Republicans who are torn over whom to vote for in the Jackson County Board of Commissioners primary race can come up with two answers by asking only one question: What's the deal with the land-use ballot measures in the May 15 election?
Here's the deal: The measures are bad news, and the three GOP candidates who support them are showing themselves to be politicians who clearly will put their own ideologies ahead of the welfare of county residents.
Measures 15-110 and 15-111 purport to change Jackson County's land-use laws. We say "purport" because there's little chance either of them will make a lick of difference in how the county goes about enforcing state land-use rules.
Measure 15-110 says Jackson County will have a general policy of opposing statewide land-use planning and that local land-use decisions should trump state law. It's a meaningless measure that suggests the county should be able to do as it pleases when it comes to following land-use rules and state law, which it clearly can't.
Measure 15-111 goes further and in doing so almost certainly becomes unconstitutional. It says Jackson County will ignore the 2007 statewide vote that overturned the Measure 37 property rights measure and will impose its own local version of Measure 37. That would require local governments to pay landowners whose property values are diminished by land-use laws.
That means the county and local cities would face the prospect of going bankrupt or giving land developers free rein to do as they please. It also suggests that county residents can pick and choose which state laws they will obey. It doesn't work that way in real life and will only end up costing the county more money in legal fees.
So we oppose measures 15-110 and 15-111, along with the three commissioner candidates who support them: Doug Breidenthal, Kay Harrison and Colleen Roberts. Harrison seems the most rational of the three, but Breidenthal and Roberts come across as tea party advocates in their beliefs that property rights trump all other land-use laws. If either is elected, we will have a new version of Jack Walker on the Board of Commissioners, ready to joust at any and all state and federal laws, expense and common sense be damned.
The fourth GOP candidate, Joel Ockunzzi, is scarcely a liberal. He, too, is an advocate for property rights and comes from a corporate business background. But Ockunzzi, who is on the county Planning Commission, is smart enough to realize that you can't simply thumb your nose at the state and do as you please. He's no great fan of the land-use system, but less of a fan of taking on expensive legal battles that won't be won.
On the Democratic side of the ticket, our support goes to Jeff Scroggin, a high energy candidate who knows the political ropes through his work as chief of staff for state Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford. Scroggin, a former sergeant in the U.S. Army, is adamant about pushing forward with job creation efforts and the kind of enthusiasm he brings to bear on the topic makes us believe that he will be just as focused on the topic if he's elected.
None of the three Democrats — Scroggin, Mark Soderstrom or John Beatty — has experience in elective office, but Scroggin's energy and his experience working with the state Legislature and a variety of local governments as Bates' chief aide makes him the best choice in our minds.
Our recommendations: No on measures 15-110 and 15-111 and yes on commissioner candidates Joel Ockunzzi for the Republican nomination and Jeff Scroggin for the Democratic nomination.