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Friday, April 27, 2007

Newhouse promises $30 million against M37

Money talks in property rights war

All it took was for out-of-state billionaire owner of The Oregonian, Si Newhouse, to step up with his cash. He did, and majority Democrat legislators decided Thursday that they'll ask Oregon voters to dramatically scale back rural development under Measure 37, rewriting the property rights law that has already been approved twice by voters, in 2000 and 2004.

Freshman Senator and property-rights backer Larry George blasted The Oregonian and the Labor-Democrat legislative majority. "The public has been given a false impression about the impacts of Measure 37," said George, who wants lawmakers to allow M37 to take effect.

Government union lobbyists still haven't decided whether the ballot title will ask for a yes or no vote. "We'll give the voters the opportunity to say, 'Yes, this is what we meant,' or 'No, it wasn't,'" said Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, co-chairman of the committee. "It will all depend on the polling."

"The only conclusion I have is that the effort behind this is to repeal ballot Measure 37. It saddens me and I think it's an unfortunate turn and one of the worst efforts to overturn the will of the voters." - Sen. Larry George, R-Sherwood
The campaign against property rights will again be financed by The Oregonian and the state AFL-CIO. It will return Oregon to the atmosphere of 2004, when Newhouse's millions against Measure 37 inspired passionate debate about how to restore property rights that were dismantled by 1970's draconian land-use planning scheme.

Measure 37, which passed with a 61 percent yes vote, restored Oregonians' right to use their property however they could have when they bought it. The 7,500 claims filed under the measure so far would expand a property tax base that has been starved for 37 years by an effective ban on rural residential housing growth.

Lawmakers still must decide whether to put the issue on the ballot in September or November. The earlier date would be more favorable to a highly-organized, low-turnout election that favors government unions with an established, well-honed, 24/7 campaign capability. Ordinary voters would be at a disadvantage.

Hundreds of Oregonians seeking to restore their property rights have appeared at meetings the past few months, making heartfelt speeches and wearing stickers to represent their support for M37. Some of them already are bemoaning the election or mapping strategy for it.

Landowners have invested too much in Measure 37 to have it undone by the Legislature, said David Hunnicutt of Oregonians in Action, the group that wrote the original ballot measure. "If that's the best they can do, I think it's a black mark on how they've handled the whole thing," he said. "But it isn't surprising."

The Oregonian, Apr. 27, By LAURA OPPENHEIMER

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