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County board needs reforms

Clackamas County can no longer be considered a mysterious, if not separatist, part of the Portland metropolitan area. There are many signals that the sleeping giant is awakening: the huge expansion of the urban growth boundary in the Damascus area, the extension of light rail to Clackamas Town Center and eventually to downtown Milwaukie, significant business expansion among world-class manufacturers, and an expected doubling of the county’s population over the next 20 years. Along the way, the county is in need of a change in how it is governed. That change can occur in the Nov. 6 election if Clackamas County voters approve Measure 3-272, which would expand the county’s board from three commissioners elected on a partisan basis to five nonpartisan commissioners. The measure also allows voters to select one of the candidates as board chairman. An expanded, nonpartisan board would allow for greater representation for citizens throughout a geographically massive and diverse county that reaches from Lake Oswego and the neighborhoods of Southeast Portland through the farmlands surrounding Canby and into the forests that touch Mount Hood and the tips of the Cascades. These urban, suburban and rural concerns deserve not only representation but efficient governance. At present, two members of the county’s current three-member board cannot meet and discuss any governmental business without violating state public-meetings laws. An expanded board would ensure that a Clackamas County commissioner is always at the table when local cities, counties and Metro lobby for limited state and federal funds or advocate for policies and programs that better serve the needs of the entire metropolitan area. Expanding the county board of commissioners to five members comes at a cost: an estimated $260,000 and more staff support for the two new commissioners. We think an investment in increased citizen representation, better governance and expanded regional leadership is worth it. While the measure maintains the current system of electing all five commissioners countywide, it requires that topic to be revisited in 2011 to determine whether commissioners should be elected instead from smaller local districts. Clackamas County citizens should vote yes on Measure 3-272 in the Nov. 6 election.