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‘Home Rule’: Deschutes County commissioners debate whether to ask voters to expand to a five-member board

Similar proposal was defeated by voters in 2006

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County commissioners will discuss at their Monday afternoon work session if they want to ask voters whether to expand the three-member board to five positions.

Since 1971, Deschutes County has had three commissioners. At that time, the population of the county was nearly 33,000. The latest census now shows the county's population at more than 200,000.

The 1 p.m. meeting is open to the public, but at this stage, they won't be accepting public comments.

"We're not asking people to come in and give us their opinion, at this point." Commissioner Tony DeBone said Thursday. "We’re doing the work of the people by studying this request and understanding what the different options and paths are — how this could happen."

DeBone noted that in November 2006, the last time the county sent to voters a proposed "home rule charter" to expand to five part-time commissioners, chosen from five geographic districts, it was voted down, 55-45 percent.

“It's a community conversation. I'm not supportive of this going into it," DeBone said. "I'm not -- I'm not thinking that we're going to go here.”

If the majority of the board says yes, the measure could go on the ballot for the May 2024 primary election. If the board does not go through with it, someone would have to start a petition and gather enough valid voter signatures to get it on the ballot.

Commissioner Phil Chang, the lone Democrat among the three, is in favor of bringing it back before voters.

"Basically, only 2 or 2 1/2 perspectives on a body that represents 200,000 people is not enough." Chang said Thursday.

Commissioner Patti Adair was unavailable for an interview Thursday, but she recently spoke with NewsChannel 21.

 "We only have three, and it seems like we do need to keep building on our population in order to add more commissioners." Adair said.

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Jillian Fortner

Jillian Fortner is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jillianhere.


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