I continue this break from speaking on A Resolution Regarding Marijuana to return to the controversy of this spring, which those who follow these meetings might recall, the Great Canola Debate.
I was reminded about it by the recent controversy in the Oregonian, about the explosion of the Business Energy Tax Credit from what was supposed to amount to a few million invested in support of green energy projects into hundreds of millions given away to corporations.
I recalled that farmers were supposed to be paid for the use of their acreage by a state tax credit, passed to them by NW Seed Crushers, the outfit that this Board saw fit to give $85,000 of economic development funds to in an administrative meeting rather than in the Weekly Business Session.
Our Board of County Commissioners combines both legislative and administrative powers. This concentration of power in a single body leads to confusion of powers and the times that they should be exercised.
Legislatures appropriate moneys for executives to spend or distribute. Our Weekly Business Sessions are our legislative sessions, where our Commissioners bring spending proposals before the people for comment before taking action. You take comment because three people cannot know enough to hand out public money responsibly. You do it twice to give plenty of opportunity for comment.
And yet, our Board passes out economic development funding from the Lottery in administrative meetings without public input. This is something that the City Manager, for instance, would never attempt; money is always appropriated through the Council, and they always appropriate funds in their normal City Council meetings, after public input.
It has been said that some businessmen do not want to bring their proposals to public meetings. If such proposals cannot stand the light of public comment before being acted on, they should not be acted on. If a business venture cannot succeed without government subsidies and tax breaks, perhaps it should not succeed. Certainly, handing out public money to one business makes others feel burdened, regardless of the source.
Because $85,000 was given to NW Seed Crushers without input from the public beforehand, the Board ended up getting angry comment on the matter for months afterwards, culminating in a Town Hall meeting on April 8th. If the Board had gotten the same kind of comments beforehand that it got at that meeting, it might have thought twice or thrice about subsidizing oilseed production in Josephine County.
“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles away from the cornfield.”-Dwight Eisenhower