Elections, Politics, Washington County

Two county measures on Washington County ballot

A ballot is dropped off in Forest Grove on Sunday, October 18. Photo: Chas Hundley

Registered voters in this newspaper’s territory will see two measures from Washington County on their ballots in October; Measure 34-300, which would change how the five members of the Washington County Board of Commissioners pay is calculated, likely resulting in a raise for these elected officials, and measure 34-301, which would remove a restriction that currently bars the county from adopting land use ordinances from November 1 to the last day of February in the following year. 

Both measures would alter the county’s charter

Measure 34-300

As it stands, the Washington County Charter pegs pay for the Washington County Chair — an at-large position currently held by Kathryn Harrington — at 80% of a Circuit Court Judge, which in turn is defined by state law under ORS 292.416 and as of July 1, 2020, was an annual wage of $147,136, meaning Harrington currently receives just under $118,000 annually. Washington County’s median household income is $85,734 according to American Community Survey (ACS) data from 2019. 

For the other four board members, who are elected to represent specific districts within the county, the pay is 40% of the county chair, per charter rules. This puts their pay at just over $47,000. 

If passed, measure 34-300 would create an independent salary commission made up of five human resources professionals with relevant experience in calculating compensation.  On odd numbered years, starting in 2021, the commission would establish salaries for the five members of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, and would be required to document their decision-making process. According to the county, this process is similar to that used by other counties, and is also enumerated in ORS 204.112. 

In an argument in favor of the measure submitted by county chair Kathryn Harrington to the Washington County Voters’ Pamphlet, Harrington argues that the four other elected officials serving as commissioners are “part-time” commissioners. The claim is shaky at best. Wording defining the role of commissioners in the Washington County Charter makes no mention of the employment status of commissioners, and their income — more than $47,000 annually in cash — is well above the full-time pay of many Washington County residents. In an explanation of the measure submitted by County Counsel Alan A. Rappleyea, he states “that salary is not determined by the time, effort, and responsibilities of the chair and commissioners.” 

Measure 34-101

As the rules currently stand, the county has eight months out of the year to pass land use ordinances. 

Measure 34-101 would do away with this rule; in an argument in favor of the measure, Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington noted that the rule stems from a pre-internet era.

“The restriction dates back to a time when all of this work was done on paper, subject to printing and mail delivery timelines.”

No arguments in opposition to either measures was submitted to the Washington County Voters’ Pamphlet.

The recommended deadline to mail a completed ballot through the United States Postal Service is Tuesday, October 27, and all ballots mailed must be received before 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. Oregon does not accept ballots that are received after that time.

After Oct. 27, ballots should be dropped off at one of the county’s 21 official ballot drop sites or delivered directly to the Washington County Elections office before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3.

The Washington County Elections office is located at 2925 NE Aloclek Drive, Suite 170, Hillsboro, OR 97124-7523.

Washington County’s 21 ballot drop sites will close at 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, with early results announced by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office shortly after. 

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Gales Creek Journal and sister news publications the Banks Post and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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