‘Extreme Environmentalists’ sign outside commissioner’s gas station creates controversy

September 15, 2017 GMT

“Stop Extreme Environmentalists. Vote NO! On New Charter” reads a sign outside the Shell station on Garden Valley Boulevard owned by Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman.

The sign takes aim at a proposed Home Rule Charter which will be on the ballot in November, and supporters of that charter aren’t happy about its message, which they call misleading. The charter would eliminate salaries for the commissioners, including Freeman, and replace the three full-time commissioners with five part-time commissioners each representing one of five districts.

Freeman said he put up the sign because the political action committee opposing Home Rule asked him to. But he also said he agrees with the message.

Doug Hockett, petitioner for the Home Rule Charter ballot measure, said he’s not an extreme environmentalist. He said the ad campaign is dishonest.

“It’s just a ploy to get people to vote against it. There are a lot of us involved that are not environmentalists. There’s ranchers, there’s loggers,” he said. He said he’s worked in the woods all his life.

While Hockett characterizes the sign’s message as a ploy to obstruct democracy, Freeman characterizes it as using his First Amendment rights to tell people why he thinks Home Rule is a bad idea.

Freeman said no one knows exactly who drafted the proposed Home Rule Charter, since it was presented to the public after the fact, but he said the people who’ve been writing letters and guest columns to The News-Review in favor of it fit his definition of extreme environmentalists.

Freeman thinks part of the Home Rule supporters’ agenda is to reduce the county’s role, and his role in particular, as an advocate for logging on federal timberlands. Freeman is the president of the Association of O&C Counties and recently met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about logging on O&C timberlands owned by the federal government. The money from logging on those lands traditionally was the source for most of the county government’s general fund. When logging was dramatically curtailed on them, the county began eating into its reserves and cutting staff, as well as offloading whole departments, from mental health to the library system.

Hockett said the commissioners keep going back to logging as the solution for the county’s budget problems, but the county needs new ideas.

“We might have people with better ideas, more creative ideas about how to fund the county than depending on timber,” he said.

Hockett said the campaign against Home Rule has raised a lot of money, and it’s going to get its message out more easily. Signs are expensive, he said, and “they can do whatever they want. They have the money.” He said campaigning door-to-door, he’s found a lot of people don’t yet know what Home Rule is about, but when they hear about it, they’re very positive.

Freeman said hundreds of signs like the one in front of his gas station are slated to go up around the county in the near future.

According to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, the campaign for Home Rule has generated just $1,974, while the PAC opposing Home Rule has collected $60,250. Timber interests like C&D Lumber and Lone Rock Timber Management, and Allyn Ford of Roseburg Forest Products are major contributors to the anti-Home Rule effort. So are Gene Whitaker, Inc., PLIKAT Logging, TMS Call Center, Wilbur businessman Dick Heard and others. Most of the anti-Home Rule donations range from $1,000 to $10,000. Most of the pro-Home Rule PAC’s contributions have been small donations under $100, which aren’t listed by donor. The largest pro-Home Rule contributions are $500 apiece from Al Walker, Inc. and Sara Byers.