By editorial board • 

Voters reject one approach; next step is trying another

As folksinging poet Bob Dylan famously lamented back in the tumultuous 1960s, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”

On Tuesday night in McMinnville, we got that drummed into our ears. Money swore loud and long at the polls, producing a lopsided victory for the care center industry.

In some respects, that should come as no surprise.

Upset over city fines and fees enacted to address excessive fire and EMS demands, the industry backed a repeal measure with the kind of aggressive advertising immersion campaign almost universally used in presidential, senatorial, congressional and gubernatorial campaigns. It featured push polls, lawn signs, mailers, letter-to-the-editor drives, voter’s pamphlet barrages, phone bank campaigns and electronic ads, all displaying laser-like message discipline.

However, that’s a first for politics at the city level. The industry spent about $40 for every vote it secured, which dwarfs all previous marks for a municipal campaign.

So where do we go from here?

There are two problems at issue:

First, while McMinnville’s 1,054 care center residents account for less than 3% of its population, it was accounting for 37% percent of its EMS calls prior to the October 2018 crackdown.

Care centers are legitimately heavy consumers of EMS service, but the local rate was running three times the national average. By city reckoning, 500 unnecessary care facility calls were logged in 2017 at a cost to taxpayers of $1.1 million.

Second, densely populated housing complexes pose by far the greatest fire danger, and that’s doubly or triply true when they serve elderly people subject to pronounced physical and mental limitations. Thus, costly fire department safety training and inspection efforts were also being tapped disproportionately.

The fine element served to virtually eliminate the flood of frivolous 911 calls the city had been experiencing. The fee element served to virtually eliminate the extra cost of safety training and inspection services for the industry.  

But the ballot measure not only repealed them. It also amended the charter to bar the city from ever again specifically targeting taxpayer subsidies to the care industry.

That means any new measures aimed at curbing disproportionate use and abuse of services will have to be applied more broadly. They will probably have to be extended to the entire business community, if not the entire community, right down to the individual taxpayer level.

Well in advance of the election, the city assembled a team to explore one of two options, depending on how the vote went: amendment of the existing ordinance to address some of the industry’s concerns and ease some of its animosity, or, in the event of repeal, development of a new way to ease a growing fire/EMS burden.

City Manager Jeff Towery said the work group is expected to have a package ready for initial consideration at a Dec. 10 work session.

Industry leaders pledged to participate in a collaborate solution process with the city post-election, and we take them at their word. So it appears both sides are committed to putting the hostilities behind them and getting down to work.

Let the peace talks begin.



Before we charge into one of two solutions being presented on December 10 don’t you think we should know why the wrong solution was arrived at in the first place? What was the root cause? The City based 5059 on “facts” like 500 unnecessary 911 calls but could not produce the actual data to show that. Everyone wants the problems solved and it can be with accurate thinking and understanding the root cause of what happened last time. The problem seems that City leaders still believe the voters got this wrong. Let’s think about that so we don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Bill B

I think everyone, with the apparent exception of FFS, knows what happened


The NR Editorial Board writes: "Money swore loud and long at the polls, producing a lopsided victory for the care center industry."
Wow, what a presumptuous thing to say. Do you have some kind of scientific evidence to back up that kind of claim??
Could it possibly be that the voters of McMinnville carefully studied the issue and *gasp* came to the thoughtful conclusion that they see it different than the NR editorial board and actually felt it would be best to have these taxes and fee's repealed??


Let me guess...your scientific evidence is that much more money was spent on advertising by the "Yes" camp. That's not evidence. Ordinary citizens are a heck of a lot smarter than you give them credit for.

Mike D

I just wish ordinary citizens did not want to knee cap their future ability to deal with a situation related to an abuse of citizen's tax resources with a fee or a fine by changing their city's charter. But I guess ordinary citizens are smart. They do not what their elected officials to be able to curb behavior of Care Home so they changed the city charter to ensure Care Home Industry would be exempt. The ordinary citizens knew that the local lobbying necessary to moderate and change any fees and fines would involve a lot of local political involvement, and would be just too much trouble. Much smarter to change the city charter.


Bill B- you think FFS is connected to the care center industry?.....I do....

Bill B

Based on his comments, apparently Joel is as well


Bob Dylan also said "Don't criticize what you don't understand".

Mike D

FFS. I love that song

"Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'"

Great song and I'm surprised you referenced it in this context. Our local elected officials we thinking they were dealing with a local issue. The root cause is that it is not a local issue. A large national level organization saw the threat and mobilized local action. Paid for a petition of a special election to change the city's charter and stop the local citizens for imposing fees and fines on the specific business. Paid for an expensive local promotion in favor of blocking the local citizens from further action. And they were very successful in their campaign. Likely enjoying the expense the local citizens had to pay to provide the special election.

"the times they are a-changin'" It is true once again. We local folks have to be more alert to the forces of the larger world.


It’s easy to understand that private business likes to be subsidized by tax payers.....


So now we have the editorial board at the NR convinced that those of us that voted Yes must have been bought. And dear Bill B. even takes it one step further...he seems convinced that anyone who voted Yes must be a "part of the care center industry."
Do we live in a day so polarized that is it difficult to even comprehend that two voters, both of good will, both intelligent and thoughtful, could look at an issue and come to different conclusions as to what is best?

Mike D

Joel. I agree with you that two people of good will can see the same issue and reach different conclusions. The issue of fee and fines being to extreme was the point being made and they need to be modified or eliminated. A fair discussion. And I might agree they should be changed or not. That you think it is fine to change our city charter to exempt some business from all fees and fines when they have been abusing our resources, makes be wonder how you reached that conclusion. I don't know if money bought the result. I know money from the outside industry bought the local initiative petition, I know money paid for a very beautifully run local media campaign in support of the initiative they paid for, and I know the issue was about how unfair the fees and fines where. Not much mention of the little thing of changing the city charter so future fees and fines on that industry will be fore bidden. How is changing the city charter the best local solution? I guess my since of keep my local control is different than yours.


The times have always been a-changing. Nothing new under the sun.

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