House Bill 3084: A Real Solution to Forced Annexations.

Representative Brad Avakian is a second term legislator representing portions of Beaverton and unincorporated Washington County

Avakian

Stopping forceful annexation by the City of Beaverton has been my top priority this session. In a free society, it is the people's right to decide who governs them, not the government's choice over whom they will rule. Annexation reform should be designed to insure the rights of our citizens to vote on their government, especially when governments abuse their power purely to amass more power at the expense of individual rights. Therefore, I have spent countless hours developing a comprehensive policy that will stop Beaverton and all cities from abusing their annexation powers and forcefully annexing residents against their will.

Beaverton's abuse stems from the "island annexation" statute, ORS 222.750, that allows cities to annex an unincorporated area without the area's consent when the area is entirely surrounded by the city boundaries. Beaverton has been annexing roadways and encircling many Washington County neighborhoods, including Cedar Mill and Cedar Hills, in order to create "false islands." Under current law Beaverton can annex these "false islands" without the residents' vote or consent or even giving notice that they will soon belong to the City of Beaverton.

In order to stop Beaverton, I have proposed a bill, HB 3084 as amended, that would reform the island annexation statute and stop these "false islands" from being annexed. My bill would prohibit all cities from annexing islands where a portion of the city boundary was "only a roadway." Cities would not be able to systematically annex roads to only then declare that a long established nieghborhood was "an island" of the city. Thousands of Oregonians live in unicorporated areas, and they do not want to be controlled and taxed by an agressive city trying to make itself more powerful. These citizens need our long term protection, and HB 3084 as amended would do that.

Unfortunately, many in Salem are not ready to give the citizens of Oregon long term protection from agressive island annexation strategies. Instead, the Senate Environment and Land Use Committee decided to develop a bill, SB 887, that pretends to fix the annexation problem, but really only acts as a temporary band-aid. When I asked to be a sponsor of SB 887, I believed that it was going to provide a real solution to the annexation problem. However, over the months it spent in the Senate and then in the House, it evolved into a short sighted solution for a long term problem.

Recently, some have critized SB 887 as a corporate giveaway because it protects our state's finest businesses from annexation, but those criticisms are misguided. Protecting citizens and businesses from forced annexation protects their rights and freedoms to determine their own future.

SB 887's biggest weakness is that it pretends to protect our citizens, but it does not. First, it does not protect all Oregonians from unwanted annexation. Rather it only protects the citizens adjacent to the city of Beaverton. Second, it only protects the residents adjacent to Beaverton for two years even though Beaverton's annexation plans go far into the future. A two year reprieve from forced annexation is virtually useless in light of Beaverton's long term goals.

Sadly, the worst aspect of SB 887 is its regressive mediation procedure. First, this lengthy and complicated mediation procedure has no backbone because it is optional for all cities in the state except one--Beaverton. Second, under SB 887 Beaverton must mediate even concentual annexations. This means that if, for example, a senior center wants to become part of Beaverton, they still must convene a "future boundaries work group." This is a waste of time and money for all parties and is completely unnecessary.

Some still argue that tying Beaverton's hands behind its back for two years and forcing it to mediate for even concentual annexations is the best solution to our annexation problems. Some claim that a permanent solution should only be developed by an interim committee, but I disagree. The Legislature is charged with creating the best policy for all Oregonians. We cannot put off tough policy decisions until tomorrow and then claim the problem is fixed because we set up another "taskforce." We must be brave enough to develop long-term policy changes that will protect all residents from overly agressive cities, and the time to protect individuals and business is now.

I will still vote for SB 887 because it is the only piece of legislation that has been allowed out of committee, but I will not pretend that this bill is a solution. Protection from forced annexation is freedom, and there is no reason to ask Oregon's citizens to wait two years before they are given real freedom.

June 6, 2005 by Brad Avakian
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