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Oregon Legislature Adds Measure 37 “Fairness” Committee

Senator Floyd Prozanski may have one of the hottest seats in the Oregon Senate -- if not the state -- when the 2007 legislature convenes in Salem on Monday. Committee assignments handed out December 15 tapped Prozanski, a Eugene Democrat representing District 4 in southern Lane and northern Douglas counties, to chair the Special Senate Committee on Land Use Fairness. The committee was created due to widespread concern over Measure 37, the property rights law that requires compensation for value lost to regulation, or waiver of the regulation. Many believe that thousands of Measure 37 claims statewide, nearly half of them filed in the weeks before an initial deadline Dec. 4, could create far more rural residential development than Oregon voters expected, or intended, when they approved the initiative 61 to 39 percent in 2004. On the other hand, the measure itself was about fairness, a response to restrictive land-use laws against which proponents bridled. Among those concerned over the law’s outcomes — enough to have formed a semi-secretive group to work on the issue nine months ago -- is Governor Ted Kulongoski. The Governor announced "his" group back in March, and unveiled his evolving intentions in an October 13 letter to the Oregon Land Use Task Force (the "Big Look"), saying he had “directed his staff to draft … a legislative concept with the expectation that it be introduced” in the 2007 session...

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Making Backyard Ice In An Age Of Global Warming

While you are reading these words, I am putting our Montana backyard on ice. I've been out past midnight for a couple of weeks now trying to make peace with the natural elements and uneven contours of frozen sod in order to make a skating rink for the kids. I must say that it is starting to look sweet as it shines in the end-of-day sunlight. What passes today as a modest extravagance in attempting to defy the gusts of warm Chinook winds that blow through in January and inevitably will turn this project into puddles is nothing compared to the epic struggle in the mountains between glaciers and the rising global thermostat. Decades from now when the glaciers are memorialized in our oral tradition, the same way that Native Americans speak of free-ranging bison in their origin stories, what will our kids remember of winter?

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Oregon’s Land Rush, A Gorge Court Case, and Light-Hearted About Biofuel

A note to our more sensitive readers: This article contains mildly opinionated statements, and an exclamation point. I made up one word, too. This week includes a deadline for Measure 37 development claims in Oregon (not the deadline, but a significant one, in that hereafter claimants must have a use for their land that central-planning types have actually turned down, and not just pie-in-the-sky statements on their claim forms), and hundreds of landowners, big and small, have rushed to demand the right to pole-vault over Oregon's hurdleanimous land-use laws. The Oregonian’s Laura Oppenheimer wrote a worthwhile overview of the land rush. One interesting quote is from state Rep. Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, who supports Measure 37 and says that many Oregonians have “a lot of misunderstanding” about the law. (It’s simple enough in concept: People should be able to use their land however they want, the heck with the neighbors and with land-use laws enacted since they bought the land.) Says Garrard, “I feel it is the Legislature's responsibility to do something about it." Well, sha-freakin’-zam!...

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Gorge Adventurer Showing Expedition Film in Hood River

Local publisher and adventurer Dave Waag will be presenting a film about a team of friends, skiers, who made an expedition to the remote Altai Mountains in China. The one-hour film, Journey to the Source: The Search for Skiing’s Ancient Roots, will play Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at Dog River Coffee, in Hood River. Waag is probably best known as publisher of Off Piste, the back country ski magazine. He was one of the three members of the Altai expedition; it was a six-week outing in the spring of 2005. The Altai comprise a range of mountains between China, Mongolia and Russia. Besides remote and much un-schussed terrain, the mountains are home to a hardy, semi-nomadic people for whom skiing is a way of life. Some people believe that skiing began in this region of Central Asia, and later migrated to Scandinavia, later to emerge in Alpine Europe and the United States. Waag recently consented to answer a few questions in advance of the film: New West: How did the Altai expedition come about?...

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Skiing at Meadows by mid-December?

We could get our mountain back within a couple weeks. That’s the word from Oregon transportation officials about the reopening of Highway 35 south of Hood River. Steven Harry, a PR rep for the Oregon Department of Transportation, has sent out a press release saying that crews are working quickly. He writes, “Barring unforeseen conditions or bad weather, the highway is expected to reopen by Dec. 15.” The highway was cut — and Mount Hood Meadows ski area cut off — November 6 and 7, you’ll recall, when continuing rains sent huge landslides and overflowing streams across it. A million cubic yards of soil, trees and boulders sluiced down Mount Hood’s flanks. The overflowing White River dug a new channel along, under and over Highway 35; that, and overflows and undercuts along the Hood River, Clark and Newton Creeks washed out a total of 2.5 miles of road. ODOT says it will hold two public meeting to discuss the wash-out, the repairs and the ultimate rebuilding, or fate, of Highway 35. This, as an Oregonian article points out, is an open question. How many times should we build a highway in an active flood and slide zone?...

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“Property Rights” Measures Rejected In Washington and Other States

The West-wide property rights campaign to force governments to back off from limiting development on private property came to a showdown Tuesday, and supporters won big — in Arizona. The regulatory takings campaign stalled in every other state, though, being either stricken by courts or rejected by voters in five states. Voters in Washington, California and Idaho said no to the idea in balloting Tuesday. In the campaign around the West, regulatory takings was tarted up with emotional arguments against eminent domain, funded by wealthy activists, and hawked with the fervor of true believers. The supporters, from the Ayn Rand school of libertarian thought, had an impressively bold idea: Strike at the heart of government’s ability to tell people what to do by making it waive its property regulations. The result would have — could be? — a fundamental reshaping of the American scene, starting in the West, with its penchent for property rights and wide-open ballot initiative systems. In other words, reconfigure American political thought by taking a populist-sounding idea straight to the voters. The voters, it turns out, mostly said no thanks...

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Oregon Election Results

UPDATED, 11-7 These results are initial, people, but it looks like Ted has pulled out the win. The Oregon Secretary of State’s office has voters supporting incumbent Ted Kulongoski (D) for governor over Ron Saxton (R), by 54 to 40 percent. This is as of 8:45 p.m., Tuesday, with 291,583 votes cast. Oregon’s election results won’t be official for some days — but, check out how the commentators and informed observers predicted the results (they guessed Kulongoski would beat Saxton handily). That’s right, it’s the 2006 Oregon Punditology Challenge! Oh, you want election results? They’ll be available beginning at 8:05 p.m., here. Other early results show a sweep

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Clouds Wringing Themselves Out Over Oregon

Heavy autumn rains are swelling rivers and closing roads around Oregon this election evening. And it’s not just the coast and the Willamette Valley getting hammered — highway officials have closed Oregon Highway 35 south of Hood River at White River due to boulders and debris on the the road. (This is as of Tuesday evening.) The Hood River itself Tuesday rose as high as the railroad bridge. (Photos courtesy of Dave Waag, of Hood River. Thanks, Dave!) For more, and larger, photos, click to the jump.

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Think We Have Political Issues? Try 1857.

By Tuesday night, Oregonians statewide will have finished voting for mid-term candidates. Also, we will have answered “Yes or No” on ten measures concerning far ranging issues of tax law, private property, terms of office, medical responsibility for minors and more. The complexity of each measure, compounded by an insistent chorus of interested parties on opposing sides, makes wading through a Voters’ Pamphlet tedious. Why isn’t it simpler? Consider, for a moment, the simplicity of the Oregon Territory ballot of November 9, 1857. Just three simple Yes or No questions: Do you vote for the State Constitution? Do you vote for Slavery? Should Free Negroes be allowed in Oregon? Sound straight forward? Hardly. The United States was teetering on the brink of a civil war and, if the Oregon Territory earned statehood, the delicate balance of power in Washington would be upset. If results of the 1857 ballot are shocking to our modern sensibilities, the political conditions that lead up to these three simple measures are even more so…

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Neighbors, Takings and Money Refused — A Roundup of Interesting Landuse Stories

There are several interesting little property rights stories floating around just ahead of the big vote in the West this week on various Measure 37 spinoffs. ”¢ First... across Ol’ Windy in Skamania County, property developers are threatening to sue the county if it enacts a zoning plan around Swift Reservoir. Their beef? They say that putting in protections after they’ve bought spec land with hopes of building hundreds of houses would be — you guessed it — illegal taking. The threat comes just ahead of Washington’s vote on a statewide takings initiative, I-933. ”¢ Second...

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