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Deschutes County commissioners consider asking voters to expand board from three to five seats

(Update: Adding video, comments from Commissioners Chang, Adair, KTVZ.COM Poll)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County Commissioners Tony DeBone, Phil Chang and Patti Adair plan to hold a workshop on Monday, Sept. 18 as part of the process to decide whether to ask voters if they want to expand the Board of Commissioners from the current three to five seats.

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

Since 1971, Deschutes County has had three commissioners.

"We only have three, and it seems like we do need to keep building on our population in order to add more commissioners," Adair told NewsChannel 21.

At the September meeting, commissioners will consider sending a ballot measure to the May 2024 election.

Chang explained, "Many counties that have five commissioners have part-time commissioners. So one thing we can consider as part of this process is going from three full-time to four part-time and one full-time chair" Chang explained.

As commissioners, Adair and DeBone are paid more than $125,000/year by the county, Chang is paid just over $111,000 a year.

Chang declined his raise earlier this year, but did choose to accept a 4% cost-of-living-adjustment for his salary.

He said he believes an expansion of the board wouldn't be too costly for the county.

"If we had zoned or districted seats, then each commissioner would only be responsible for being in touch with and representing a portion of the population of Deschutes County," Chang explained.

An expansion to five seats overall conceivably could see the Democrat side of the board take the majority, as Republican commissioners DeBone and Adair currently hold a 2-1 majority on the board. Of course, an expansion also could see the Republican majority get an even firmer hold on the policy-making board.

Last year, county voters approved a proposal to make the formerly partisan commission positions nonpartisan.

Adair told us, "You know, there are actually a lot of NAVs (non-affiliated voters) in the county -- more actually than registered Democrats and Republicans at this time. So it could be someone from that middle position, honestly."

Chang added, "People try to pigeonhole us, and they say, 'Well, Adair and DeBone are the conservatives and Chang is the liberal on the Board of Commissioners. But for example, on land use issues, I'm the conservative one."

We reached out to Commission Chair DeBone for comment, but haven't heard back.

The Sept. 18 workshop is open to the public, but because it's not a public hearing, no public comments will be accepted at this stage of the discussion.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Blake Mayfield

Blake Mayfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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