One of my favorite things in the world is when government agencies are only accountable to other government agencies. I feel like that’s the best way to increase accountability and make it so that the American people have a say.
TriMet, the government agency that handles mass transit in the Portland area, is feeling the pressure after a group of citizens and public representatives in Clackamas County decided that the new light rail project stretching between Milwaukie, Ore. and Portland, Ore. deserved to be voted on by the public. They started a ballot initiative and introduced Initiative Measure 3-401 onto the ballot, where it went on to win the public vote 60/40. Measure 3-401 requires a countywide vote before officials can spend money on any light rail operations in Clackamas County.
So now TriMet has filed a lawsuit against Clackamas County.
TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch came out and replied, saying this: “We understand that Clackamas County voters want a say in any rail projects based on Measure 3-401, but that does not affect the current Portland-Milwaukie project,” said Mary Fetsch, TriMet Spokeswoman. “Unfortunately, we have to take this action to prevent delays that could impact the overall cost and schedule of the Project.”
With two conflicting, legally-binding documents, the debate comes down to which takes precedence? The law that the public voted on and approved, or the contract between government agencies that ensures the construction project will be complete? I believe this will be a milestone legal case in Oregon, because it will set the precedent for whether the government of Oregon is of the people, by the people, and for the people, or whether government entities are autonomous bodies that are accountable only to themselves, and work in their own self-interest.
I’m going to be monitoring this case, because it’s going to demonstrate whether Oregon agrees with our nation’s founding principles. Are we of the people, by the people, and for the people, or are we an empire?