By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Care center vote a political train wreck

The countdown is underway for a Nov. 5 special election to repeal McMinnville’s 2018 law regulating and licensing care centers. It was a political train wreck from the beginning.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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Controversy erupted last October when the Oregon Health Care Association first learned of McMinnville’s newly enacted ordinance. The law created a $1,500 fine for medically unnecessary 911 calls, and a care center business license with annual fees of $200 per bed.

The 911 fines responded to a significant rise in ambulance calls for conditions considered the responsibility of care center staff. License fees sought reimbursement for disproportionate city expenses related to education, inspection and enforcement of fire and safety codes.

Problem 1, failed communications: Despite persistent city warnings to local care centers, the situation somehow escaped attention of the OHCA. The city and/or its members should have contacted OHCA up front; perhaps its early involvement could have led to productive negotiations.

Problem 2, full deadlock: Already too late to arrive, OHCA quickly became mired in conflict with city officials. Each side cemented the other’s resolve; talks quickly dissolved into OHCA plans for a ballot measure.

Problem 3, political explosion: Questionable campaign tactics have drawn more citizens into the fray; the chamber took up OHCA’s complaint against the city; officials suggested state elections laws might require public bodies to withdraw chamber membership and financial support, a veiled threat now withdrawn.

The ballot measure likely will fail. For one thing, it’s a reverse-vote situation — “Yes” to kill the city law; “No” to leave the law in place. Voters who don’t fully understand a ballot measure tend toward a No vote. Also, the measure over-reaches by seeking to amend the city charter.

Even if it fails, all parties somehow should return to the table to revisit the city ordinance.

All seem to agree that potential 911 fines, without ever being enforced, have almost eliminated unnecessary ambulance calls from care centers. The licensing law, however, is another matter.

Has the city fully justified $200-per-bed annual fees for fire and safety inspections? Will we next see annual per-desk licensing fees for all businesses? Should we levy a special tax on people who use the library? How about per-tire assessments on owners of SUVs that raise street maintenance costs?

I don’t mean to be flippant, but there’s room for thoughtful consideration of allocating costs for general versus targeted public services.

Meanwhile, let’s try to keep election hyperbole to a low roar leading up to the November election.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.



Some fair points Jeb however a YES vote sends a clear message to city managers and politicians that they should think twice before raising taxes on targeted groups, especially when it harms the lowest income seniors, and would encourage government officials to take citizen concerns seriously.

Bill B

I agree. I'm good with the fine portion but do not see justification for the annual fee. Do restaurants pay the county to have their premises inspected?

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