By editorial board • 

There’s no justification for West Valley recall

During a period roughly coinciding with the first decade of the new century, we logged 13 recall attempts in Yamhill County. Four were mounted in Lafayette, three in Willamina, two each in Sheridan and Amity, one each in Newberg and Carlton.

Regardless of how the recalls ultimately proceeded, they had one factor in common: They were so corrosive, they etched deep scars into the psyches of the affected communities.

The county has since enjoyed a lengthy respite. It hasn’t experienced a removal attempt since April 2010, when the headline read, “Recall petitions filed anew in Lafayette.”

We contend the community of Willamina, the surrounding area served by the West Valley Fire District and the county as a whole would best be served if we kept it that way. So we hope disgruntled citizens will reconsider a recall targeting members of the West Valley Fire Board.

Recall is the crudest of instruments. It was intended to give citizens a last-resort method to remove officeholders committing acts destroying the community trust or outraging the community conscience. It was never intended as a technique to exact revenge for honest and honorable decisions that simply didn’t go their way.

Oregon embraced its initiative, referendum and recall precepts at the urging of progressive William S. U’Ren, who considered them a check on a unit of government that has simply run off the rails.

In response to simultaneous Sheridan and Carlton recall campaigns in 2007, we described his aim this way: “To offer citizens new tools for responsible participation in their government and a vehicle to oust elected officials for misfeasance.” We went on to say, “He no doubt would twitch in his grave if he could see how people corrupt the process by using those laws to conduct vindictive vendettas.”

Rural fire districts are under mounting stress across the country. They are desperately short of firefighting equipment, firefighters to operate that equipment and resources to acquire enough of either.

The area’s neighboring Sheridan and West Valley districts, struggling to protect vast tracts of rural land, are no exception. So they are considering placing themselves under the command of a single chief, with an aim of reducing expenses while increasing communication, coordination and professionalism.

There is plenty of precedent, including locally; Carlton and Lafayette share Chief Terry Lucich to their mutual benefit.

In fact, we see nothing wrong with the two districts eventually exploring an outright merger — or even with the entire complement of rural Yamhill County fire districts ultimately joining forces. There is strength in size, as amply demonstrated by Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue.

Newberg, which dwarfs Sheridan and Willamina, has opted to contract out fire and ambulance service to Tualatin Valley. It has been joined by the Newberg Rural Fire District, which serves a surrounding area not unlike the West Valley.

A lay board striving to find innovative ways to better serve its constituents deserves acclaim from the community, not scorn.


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