City Club: Initiatives and Referendums—Rights Vs. Cost

Recorded on: July 29th, 2016

Air date: August 1st, 2016


  • Ann Kneeland: Eugene-based attorney who has defended the initiative rights of citizen groups in six Oregon counties, including Lane County, where residents seek to stop fossil fuel infrastructure development, GMO agriculture, and the aerial spraying of herbicides/pesticides, and to recognize their right of local community self-government.
  • Greg Wasson: Legislative researcher in Salem who has degrees in law, political science and  journalism from the U of O and spent 15 years as a legislative free-lance reporter and 10 years as an attorney with extensive experience in the history of popular rule in Oregon.

The City Club of Eugene hosts a discussion of the initiative and referendum powers of county voters as recognized by the Oregon Constitution. This topical conversation is in response to recent news headlines alerting Lane County voters to proposed changes to local voters’ law-making powers by our county elected officials.

At recent meetings of the Lane County Commission, commissioners have discussed a proposal from a local business man to authorize the Commission to keep initiatives from the ballot if they determine that an initiative is not “of county concern.” Advocates of this new power are concerned about the costs to the County of putting on the ballot initiatives that are not “of county concern” or that might be unconstitutional. Commissioners have expressed concern about three initiatives recently approved for circulation that some Commissioners believe are not “of county concern,” according to recent Register Guard articles.

Opponents of the proposal seek to defend the integrity of the initiative process, and object to elected officials claiming authority over citizen initiative powers. They say that core democratic values of free speech and petition circulating must be protected.

Copyright, 2016 KLCC