Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, "Taking Liberties."
During the campaign pitching Oregon’s Measure 37 to voters in 2004, Dorothy English starred in statewide radio ads. Now a 93-year-old widow living on 20 acres on a hillside overlooking Portland, she has been fighting for three decades for permission to slice off a few home sites, including one for her grandson. She’s owned the land since 1953, but the statewide planning system launched in the 1970s, and the Multnomah County planners, have blocked her. Once Measure 37 passed, she filed the first claim, seeking to subdivide her land. Ironically, she’s still battling. The county waived the subdivision regulations, but it wants her to submit detailed plans for how she would deal with sloped ground, fire dangers, and road-building issues. In May, she sued the county for $1.15 million, charging that the county is unfairly stalling. A pro-planning environmentalist says, off the record, "The county should just figure out a way for the woman to get her damn (new) house. It’s just a few acres, get over it! This is a pretty squeaky wheel!"
Dorothy English: "I’m so damn mad, and tired of fighting for what is right. I want my land to be mine, to do with whatever I want. I don’t think that’s outrageous, do you? … When I started out (hoping to subdivide), I had a selfish reason. Then I found out, I could help other people that were in the same fix as I am and didn’t know what the hell to do. People finally woke up to what was going on (with land-use laws). Their land was being stolen from them. That’s what I call it, ‘land-stealing.’ That’s why we got 61 percent (voting for Measure 37). … My lawyer researched it and found there were 61 regulations against my property — 61! I want to tell everybody the unfairness of this. My God, it took us (she and her late husband) so long, of scrimping and saving and working, to pay for this place. And then to let somebody steal it? … I am not going to be a sweet 93-year-old lady, because I am sick and tired of waiting. When I get a chance to unload, I take it, trust me."