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Public to weigh in on proposed changes to Lane County’s charter

The Lane County District Attorney said her office will no longer prosecute certain crimes, including most misdemeanors.
Nathan Wilk
The Lane County District Attorney said her office will no longer prosecute certain crimes, including most misdemeanors.

People in Lane County will soon have a chance to share their thoughts on how their county government should operate.

Every ten years a committee of appointed volunteers suggests updates to Lane County’s charter. It’s a governing document similar to a constitution that can only be changed with a public vote.

The committee submitted their recommendations last year. This week, county commissioners moved the proposals to the next step of the process - public hearings, which will likely begin next month.

Charter Committee Chair Morgan Munro says the group recommended cleaning up outdated language and a few changes to how the county redistricts.

“That's an important question for voters to weigh in on because how redistricting happens is a really important piece of how democracy happens,” she said.

During the most recent redistricting process, an independent committee drew several maps and the board chose between them. The rules that governed that process are in county code - which means county commissioners can vote to change the process if they want.

The charter review committee recommended adding a firewall between the county commissioners and the process of drawing their own election boundaries.

Specifically, the committee has proposed redistricting rules be set in the charter, that redistricting only take place once every ten years, and the independent redistricting commission, not the commissioners, choose a map.

When the proposal was submitted last year - some commissioners were apprehensive, saying it might be inappropriate to delegate their authority to an unelected committee.

The Charter Review Committee also recommended removing outdated language and creating more accurate district names. The Springfield district, for example, stretches beyond city limits to include parts of Eugene and other areas.

“These names really confused voters, so that’s another topic that’s up for consideration,” Munro said. “How do we want to title what our districts are called because we heard a lot of confusion from voters and a lot of frustration because we have these outdated names.”

The public can weigh in during a hearing next month. Afterwards, the commissioners will decide whether to send the changes to the ballot.

Rebecca Hansen-White joined the KLCC News Department in November, 2023. Her journalism career has included stops at Spokane Public Radio, The Spokesman-Review, and The Columbia Basin Herald.