From The Baker City Herald:
Gail Duman strives to be involved in her community. The retired businesswoman sits on Baker City’s Budget Board and its Historic District Design Review Commission. She’s a former City Council member.
Duman took on a new civic endeavor after she received a letter in the mail inviting her to serve on a panel for the Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission.
“It was a great experience,” she said of the assignment that required her to stay in Portland from Aug. 20 to 24. “I’m so glad I did it.”
The commission sought registered voters to compile information for the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet about Measure 82.
Measure 82 is a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 general election ballot that would allow establishment of private, non-tribal casinos in Oregon.
The measure stipulates, for example, where such casinos could be located and describes how money paid to the state by a casino operator would be distributed.
A companion proposal, Measure 83, addresses such topics as casino operator licensing and targets the location for the business in question to operate.
The impetus for the measures is a proposal called The Grange, a casino and entertainment center that would be built at the site of the former Multnomah Kennel Club in Wood Village, a small city in eastern Multnomah County.
Voters in that city also will consider a local measure, 26-142. It would provide community consent for the casino to be at the old kennel club site if enough voters approve.
The state initiatives as well as the local measure must obtain adequate voter support for The Grange project to proceed.
HOW IT WORKS
“We spent a whole week analyzing this measure,” Duman said of her trip to Portland. “It was intensive. There was a lot of information coming at us from opponents and proponents.”
Representatives for and against the measure gave presentations to the panelists who, in turn, asked questions. Then the group proceeded to deliberate. The panelists then wrote the voters pamphlet statements for and against the measure before going their separate ways.
That the panels resemble grand juries — at least procedurally — is no accident.
Duman was one of 10,000 voters from across the state to receive invitation letters, and among the more than 1,000 people who replied. The respondents were categorized and chosen so the panel would include voters from each of Oregon’s five congressional districts as well as reflect the demographics of the state’s electorate.
Two dozen Oregonians ultimately participated in the panel.
Another panel met in early August. Its members focused on Measure 85. If approved, this initiative would reallocate corporate income tax kicker refunds to help pay for public education.
In 2010, pilot panels weighed in on the mandatory minimum prison sentences for registered sex offenders and drunk drivers, Measure 73, and whether to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the state as well as establish related assistance and research programs, Measure 74.
State legislators created the commission that oversees this panel process in 2011. The idea is to provide voters with accurate written information that’s easy to comprehend.
“It’s inspired by citizen juries, something deeply rooted in American tradition,” said Tony Iaccarino, policy and projects director for Healthy Democracy Oregon, which contracts with the state to conduct the panels.
Oregon is the first state to implement this fact-finding process for its voters. Representatives from other Western states, including California, Arizona and Colorado, came to watch the Measure 82 panel in action.
Duman said she was the only member from Baker County on the Measure 82 panel but that there were a couple of other panelists from Eastern Oregon.
Members of the commission choose measures for panels to examine and will do so again in 2014. Commissioners look at cost of an initiative when they decide which one or two to assign to a panel. Its effect on the state and its citizens also could make it a logical choice for further evaluation, Iaccarino said.
Money to pay for the projects comes from donations and grants, not from corporations or labor groups, he said.
Panelists received a daily stipend, free lodging, mileage and lunch.
WHAT THEY DETERMINED
Turns out that 17 of the 24 panelists decided not to support Measure 82. The possible statewide social impact was cited as a concern because more casinos could increase the number of people afflicted with gambling, drug and alcohol addictions.
And Oregon Native American tribes would likely lose much-needed gaming revenue. The increased competition also would put tribal members and other employees at the tribal casinos out of work. It also could siphon revenue from the Oregon Lottery.
Those in favor of the measure, the remaining seven panelists, noted that the measure would provide such benefits as provide more money to Oregon’s public schools, add local jobs, boost tourism and revitalize the immediate and surrounding area as well as increase the amount of local property taxes collected.
Another favorable aspect of the proposal: Requiring the casino to be owned and operated by a corporation based in Oregon.
Duman said she decided not to support the measure after absorbing all of the information provided during the event.