no place to park for longtime homeowners.

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Silence is not an option when someone wants to eat your lunch. The only way people can retain their voice in government locally and statewide is to defend those rights. Salem talks about ethical and open government while at the same time allowing powerful lobbyists to consistently try to remove the public from the public process.

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As pointed out in the Jan. 31 Gazette-Times editorial, “shorter sessions tend to be full-out sprints,” “the pace is very fast, but that is deceptive” and “considerable vetting takes place before the session starts.” Interpretation: deals have been made before the session even starts, and opponents, if they are notified at all, sometimes only get 15 minutes. The Senate allowed special interest to testify on SB 1573 while excluding Oregon Communities for a Voice in Annexation and representation from the 32 cities that allow voter annexation.

What’s at stake with this proposed legislation is an assault on home rule and citizen involvement. City officials in these 32 cities need to show solidarity and respect for their citizen initiative process, not to mention their city charters.

The bill requires cities to annex territory without vote upon receipt of petition for annexation submitted by all owners of land in territory. It also provides that cities are not required to hold public hearings and may declare territory annexed by ordinance containing description of territory.

Contact your dedicated public officials, community leaders, and fellow citizens to encourage them to write or call their state representatives and senators with the request to defeat SB 1573.

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Jeff Lamb of Philomath is the vice chairman of Oregon Communities for a Voice in Annexations.

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