He fought Oregon's developers

  • Ted Hallock as a young Air Force bombardier

    photo courtesy Ted Hallock
  • Ted Hallock as a senator

    Jim Hallas photo/The Oregonian
  • Ted Hallock today

    Carlotta Collette

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

In the summer of 1944, on leave after flying some 30 missions over Germany and occupied Europe, Air Force bombardier Ted Hallock sat down in a New York City café with writer Brendan Gill and talked at some length about his first quarter-century. Gill took notes, extensive ones it appears, and on Aug. 12 The New Yorker published his 10-page spread on the young Hallock's war-and-peace observations. "Whatever I tell you boils down to this," Hallock told Gill. "I'm a cog in one hell of a big machine. Whenever I get set to do what I want to do, something a whole lot bigger than me comes along and shoves me back into place. It's not especially pleasant, but there it is."

Today, Ted Hallock, still wearing, more than 50 years later, the "air of tempered, high-strung fragility" that Gill described, could tell a very different story. After the war, he went home to Oregon and became the jazz drummer he'd dreamed of being, with his own band, a fairly successful one. Then he was a radio show host and won the nationally recognized George Foster Peabody Award for journalism. In 1959, he founded his own advertising agency, which is still thriving some 40 years later.

But the thing Ted Hallock did that pulled him out of the machinery of the ordinary more than anything else was to shepherd Oregon's nationally recognized land-use planning law - still known in the state as "Senate Bill 100' - through the Oregon Legislature in 1973 - 25 years ago this summer.

"I did some other things in my legislative career," Hallock, now 77, says, reminiscing about the 20 years he spent in the Oregon Senate. "But the one that was the best use of my 15 minutes of fame was Senate Bill 100."

The bill, which calls on every city in the state to deliberately contain itself so surrounding farmland and forests remain productive, had been introduced by first-term Republican Sen. Hector Macpherson, a dairy farmer. But, as Hallock puts it: "Hector is the father of land-use planning in Oregon. He gets the primary credit. But I am the obstetrician. Hector, God rest his soul, didn't have the stomach for political games. He came to me because nobody would listen to him."

People listened to Hallock for a number of reasons. He was the Senate majority leader with six terms in the Legislature and a portfolio of progressive policies to his credit. He was fighting to protect the things a majority of Oregonians value most about their state: its forests, open farmland and livable communities. And he was not then, nor is he now, an easy man to oppose. He refers to politicians' tools as the "persuasive powers to embarrass or shame or con or beat the ascendant power of the Legislature for the positive good of the state." And few Oregon politicians have been more adept at that than has Ted Hallock.

Hallock first ran for state office in 1963. A liberal Democrat, already locally famous for his radio talk show and political campaign work, he was readily elected to the state Senate by his west-Portland community. At the time, he says, "we had awfully good people in our legislatures. Maybe 60 to 70 percent of them were really smart people."

It was a time when Oregon's reputation for avant-garde environmental policies was being established. In 1961, for example, the Legislature adopted the state's first major clean water laws (after legislators got a whiff from a bottle of seawater gathered below a Georgia Pacific lumber-mill outflow and "accidentally" dropped on the House floor). In 1967, the Legislature passed the Oregon Beach Bill, which ensured open public access to all of the state's coastline. In 1969, a precursor to Senate Bill 100 was passed. It required all counties in the state to develop zoning regulations or have them imposed by the governor. And in 1971, the state adopted the first bottle bill in the nation - designed in particular to keep the beaches clean.

A call to battle

It was also a time when the state's population was growing twice as fast as the rest of the nation's. Oregon's famed "livability" was having unfortunate consequences. And they were best described by then-Gov. Tom McCall in what is almost certainly his most quoted speech - the State of the State address to the Oregon Legislature in 1973:

"There is a shameless threat to our environment and to the whole quality of life - unfettered despoiling of the land. Sagebrush subdivisions, coastal condomania and the ravenous rampage of suburbia in the Willamette Valley all threaten to mock Oregon's status as the environmental model for the nation. ... The interests of Oregon today and in the future must be protected from the grasping wastrels of the land."

As chair of the Senate Environmental and Land Use Committee, Hallock heeded McCall's call to battle and armed himself against the "grasping wastrels of the land." Senate Bill 100 was the flag he raised.

It requires growth boundaries around every Oregon city, concentrating populations, and the services they required - sewers, power systems, transportation, etc. - into precisely defined areas. It limits the uses of land outside the urban boundaries; in particular, securing farmland and forests from other forms of development. Industries know in advance whether and where they can build new plants and where they cannot.

The proposed legislation drew fire from all directions. Hallock recalls people saying, "Hallock wants us to build up like they do in Hong Kong, dumping our shit in the ocean." Others said it was "the biggest land grab since their great-grandparents took the land away from the Indians." Still others called it unconstitutional.

Victory did not seem likely under the circumstances. So Hallock changed the circumstances.

"I withdrew from my own position where there would be complete, absolute state control. I don't believe in fooling around. And I got then-Senator L.B. Day involved by making him chairman of an "ad hoc" committee to redraft the legislation. That gave me a teamster and a working Republican. I know it's an anomaly. He'd been a Democrat, but he became a Republican. I named members to Day's committee who militantly opposed the legislation, and by so doing, I obviated forevermore the argument that "I wasn't consulted, or I didn't have a hand in it." "

When the legislation was returned to Hallock's Senate committee, he had just enough votes to pass it. But then it had to go to the House side, and Hallock saw an ambush coming. Another senator was waiting for the bill to be changed in the House committee so it would have to be renegotiated.

"I went to Nancy Fadeley, who was chair of the House committee, and I begged her and her committee not to change a word. You can't believe what a request that is. That goes against the whole bicameral system. But they did it. Fadeley had real courage."

The final bill passed the Senate by nearly two to one, and the House by two to one. There have been three efforts to repeal it since its adoption. All have failed. In 1997, the Oregon Legislature voted to amend the bill with new legislation - Senate Bill 600, which would essentially gut the land-use laws. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber vetoed Senate Bill 600.

Hallock was deeply relieved. "I'll be a plaintiff anytime anyone tries to erode our land-use planning," he says. "The tragedy is it's me, at 77, and Audrey McCall (the widow of former Gov. Tom McCall), who's even older than me, who are up here defending this. What are they going to do when we're dead?"

Hallock, whose political leanings swing from autocrat to libertarian, argues that there are some things that governments exist to do.

"Police power is one of them. Police power to do what? To protect us from our unbridled selfishness that allows us to screw everybody and gobble up the planet. Staying within the urban growth boundary poses more challenges, sure, but it does not put us on a collision course with environmental safety, not if we do it right. In fact, it's a good reason to take better care of our environment. If we're looking at the Columbia or Willamette rivers for potable water supply, for example, we'd better get rid of the raw sewage outflows in those rivers. That's the challenge: coping with the environmental consequences of congregation.

"We have to be better people," he continues. "We have to elect better people. And we have to demand more from the people we elect. It may get tougher and tougher to keep Oregon as special as it is, (what) with more people, more selfishness, more narcissism, more demands on the planet. But it's not supposed to get easier. After all, 'the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.'"

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