Wednesday, October 23, 2002
Monmouth voters are dealing with issues that epitomize the Oregon election process.
Two of them have sparked a high degree of interest in this election.
One is essentially a "referendum" from the city council to the city's residents: Ballot Measure 27-53 -- a continuation of a $9.95 monthly fee for two years.
That fee started June 27 in the form of a surcharge to all utility customers of the City of Monmouth.
It provides the city with revenue that maintains the level of service at the library and police department as well as for parks and recreation and community development purposes.
Neighbors of Monmouth may feel the fee is a small price to pay when those same utility bills tend to run considerably lower as a result of the municipal electric utility that has provided low cost power to city residents for years.
The city council was wise in referring this to the voters.
It has been called "taxation without representation" by some because it was enacted quickly to meet an immediate financial need. Now the residents of Monmouth can determine how much they are willing to pay to keep community services at the same level.
A second measure that has drawn even more attention, locally and statewide, is the initiative placed on the ballot by citizens who signed petitions seeking to answer the question: Should Monmouth continue as Oregon's only "dry" city?
If approved, Measure 27-58 would allow the sale of beverages containing 14 percent alcohol or less. Essentially the measure would permit the sale of beer and wine.
It would facilitate a wine-tasting outlet for a local winery. It would enable a restaurant to offer beer or wine with their food items. It would open the door for a grocery business or convenience market to sell beer and wine. It would permit the establishment of a tavern.
Of course, passing the ordinance doesn't make any of those things happen.
Ultimately any purveyor of alcoholic beverages in the state must gain approval of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. The OLCC looks to the local government, in this case the Monmouth City Council, to recommend granting of the license. Without such a recommendation, OLCC approval is very unusual.
Unlike the days of Prohibition, Monmouth's dry laws don't prevent consumption of alcohol. It is safe to say that Monmouth citizens are no more or less prone to imbibe than any other general population group.
Nevertheless having this measure on the ballot may make Monmouth citizens among the state's best at turning their ballots in to the county clerk.
There are very sound arguments both for and against this measure. Every voter should take a long view of this measure in determining how they wish to vote. What kind of community do they want Monmouth to be?
There are those who say that passing the measure assures a positive growth factor with new businesses opening as a result. There are those who say that if those new businesses are going to lead to increased loads on local police and generally change the nature of the community the measure's passage ordains Monmouth's decline.
This is an issue that each voter is going to have to deal with personally. There isn't a "wrong" answer to this question. It promises to be a measure that will continue to be a topic of conversation long after the votes are counted.
Monmouth voters also have a measure before them relating to a residency requirement for city council service. Most people will likely support this. It seems reasonable. In fact nearly everyone assumed residency was a requirement until a councilor moved out of town temporarily and continued to serve.
There are two annexation measures that could probably be termed "housekeeping measures." One calls for annexing some seven acres just west of Talmadge Road. The land is within the Urban Growth Boundary and is a logical extension of the city limits.
The other measure is similar to what many other communities have enacted. It relieves the need to vote on annexation of parcels of one acre or less. Often these annexations are used to clarify city boundaries and eliminate small parcels that wind up "orphaned" as the result of surrounding development.
Every registered voter is invited to cast a ballot in this general election. Those in Monmouth may take a little longer marking theirs.