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October 20th, 2004 The Nose | The Nose
 

Measure 37

Taking Democracy for a Ride

     
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Over the weekend, during halftimes and seventh-inning stretches, the Nose sat down with the Voters' Pamphlet to begin filling out his ballot.

The Nose can now speak authoritatively about how mobile homes are taxed, which critters live in the state forests and the wonderful things you can do with ganja.

But the Nose is most excited about Measure 37, which states that "governments must pay owners, or forgo enforcement, when certain land use restrictions reduce property value."

If you read the text of the measure and get past the "notwithstandings" and "disbursements" and "narrowly construed subsections," it boils down to this: If you used to be able to do something on your property (like dig a gravel pit), and the government changes land-use laws and now you can't, then the government has "taken" something of value from you and has to compensate you (or let you dig that gravel pit).

What could be fairer than that? In fact, the only thing the Nose doesn't understand is why the proponents stopped at land use. As he sees it, an idea this good ought to be shared.

Like gay marriage. Most people believe that our state constitution would allow gay marriage. That's why the Measure 36 folks put their gay-marriage ban on the ballot. As a result, if Measure 36 passes, the government will change the law so that gays and lesbians will no longer be able to do something (get married) that it turns out they had the right to do for a long time. And, as gay-marriage proponents have noted, people who can't get hitched lose out on some very tangible benefits (like the ability to deduct a partner's medical bills on taxes).

Following the Measure 37 logic, once we ban same-sex marriage, we'll have to compensate gays and lesbians.

And what about retirement benefits that public employees were forced to give up last year? If the courts rule that the Legislature's austerity plan is legal, the Nose assumes that lawmakers will pitch in and buy a condo in Hawaii to compensate the workers who are going lose out.

The Nose was particularly excited to see that Measure 37 is retroactive, meaning you get paid for any restrictions that have been imposed as long as you've owned your property. This opens up all sorts of possibilities.

What if your distant relatives owned slaves? The Nose expects that reparations are in order. Similarly, dog fighting used to provide supplemental income for many a man. Then the government "took" that away.

Hell, now that he thinks about it, even the Nose has been a victim of a government "taking." When the Nose got his driver's license, Oregon's legal blood-alcohol level was 1.0 percent. That meant the Nose could down about six beers during a football game and still drive home from the bar without getting nailed by the cops. But in 1983, Oregon lowered the level to 0.8, reducing the Nose's quality of life, by approximately one beer per game.

Who can put a price on that? The Nose sure can't, but he figures Measure 37's proponents will eventually get around to it.

 
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