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Oregonians didn't know what they were voting for

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Measure 37 was not a referendum on Oregon’s land-use laws (HCN, 11/22/04: In Oregon, a lesson learned the hard way). The ballot measure was designed to make it impossible to have those regulations in place. However, that is not the question that was asked. The measure asked voters whether they would approve compensation to private property owners for any loss in value due to government action or regulation.

Generally, most people believe that, as a matter of "fairness," people should be compensated if they lose some value to their property. I would not want the state to condemn my house for a new highway, and not pay me what it is worth. But if you asked most of these voters if they would like to see all zoning eliminated, and gave them a few examples of the consequences, such as the sprawl eating up the lowlands around nearby Seattle, Wash., I know most voters would be against such lack of restrictions.

Back in the early 1990s, voters in Oregon passed Measure 5, which reduced property taxes. Who wouldn’t say, "Yes, I want to pay less property taxes"? However, that measure has led to a huge decline in many public services. If Measure 5 had said, "Would you be willing to live with less government services, crowded schools, closed state parks, etc. etc. etc., in exchange for a slight reduction in property taxes," I don’t think it would have passed.

These measures were Trojan Horses, designed to hide their real intent.

George Wuerthner
Eugene, Oregon

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