The group Yamhill County Taxpayers for Home Rule has begun circulating a petition to create a home rule charter for the county.
The Yamhill County Board of Commissioners and legislators will appoint a committee to draft a charter if the petition receives enough signatures, but adoption of the charter amendment would have to be ratified by the county's voters.
Yamhill County is one of 27 counties in Oregon that operates under state law. Home rule allows a county to create legislation specific to its region if the county does not violate the state and federal constitutions.
"After more than 175 years under the state's restrictive system, it is now high time for us to convert to home rule. The residents of Yamhill County would greatly benefit from a more localized government structure," said Phyllice Bradner, one of the group's chief petitioners.
Larry Treadwell of Sheridan and Eric Witherspoon of Yamhill are working alongside Bradner as the other two chief petitioners.
"The home rule charter will be written and approved by us, the people of Yamhill County. The committee drafting the charter will be made up of county residents, and its work will be public, creating an opportunity for citizens to seriously involve themselves in politics and play a direct role in shaping our county's future," Treadwell said.
Bradner and her cohorts want to make community members aware that they have the option to operate under home rule.
"Under the present general law structure, Yamhill County's government system is dictated by state law, and we have little flexibility to enact laws that meet our county's specific needs," Bradner said.
The group needs 1,833 signatures from registered Yamhill County voters within the next month. Signing locations will be available throughout the county.
Organizers said they know that getting signatures will be especially difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, but are urging people to sign the petition if they feel strongly about the prospects of localized government.
"As one of the chief petitioners, I realize that signature gathering will be more difficult this year because of coronavirus, so if you are an active registered voter in Yamhill County, I urge you to seek out the places where petitions are available," Bradner said.
Earlier plans to enact home rule, most recently in 2018, have been unsuccessful, with significant opposition from voters as well as some members of the Board of Commissioners.
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