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Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society

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POLL TAXES ON CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT.  SEPTEMBER 15, 2004

NEWS RELEASE 2004-1: September 15, 2004

HUGO NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION & HISTORICAL SOCIETY
6497 Hugo Road
Grants Pass, Oregon 97526
Web Page: http://www.hugoneighborhood.org
 
Officers of Hugo Neighborhood Association:
Wayne McKy, Chair, 541-476-4006
Mike Walker, Education Chair, 541-471-8271
Hal B. Anthony, Outreach Chair, 541-476-4156
Jacqueline Hardwick, Treasurer, 541-472-9732
Karen Rose, Web Master, 541-955-7057

POLL TAXES ON CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT

On September 8, 2004 several citizens appeared before the Josephine County Board of Commissioners (BCC) at its weekly business meeting and asked the BCC to reconsider its decision to raise the appeal fee after a public hearing to $750 (see Holger Sommer’s written testimony and the September 9, 2004 news article, "Land-use appeal fee increase upsets local residents", The Dailey Courier). The citizens felt that the increase was contrary to Oregon Statewide Goal One - Citizen Involvement, in conflict with the BCC’s open door policy, contrary to section 26 of Oregon’s Bill of Rights, and as the highest fee increase was excessive at 200 percent.

On July 1, 2004 during the county’s budget process the BCC approved increasing the county’s planning fees by an average of 30 percent. One of the increases was a $750 fee for an appeal after a public hearing, including a Rural Planning Commission’s decision, to the BCC. Previously the fee had been $250. Another fee was a first time fee of $250 for preparation of an Oregon Land Use Board of Appeal (LUBA) record in a LUBA appeal.

APPEAL FROM DECISION WITHOUT HEARING $250

APPEAL AFTER HEARING $750

PREPARATION OF LUBA RECORD $250

In a land use forum citizen grievances are usually expressed as petitions to their elected officials in the county or the city concerning inadequate "findings" or rationale supporting land use decisions. This new appeal fee of a Rural Planning Commission’s decision will require citizen to pay a huge fee to talk to their elected officials.

The $750 appeal fee was an increase of 200 percent. It was the highest percentage increase of all the fees and way above the average 30 percent increase. This increased fee is in direct conflict with the spirit of citizen involvement as defined by Goal One.

The $750 appeal fee also has the disadvantages effect of requiring citizens to pay a large fee to the county to exercise their constitutional rights of freedom of speech and to petition government for redress of grievances. The right to petition government is covered in our own state constitution, section 26, of our Bill of Rights: "No law shall be passed restraining any of the inhabitants of the State from . . . applying to the Legislature for redress of grievances."

The new $750 appeal fee can be compared to the county’s old "poll tax" where paying a tax was a requirement to vote. Now instead of paying a tax to vote, citizens must pay a huge appeal fee to gain access to their elected officials. For example, our county commissioners can not listen to citizens concerns on a land use application before the Rural Planning Commission. The county commissioners must decline to listen or speak to the citizens because of the possibility of ex parte contact and/or a conflict of interest as the BCC might be the hearing body on appeal. In this instance, the only way citizens can speak to their elected officials is to pay them.

The huge appeal fee is in direct conflict with the BCC alleged "open door policy" where citizens can come and talk to their commissioners anytime. In this case there is a closed door policy unless citizens pay a large amount of money to exercise their constitutional rights of freedom of speech and to petition government for redress of grievances.

Another new fee is a $250 fee for the county to prepare the LUBA record after a citizen appeals to LUBA. This is another nail in the coffin of citizen involvement. It increases by 130 percent the normal $325 LUBA appeal fee charged by the State of Oregon.

We urge you to support freedom of speech and the right to petition government. Attend the scheduled BCC’s meeting with citizens September 20th at 9:30 a.m. in the BCC’s conference room. Ask your Josephine County BCC to reconsider their two new poll taxes on citizen involvement.

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2012 Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society