No justice court, no voice for Woodburn?
There sure have been a lot of assurances from two of the three Marion County Commissioners this week.
First, assurances that consolidating the three Justice courts in the county, including one in Woodburn, into one in Salem will have little to no impact on Woodburn residents.
Second, that the new facility will be better run, more consistent, remove special privileges for some communities and create equity and fairness for the entire county.
But looking at how the process has unfolded, it begs the question: fair for who?
Because who else gets the better run Justice Court than the good people of Salem?
It makes sense to do whatever it takes to save money and create efficiencies. But strip East Marion Justice of the Peace Steven Summers, a locally elected judge, of his courtroom and take away local access to justice by moving the courts 18 miles to the south and 17 miles to the west?
These are actions only a centralist government would see as fair.
So where do people of Stayton, Aumsville and St. Paul for that matter now go when they get traffic violations from the county sheriffs office? Why, Salem, of course. Because fairs fair, right, as long as all roads lead to Rome, er, Salem.
Whats next for Commissioners Carlson and Brentano? Will they take away police services from small communities such as Aurora and St. Paul which receive sheriffs patrol on contract? Arent these special privileges?
What makes Marion County unique is its urban and rural dynamic, but also the idea that we have each others backs, that even in small communities where resources are few, people can receive services available to all citizens of the county.
A more workable solution could have been found for rural communities in the county.
Instead, we have stripped an elected official of his duties before his term expires in the name of efficiency.
What must other elected officials be thinking if the will of the voters can be easily overturned by two out of three county commissioners?
While the loss of the North Marion Justice Court in Woodburn will not have too much impact on local residents, it will serve to further lessen the voice of Woodburn and other smaller communities in the county.
The one commissioner who voted against this measure, Patti Milne, has fought for more local control throughout her tenure as county commissioner.
Milne is stepping down as commissioner at the end of 2014 and we wonder who will speak for North Marion County when her term expires.
This decision serves to diminish North Marion Countys voice further while consolidating it.