April 24, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Lane County charter review survey continues through June 16

3 min read
"We, the people of Lane County, Oregon, in order to avail ourselves of self determination in county affairs to the full extent permissible under the constitution and laws of the state, by this charter confer upon the county the following powers..."

from the Lane County Charter Review Committee

Should Lane County change its name?

A committee of seven residents is currently reviewing Lane County’s home rule charter, which establishes how the local county government operates. Committee members have created a survey to help them learn more about the priorities of residents.

The survey asks residents to weigh in on changing the county name, commissioner districts, local campaign finance limits, and more. It also includes opportunities to provide open-ended suggestions. Participation in this survey is voluntary and answers are collected anonymously. 

Members of the 2023 charter review committee include Ben Clark, Steve Cornacchia, Kevin Cronin, Sarai Johnson, Jenny Jonak, Morgan Munro, and Stefan Ostrach.

Every 10 years, a committee of residents is appointed to review the charter and suggest changes to the county commissioners. The charter can only be changed by a countywide vote. Past charter amendments recommended by a committee and approved by voters include:

  • Reducing county commissioner terms from six years to four (1972);
  • Reviewing commissioner district boundaries every 10 years (1982); and
  • Allowing more flexibility in county structure to provide services across departments (2010).

The committee meets monthly on the fourth Friday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the county commissioners’ conference room unless noted otherwise. Additional meetings will be held as needed on the second Thursday of each month from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

More about the charter

A 1958 amendment to the Oregon Constitution reserved the right for voters to adopt charters prescribing how their county governments should be organized, what powers they should have, and what procedure they should follow in administering county affairs. The home rule charter for Lane County was approved by voters in 1962.

What is a county charter?

The Lane County charter is the document that describes how the county operates. It sets the rules for how the county manages its governing duties and includes information about:

  • The county name and county seat
  • The form of governance and management the county uses
  • How the board of commissioners is selected
  • Timeframes for certain activities related to governance
  • The services the county offers
  • Which positions at the county should be appointed versus elected; and
  • More specifics about what how the county serves the community.

Not all Oregon counties have their own charter. A 1958 amendment to the Oregon Constitution allowed Oregon county voters the right to adopt home rule charters, and Lane County is one of nine counties which does. The Lane County Charter was first approved by voters in 1962.

Have there been changes to the charter since it was approved?

Yes. All the changes to the Lane County Charter are documented in the final pages of the charter document, beginning on page 21.

What is a charter review committee?

Every 10 years, county commissioners appoints seven community members to the charter review committee. These neighbors identify parts of the charter that might need to be updated or changed. Interested community members complete an application to be considered for the appointments, and each commissioner selects one person to represent their district (for a total of five members). The appointees then select two at-large members to serve on the committee.

How is the county charter changed?

Any changes the Charter Review Committee proposes must be approved by Lane County voters. The vote happens once the county commissioners refer the updated charter to the voters, or when 8% of qualified voters petition to put the charter changes on the ballot.

How can community members participate in this process?

Community members are welcome to attend any committee meeting, provide public comment at the beginning of every committee meeting, provide written comment to the committee at any time, and provide public comment directly to Lane County commissioners.

What happened last time there was a charter review committee?

The materials from the last charter review committee are available on the committee website. These materials include the committee report and recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners made in 2011.

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