Measure 37 To The Rescue
By Peyton Knight
Victims of Oregon’s tyrannical web of land use restrictions,
ordinances, and regulatory takings can finally seek justice.
Measure 37 passed on November 2 and it allows Oregon property
owners who have been wronged by any myriad of radical land use
restrictions imposed by the state and local governments to
seek just compensation for their monetary losses.
And if the governmental body responsible for the offending
regulation can’t pony up the dough, the Measure calls for the
property owner to be immune from the regulation. Measure 37 is
right. It is fair. It is brilliant in its simplicity.
Measure 37 is the brainchild of Oregonians in Action, which
describes itself as a “non-profit organization devoted solely
to fighting for property rights and against excessive land use
regulations.” The radicals at the Sierra Club have gleefully
counted Oregon as second only to California in terms of
suffocating land use restrictions. They, along with many other
environmental extremists including Defenders of Wildlife, the
League of Conservation Voters, The Nature Conservancy, and the
Audubon Society, vehemently opposed Measure 37.
According to Oregonians in Action Vice President for
Government Affairs Bill Moshofsky, his group was outspent 3-1
by its green adversaries and nearly every newspaper
editorialized against them. Mr. Moshofsky has worked as a
full-time volunteer at the organization since 1989. Yet
despite seemingly overwhelming odds, David beat Goliath.
Measure 37 passed 61% to 39%. It received more “yes” votes
than any initiative in Oregon’s history.
Make no mistake. This is a monumental victory not only for
victims of property rights abuses in Oregon, but around the
country. Measure 37 is a model for every state. It is a long
overdue justice whose time has come.
If the city-dwelling, environmental elitists weren’t so
stunned, they’d be furious right now. But their fury will come
later. Right now, they’re just trying to fathom 37’s
overwhelming popularity—especially in light of the massive
scare campaign they waged against it. Their death-grip on
other people’s property is about to be loosened.
According to the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and
Development, 57% of land in Oregon is federally owned. Three
percent is owned by state or local governments and 38% is
locked up as “protected” farm and forest land. The remaining
2% is city land. And you can bet that it’s the people
occupying that paltry 2% of Oregon’s landmass that make life
miserable for folks dwelling in the other 98%.
“What’s going on across the nation is that representatives of
urban citizens are telling ranchers and farmers that they can
never build anything on their land because people living in
the city want to drive out to the country in their SUVs and
see open space and feel warm and fuzzy about it,” Pacific
Legal Foundation attorney David Breemer told the Los Angeles
Times. Urbanites pay little mind to how socialist planning
schemes destroy the lives of others.
Dorothy English is a widow who has fought for decades to make
productive use of her 40 hill-top acres just outside Portland.
“I’m 91 years old, my husband is dead, and I don’t know how
much longer I can fight,” says English. She and her husband
purchased the land back in 1953, intending to divide a portion
of the parcel for retirement income, and also to give some
land to her children. But in 1973, Oregon instituted a
statewide planning law that put an abrupt end to Dorothy’s
dreams. “It ruined our lives,” English told the Times, “I
worked until I was 80.”
Gene Prete and his wife live in Bend. The Prete’s have wanted
to build a retirement home on their 20 acres of land—a plot
where they farm hay and own horses. Yet Oregon’s statewide
planning law quashed their dream as well. Now they and Mrs.
English may finally have their rights restored.
Of course, local authorities have already begun conspiring to
crush the will of the Oregon people and the spirit of Measure
37. Some counties are charging exorbitant “filing fees” that
exceed thousands of dollars, all in an effort to dissuade
regulatory victims from coming forward. As a result, lawsuits
and court battles are sure to follow.
Eco-extremists such as 1,000 Friends of Oregon, a group whose
sole mission is to convince government to steal the rights of
others, are shaking in their Birkenstocks. According to the
Associated Press, they’re concerned that “Measure 37 could
wreck the policies that have succeeded in preserving Oregon's
rural charms.” Only a Green would consider stealing someone
else’s property “charming.”
With the passage of Measure 37, Oregonians in Action have
shown Oregon and the nation that no odds are insurmountable
when you have common sense and morality on your side.
Peyton Knight is executive director of the American Policy
Center. The Center maintains an Internet site at
© American Policy Center 2005