Rogue Valley County Government

LWV Rogue Valley County Government Position in Full

(from 2017-2019 County Government Study)

The League of Women Voters of Rogue Valley believes that Jackson and Josephine counties have much in common, despite their differences. We support county governments via the Board of Commissioners (BOC) that act primarily as a policy making body. We continue to support their work to pass appropriate ordinances, approve all budget decisions and act in their quasi-judicial capacity in land use matters. We believe in a role that is more policy focused than administrative.

Administrative Duties

The League supports the BOC’s delegation of administrative functions to an appointed, professional administrator, but reasserts the League’s position that policy making shall be reserved to the elected BOC and that overall responsibility for all functions of county government ultimately rests with the BOC(s).

The LWVRV believes that in both Rogue Valley counties there should be a position of full-time administrator, whether such a role is titled County Administrator, Chief of Staff, or other similar designation, and whether established by charter, appointment or delegation of duties.

Qualifications and criteria of that position should be established by ordinance to provide transparency. An administrator reports to commissioners and relieves commissioners of administrative duties, allowing commissioners more time for proactive policy decision-making and interaction with the public.

Appointments

The League believes that appointments for any position, especially a county administrator, must have total transparency, including open application process, accessible public information regarding applicant pool, open meetings, professional criteria and requirements, and easily available information on determination of the selection panel. Standardized and open process is most important.

Appointments of Non-Partisan County Offices. The League believes that offices requiring expertise in a professional field, that are not required to make policy decisions, or are not politically sensitive, should be appointive rather than elective.

The League believes that the offices of Assessor, Surveyor, Treasurer (Josephine County) and County Counsel (as of this writing elected in Josephine County) should be appointive rather than elected, and that qualifications conform to state requirements. (ORS 249.031)

We retain our previous LWVRV position, supporting the election of a County Clerk and Sherriff. It is our belief that the County Clerk and Sherriff hold a special place in the minds of residents in both counties. A County Clerk works for the voters, oversees elections and maintains county records (ORS 205.110). A Sheriff works for the people, and is the conservator of the peace for the county (ORS 206.110).

Partisan and Nonpartisan Elections

Partisan labels may help some voters, and may not pose a problem. However non-affiliated voters, and members of ‘third’ political parties, cannot vote in the two major partisan primaries, thus the vote of this growing number of registered voters is diluted or weakened. While there may be other reasons to support nonpartisan elections, the League believes that we must support nonpartisan elections for the Board of Commissioners until some alternative structural change to the primary system is adopted in our counties.

Composition

The League continues to support a Board of Commissioners of 5 members or more in both Josephine and Jackson Counties to best serve residents.
The increased number of Commissioners (including related administrative duties and personnel costs) should be accomplished by reorganization.

Both counties need restructured budgets to accomplish this, despite the
possibility that they may have different solutions. Neither county should increase the number of commissioners at the same current pay rates (and corresponding work hours). We believe there are alternative ways to increase the number of commissioners without taxing the taxpayer more. While part-time positions (or other options to full-time wages) may offer various opportunities, we reject volunteer positions, especially in full time situations. We believe that the concept of volunteers functioning as commissioners clearly restricts the pool of candidates to only those able to afford serving without pay.

Electoral Systems and Structure

LWV Rogue Valley joins the state League in recognizing that certain electoral system criteria are important in electing the Board of Commissioners (as well as other offices within the counties).

Most preferred are systems which:

  • elect a commission that proportionally reflects overall electorate;
  • enable commissioners to serve all voters of their County;
  • are easy to use and understand;
  • encourage voter turnout and voter engagement;
  • encourage those with minority opinions to vote;
  • discourage negative campaigning;
  • are resistant to Gerrymandering; and
  • provide for the greatest level of voter representation.

Secondarily, we support systems that: are easy to administer by elections officials; encourage cooperation across party lines and are not overly burdensome to taxpayers.

We do not believe that it is important for an electoral structure to protect the two-party system.

Districts and At-large geographical boundaries

We recognize that frequently like-minded populations assume that districts would be the solution to achieving a fairer voice in elections. We are doubtful that a change from at-large to districts would be successful in combatting the issue of inadequate representation.

LWVRV supports a change to a full proportional representation electoral system (one such as, but not limited to, Ranked Choice Voting) for multi-winner elections in an at-large area (such as our counties). Secondarily, we
support a semi-proportional system.
Recognizing disadvantages to large portions of the electorate, we oppose ‘at-large bloc’ elections which use a winner-take-all approach. Further, we are mindful that Ranked Choice Voting for single winner elections (aka Instant Runoff Voting) achieves less representation than a full or semi proportional system, but would be an improvement over use of plurality in single winner elections.

Funding Alternatives. LWVRV believes that the public should be made aware of better options to our electoral systems. Financial support for such changes in Jackson or Josephine County may be situational to each county, and must be flexible. If such an electoral change is on the ballot, we believe it is vital to provide voters clear tutelage regarding advantages and disadvantages, as well as transparent naming of funding sources.

Citizen Participation in Rogue Valley County Government

LWVRV strongly supports the 4 principles of:

  • Accountability,
  • Citizen Influence,
  • Early involvement of Citizens, and
  • Transparency

Concerning the policies and procedures that facilitate citizen involvement, the League:

  • Continues to emphasize the importance of citizen involvement and participation in the establishment of policy through citizen advisory groups and commissions.
  • Believes that committees, advisory groups and commissions should not exist for Public Relations purposes, and that their work should be heard, respected and considered in a timely fashion.
  • Believes that the BOC should provide widespread notice throughout their county of all vacancies on advisory boards and commissions. The Board should establish terms of service and qualifications of such positions. It should conduct interviews and select candidates who will bring diversity and experience in their service to their respective counties.
  • Reaffirms its belief in the importance of the Oregon Open Meetings Law (ORS 192.630). Notices and agendas for all public meetings of each BOC should be given widespread, advance publicity in media throughout Jackson or Josephine County.

Charter Amendments:

The League continues to support the idea the Charter’s election laws, (Charter, Chapter VII, Section 28: 1, 4, 5) should be amended to conform to state statutes. This would correct the current inconsistent time intervals
regarding initiative and referendum.

— End of Position —
Adopted May 2019