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What's Home Rule Charter? Douglas County voters learn the difference before election

Douglas County Courthouse in Roseburg, Oregon. (SBG photo)

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- Home Rule Charter is the talk of the county right now in Douglas County.

It's a hot topic and controversial, with both sides of the home rule charter proposal discussing the ins and outs.

Douglas County voters will have a big decision to make on November 7.

You may have seen signs around town that say "Vote No" or "Vote Yes" on the Home Rule Charter, but what exactly do they mean?

The Home Rule Charter would change the way Douglas County is governed. It would replace three full-time salary-paid commissioners with five part-time commissioners who would be paid a stipend.

"I think it would better represent the rural voices that are out there, yes, absolutely," said home rule supporter, Stacey McLaughlin.

Others oppose the charter, saying it's too big of a change.

"If it were a minor change in an ordinance or moving the boundaries of a road district or something, I don't think anybody would be concerned,” said former county commissioner Doug Robertson, who’s opposed to home rule charter, “but it is much more than that. It is a radical change in how Douglas County is governed."

Supporters say there's an advantage to having a county manager instead of full-time commissioners.

"Someone with background and expertise in the science of public administration that's managing those tasks that are already in place are now being handled by somebody who doesn't necessarily have a clue how a government organization works."

If you want to learn more about the proposed change, there will be meetings in Douglas County this week.

If you’re confused about the difference between a General Law county and a Home Rule county, on Tuesday, October 17, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Umpqua Valley Arts Center (located at 1624 W. Harvard Ave. in Roseburg), the League of Women Voters of Umpqua Valley will feature Joe Leahy and Bill Van Vactor speaking about different forms of county governance.

Leahy teaches Local Government Law at U of O Law School. He was City Attorney for the City of Springfield and is Legal Counsel for the Springfield Utility Board.

Bill Van Vactor was Lane County Legal Counsel for 15 years and then Lane County Administrator for 15 years. Lane County operates under a Home Rule Charter.

The League of Women Voters describes itself as nonpartisan and “encourages informed voting.”

The meeting is free and open to the public and there will be time for questions.

For more information, call (541) 672-1914.

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