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Initiative on dams rejected
Klamath County clerk rules proposed measure doesn’t quality for ballot
By JOEL ASCHBRENNER, Herald and News 8/27/10
A proposed initiative asking Klamath County voters to prohibit the county from financially supporting dam removal efforts on the Klamath River does not qualify for the ballot, election officials said Thursday.
Klamath County Clerk Linda Smith said in a press release that the initiative did not meet Oregon constitutional requirements. A local group, Voters Opposed to Dam Removal, submitted the ballot initiative to the clerk’s office last week.
Frank Goodson, one of the initiative’s chief petitioners, said the group would appeal the ruling in Circuit Court.
Smith said she denied the group’s petition because the initiative addressed multiple subjects — the removal of current dams and the construction of new dams. The Oregon Constitution requires a measure address a single subject.
Not legislative issue
The initiative also was denied because it addressed an administrative issue, not a legislative issue. Smith said in the release that the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in 1976 that ballot initiatives “may be employed solely to propose or attack measures ‘legislative’ in nature.”
The proposed initiative, if approved by voters, would have made it illegal for Klamath County to spend funds to support dam removal, support agreements that include dam removal, or oppose the installation of hydroelectric facilities on the Klamath River.
Goodson called Smith’s decision a “stalling tactic,” adding he believes Voters Opposed to Dam Removal would win an appeal and get the initiative on the March ballot. To assist with the case, the group has hired Ross Day, a Salem-based lawyer and executive director of Common Sense for Oregon, a group that advocates for ballot initiatives that reduce government spending.
Special March election
If the initiative wins an appeal, it will undergo a public appeals process before being put on a special ballot in March. The county generally does not hold a March election unless a special ballot initiative is approved. Holding a special election for the dam removal initiative would cost the county about $50,000, Smith said.
Voters Opposed to Dam Removal asked the Klamath County Board of Commissioners Tuesday to put the initiative on the November ballot. Only the board can put an initiative on the ballot within 90 days of an election.
The commissioners said they would consider the initiative, but added they also would consider adding an advisory measure to the November ballot instead. An advisory measure would not be legally binding.
Siskiyou County, Calif., residents will vote on a similar advisory election in November that asks if three dams on the Klamath River in California should be removed.
Page Updated: Monday August 30, 2010 11:30 AM Pacific
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