The Oregon Secretary of State plans to hold 21 hearings before drafting his version of how the state's legislative districts should be formed -- one will be in Bend
Redistricting of state Senate and Representative districts is an issue that pops up every decade. The Oregon Constitution requires new district lines to be drawn based on new census data. Many believe this action is the most important piece of legislation to come out of Salem this year. Redistricting will shape the way the state legislature will be for the next ten years.
In Oregon, the job started with a special committee formed by the legislature to reshape the representative districts mandated by population change. The committee)s goal was to maintain a population balance in each district. The plan that the committee developed was not easily accepted by local officials because of its negative impact on Crook County; the proposed plan would have taken a portion of Powell Butte from the present district and added it to the legislative district that includes Lake, Harney, Malhuer and part of Klamath counties.
Cutting a chunk of Crook County's population and adding that block to the southeast section of the state brought an instant response from Crook County Judge Scott Cooper. He pointed out that the county does not need to be divided by arbitrary boundaries. Powell Butte, he said in his response, has little if anything in common with those more southern counties. According to the redistricting rules, each district is to be contiguous and have communities of common interest.
That plan, however, was not accepted by the governor and, following the legal process, has been turned over to Secretary of State Bill Bradbury to create a new redistricting plan.
Bradbury announced that he would hold a series of public hearings before drafting his plan. Rather than take testimony from legislators, he wanted to hear what the public thought about how the redistricting should be done.
Latest on the redistricting process
While the Secretary of State has said he wouldn't make any decisions until hearing from the public, it was announced late last night that his plan had been drafted
Late yesterday, Crook County Judge Scott Cooper shared the news that the Secretary of State had released his redistricting plan.
"Like the failed Republican plan, this version also divides Crook County into two separate house and senate districts. The county leadership had objected to the Republican plan because it separated Prineville and Powell Butte, and stuck most of the county into a gigantic district that included Malheur, Harney and Lake Counties. Bradbury's plan plan, on the other hand," Cooper explained, "keeps western Crook County (primarily Prineville and Powell Butte) in a district with the northern half of Deschutes County (excluding the city of Bend), and puts the eastern part of the county in a district with Jefferson, Wasco, Wheeler, Sherman, Gilliam and Morrow Counties.
"As best I can tell," Cooper continued, "the boundary between the east and west districts is the paved, eastern section of Mill Creek Road, south to highway 126, west to Combs Flat Road, then south to Paulina highway, then south to Prineville Reservoir, then along the reservoir to where it joins highway 27, then south to the county line.
"Under this plan, Greg Smith (Heppner) and Ben Westlund (Tumalo) would be our representatives, while David Nelson (Pendleton) and Bev Clarno (Bend) would be our senators. The plan is slightly better, but still doesn)t meet the Court's primary objective of keeping the county together as a single voting unit."
The county court, Cooper concluded, "will continue to submit comment to the secretary of state advocating keeping Crook County together.
To submit comments about the proposal, go to www.sos.state.or.us/redistrict/comments.htm.
The public hearing on Bradbury's redistricting plan for this region will be held at the Bend City Hall, 710 NW Wall St. on Wednesday July, 25 at 7 p.m.