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County tries to balance districts

Charter change would spread population growth among board seats


Leave it to Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers, a former accountant, to zero in on the unequal number of residents in each of the county’s four commissioner districts.

“There’s a chart to show 2010 numbers that show how out of whack they are,” says Rogers. “This isn’t representational government.”

Typically, Washington County’s districts are reapportioned every 10 years when the census is done — but only if one district is more than 115 percent of the population of any other commissioner’s district.

In 2010, for example, Commissioner Bob Terry’s District 4 had 8,858 more people than District 1, about a 7 percent difference. But since it didn’t hit the variance trigger, no changes were made.

Times have changed.

Rogers and the other commissioners took a look at the issue and decided it was time for the voters to weigh in. Washington County voters will get a chance to vote on Measure 34-222, an amendment to Section 84 of the Washington County charter, in November’s general election.

What does it do?

For one, it acknowledges the population growth in Washington County. The growth isn’t equal, with extraordinary growth in areas such as North Bethany, South Hillsboro and Cooper Mountain.

The 15 percent variance allowed by the charter isn’t comparable to other counties.

In 2010, the county’s population was 529,710. By 2013, it jumped to 554,996.

Rogers notes, “We’re going to have pretty good growth” in the near future. “We’re adding 7,000 to 10,000 new residents every year.”

County staffers looked into the variances allowed in other comparable counties and found the 115 percent was quite high.

Measure 34-222 would lower the trigger for reapportionment to 105 percent instead of the current 115 percent. It would also lower the maximum population allowed between commissioner districts after reapportionment to 103 percent.

If the charter amendment is approved by voters, how would the lines be redrawn? “We haven’t talked about how to do it,” says Rogers.

But the revised charter would take effect Jan. 1, 2015, and 90 days would be allowed to make the changes — five years earlier than originally planned.

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