Measure 49: Why the secrecy & manipulation?

What is it about Measure 49 that requires so much secrecy, so much misdirection, so much hiding the ball? The manipulation of the process, the language and the campaign is reminiscent of the dark days of Richard Nixon and his dirty tricks squads.

In every instance in which the supporters of Measure 49 could have chosen dialogue, they instead closed the doors. In every instance in which they could have chosen public disclosure, they chose secrecy and withholding of information. In every instance in which they could have chosen facts and logic, they chose public opinion polls and parsing.

What is it that the supporters don’t want the public to know about Measure 49? My guess is that they don’t want the public to know that Measure 49 is a radical change in Oregon’s law that allows the government to take up to 95% of the use and value of your property without compensating you a dime.

Oh, you thought the constitution protected you? You thought that the Fifth Amendment would protect you? The Fifth Amendment states in pertinent part:

“. . . nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Unfortunately, that belief is unwarranted. Virtually every state and federal court has ruled that such constitutional provisions apply only when the government takes title to your property or takes the use of your property to the total exclusion of your use. That is not very artfully said, but it is accurate. If the government wants to take your property to build a road or a convention center, they must provide you “due process” and “just compensation.” However, if the government wants to adopt rules and regulations (i.e. zoning, environmental, or other use restrictions) that prevent you from using your property as you intended, they are entitled to do that without compensation to you for the diminution in the value of your property.

But not in Oregon. In Oregon, if the government adopts a rule that restricts your right to use your property in a way that was lawful when you purchased it, the government must either compensate you for the reduced value of your property or refrain from imposing the restriction. In virtually every instance, the government has elected to refrain from imposing the restriction.

If Measure 49 passes, the protections that Oregonians have will be wiped out. That is what the supporters of Measure 49 don’t want to talk about. That is the reason for all of the secrecy, manipulation and withholding of information.

The supporters of Measure 49 manipulated the legislative process so that Measure 49 was considered and passed on a straight party line vote without one single public hearing – a hearing at which the real intent could have been discussed, publicly debated and probably corrected. Yes, I know that the supporters claim that Measure 49 had five public hearings but it is simply not true. There were hearings on a number of different bills involving land use restrictions but there were none on Measure 49 itself. It was a bill that was crafted in a closed-door process dominated by the governor and overseen by the radical environmental community.

In the normal course of events, when a measure is referred to the voters, the attorney general crafts the battle title after an opportunity for public input on the accuracy of the proposed title. And there is an additional opportunity for the proponents and opponents to test the fairness of the language in a hearing before the Oregon Supreme Court.

But not in this case.

The supporters of Measure 49 knew that if they followed the normal course of events, that an accurate ballot title crafted by the attorney general would result in the measure’s defeat. So they exempted themselves from the attorney general’s review and the appeals to the Oregon Supreme Court. The reality of their manipulation was shown when the opponents of Measure 49 filed an exact duplicate of Measure 49 with the secretary of state, as if it were a new initiative, just so they could get the attorney general’s fair and impartial ballot title language. If you look at the attorney general’s ballot title and the one crafted by the supporters of Measure 49, you wouldn’t conclude that they refer to the same language.

But there is more secrecy and manipulation. When the opponents of Measure 49 used a freedom of information request to try to obtain all of the correspondence between the governor’s office and the supporters of Measure 49, the governor’s office withheld a critical e-mail in which the supporters directed the exact language to be used for the ballot title based on polling information. The governor’s office lame excuse was that the e-mail was on the home computer of one of his staff members and, therefore, wasn’t a public record. Having been a former attorney general and a supreme court justice, the governor knew that wasn’t not true and that any time a public official uses his private computer to conduct the state’s business, the information exchanged is a public record.

But that doesn’t end the secrecy and manipulation. The political ads of the supporters show scenes of would be farmers standing near housing projects complaining that development is invading land all over the state. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Less than two percent of Oregon’s land has been developed for housing and other urban uses. And even if you include every parcel of land for which an application has been made to develop the land, the total still does not exceed two percent.

The supporters of Measure 49 can’t even play it straight when it comes to disclosing who is supporting their campaign. One of its major supporters is The Nature Conservancy, a Washington, D.C. environmental group that has thus far refused to disclose from whom it is receiving contributions. It has hidden behind a loophole in the campaign disclosure act to hide the fact that most of its money is coming from out of state interests – people and businesses that neither live in Oregon nor pay taxes in Oregon.

So why all of the secrecy and manipulation? Simply stated, they simply don’t want Oregonians to know that the real intent of Measure 49 is to allow the government to take the use of their property without compensation.

Don’t believe me, read the measure. Read the measure and then tell Governor Kulongoski and his radical out of state environmental friends that you aren’t buying their secrecy and manipulation.