This is an open letter to the citizens of Umatilla County regarding Commissioner Larry Givens’ editorial in our local paper opposing a home rule charter in Douglas County.
One would think Givens has his hands full just managing the affairs of Umatilla County. Yet you are paying him $90,853 a year, not including benefits or PERS, which is likely 35 percent more, to meddle in Douglas County’s affairs. Really? We must wonder why Umatilla County’s commissioners are concerned with a home rule charter initiative happening in our community. Are they afraid it’s catching? Let’s hope so.
It is both offensive and taboo for a commissioner from another county to involve himself in the politics and affairs of another local government. Mr. Givens opposed our charter on behalf of our commissioners, who are under suspicion for misuse of federal Title III dollars as recently reported in The Oregonian. These same commissioners have closed the county’s libraries and failed to support or promote a local measure to keep them open, outsourced public health services, have seen fit to log old growth trees at our county parks and approved planning permits allowing a foreign corporation to take private properties through eminent domain. Are similar decisions in Umatilla County’s future?
Our charter called for five commissioners elected from throughout the rural areas of our county, giving those outlying communities a voice at the table, and a professional salaried county manager; not just someone whose only qualification is “they can win elections.” Umatilla County citizens are very generous considering your county’s median income is $45,000 and you pay your commissioners more than $90,000 a year — and that doesn’t even include the cost of their benefit package. Douglas County commissioners’ salaries are $77,459 annually, or $121,000-plus with benefits and PERS. A bit out of whack when you consider the average annual income in Douglas County is right around $38,000. Starting to see our point?
Home rule is the privilege of citizens at the grass roots level to manage their own affairs and institute measures requiring accountability from elected officials. Home rule assumes government concerns should be solved at the level closest to the people and is the cornerstone of a democratic local government.”
Diana Larson and Stacey McLaughlin