As one looks through the Voters' Pamphlet for the upcoming May 16 election, one can identify that many special districts elect their governing boards from zones. Some have a combination of zoned positions and at-large positions.
Electing board members by zone provides the best environment for proper representation and accountability. Each board member is elected by the communities in each respective zone. This makes each board member accountable to the particular electorate of those communities. Electing directors from equally populated zones is what fair and equal representation looks like.
Clackamas Fire District #1 still elects five at large board members as they did 40 years ago when it was a neighborhood fire department. About 40 years ago, Clackamas Fire covered less than 20 square miles and served less than 10,000 people.
Today, Clackamas Fire covers over 220 square miles and serves more than 220,000 people. The fire district has grown over the past several decades due to mergers and consolidation. It has been almost 10 years since Oregon City merged into Clackamas Fire. Boring Fire District #59 was absorbed by Clackamas Fire this year.
Oregon City, Beavercreek, Redland, Eagle Creek and Boring do not have a direct voice on the current Clackamas Fire Board of Directors. Yet, if director zones were established with equal population, these communities would have an assigned and direct voice. Every community within the fire district boundaries would have this same benefit.
It is a known fact that fire stations have response zones for better efficiency. Why don't we have election zones for better representation and accountability?
Clackamas Fire is no longer a neighborhood fire department. Because of its size, it can now be considered a regional government entity. Metro, the regional government for the greater Portland area, elects its councilors by zone. Clackamas Fire should also.
Clackamas Fire needs to bring its governance in line with its present circumstance, and, in so doing, will prepare for the future. Adopting director zones is the way to update this governance.
Clackamas Fire is one of the best fire departments in the state. It is also one of the biggest. It is conceivable that Clackamas Fire will continue to grow. Additional fire departments may very well merge with this fine establishment. With this in mind, director zones are needed all the more.
It has been suggested that a ballot measure be presented by the Clackamas Fire Board to establish four director zones; a north zone, a south zone, an east zone and a west zone. Each of these zones would be established with equal population. The fifth position, which is the tie breaker position, is recommended to be at large.
With consideration of its current size and the concept of additional growth, it is imperative that Clackamas Fire develop director zones. As the district grows, fair and equal representation must be guaranteed. Director zones would be that guarantee.
Steve Bates is a 40-year resident of Boring, an unincorporated community in Clackamas County. He is also a declared candidate for Position 4 on the Clackamas Fire District #1 Board of Directors