Blood and guts at Soil and Water
I must admit, I have no clue about the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District. I think it's a governmental body that's supposed to help folks in Portland west of the Multnomah River keep an eye on their part of the planet. Its website is here. Apparently it's run by a seven-member board of directors, all publicly elected -- five from districts and two at large.
One of the at-large directors is Liz Callison (left). Her bio is here. She's been writing me the last couple of days (at least, someone's signing her name) to protest action that she says the majority of the board is going to take at its meeting tonight -- at the Sauvie Island Grange, no less. Apparently the Zone 5 director's position is vacant, and the board is about to fill the vacancy by appointing one of the district's several associate directors, Terri Preeg Riggsby (right), to the position. (Preeg Riggsby's bio's on the same page as Callison's -- just scroll down. Among her life experiences is a stint as an intern at the Portland Development Commission and work with River Renaissance project. She was endorsed in a recent election by Portland City Council candidate Amanda Fritz.)
Callison alleges that the appointment is improper, and she's been firing off missives to the Oregon Secretary of State in protest. According to Callison, Preeg Riggsby is a protege of board chair Brian Lightcap, and she opines that Lightcap and the other directors "sneakily gerrymandered district zones to ensure that only one person out of a hundred thousand was eligible for the Zone 5 position under the state's convoluted rules for conservation districts: Terry Preeg Riggsby." Callison also says that "the board has intentionally avoided giving adequate, timely notice of the vacancy."
Not everybody who lives in the district is eligible to be a director. It looks as though you have to be a large landowner, most likely a farmer or a timber owner, or else serve as an associate director for at least a year:
Zone directors must own or manage 10 or more acres of land in the district, be involved in the active management of the property, reside within the boundaries of the district and be registered voters. Zone directors may either reside within the zone that is represented or own or manage 10 or more acres within the zone that is represented and be involved in the active management of the property. An individual may also serve as a zone director when the individual, in lieu of the other requirements specified in this subsection, resides within the zone that is represented and indicates an interest in natural resource conservation as demonstrated by serving at least one year as a director or associate director of a district and having a conservation plan that is approved by the district.Callison's got some other beefs as well. In a letter that she says she's sending to the Secretary of State's office, she writes:
As a special district, West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District should provide for fair and open public participation but it seems to be operating more like a private club. Small units of government such as conservation districts are the building blocks of our legislative system -- besides being the conduit for significant state and federal funds -- and they were intended to be overseen by fairly-elected citizens.Well, golly, we got us a little rhubarb going here, folks. I hope Lightcap and Preeg Riggsby will write in to give us their side of all this. Meanwhile, if you hear fireworks coming from Sauvie's tonight, you know what it is.
An additional problem is that in redrawing the sub-district boundaries, the board chairman's ensured that his property now extends into two different sub-districts, meaning that if a strong opponent should happen to surface in one sub-district he can simply run in the other.