Deadline: August 7

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Expand the Deschutes County Commission

It is time for an updated structure for Deschutes County government – one that works for all of its residents.

County government in Deschutes County currently follows a 3 person commission model only slightly modified since the days of the Oregon Trail. No longer is county government headed by a rural judge like the days of old… but we are still burdened by a system designed for a small logging and farming community of 30,000 people. With over 200,000 people and a modern economy, it’s time county government catches up.

No other local government in Central Oregon operates with only 3 members today. Not La Pine City Council. Not the Redmond School Board. Even the 4-H Budget Committee has five members!

This stagnant system has led to dysfunction in recent years. County commissioners show up unprepared for big decisions, habitually flip-flop, and become combative with one another and other local governments.

That can be fixed with a change to the structure of county commission and YOU can make the change happen at the ballot box.

Expanding the county commission from three members to five would encourage greater public deliberation, produce more transparency in important decisions, and bring the sort of professionalism the public expects from elected leaders.

Signatures so far:


Needed = 6,581 / Goal = 8,000

Signatures remaining:


Goal = 8,000

Support the effort to modernize our county

Petition sheets are here !

Read the full text of the ballot measure

Serious topics require serious deliberation.

It’s become a familiar routine in recent years. A major topic is brought before county commission, staff do a lot of work, and then one commissioner changes their mind seemingly on a whim and with the barest of explanation. That switcheroo then becomes law and all that hard work is tossed out the window.

When we’re talking about serious topics – from homelessness to the environment or your family’s pocketbook – voters deserve serious deliberation and compromise. With only three commissioners, we’ll keep seeing this dysfunction result from one person flip flopping.

Expanding to five members would encourage commissioners to explain themselves to each other and the public in order to build the consensus that represents Deschutes County.

Your elected leaders should be able to show up prepared for work.

When you only have three members, just two commissioners are considered quorum. Quorum rules say that half of the commissions members can’t meet outside of scheduled meetings. That rule means your leaders are not allowed to get together to study topics or jointly discuss issues in advance with experts.

When elected leaders can’t discuss issues with each other, they are left talking to lobbyists and special interests. We’ve seen the result of this dysfunction too many times in recent years.

Expanding to five members would change the quorum to three, meaning two members would be able to serve together on subcommittees and better tackle the serious work ahead of us.

Each commissioner can only do so much.

County commission was set at three members when Deschutes County had a vastly different economy. However nostalgic we may be for that simpler time when timber ruled Central Oregon, we have more complex needs now. County government oversees public health, land use, and much more.

While some commissioners may relish being able to say they serve on a lot of committees, the rest of us can clearly see the quality of their work is diminished. To be fair, each commissioner can only be expected to do so much — and still do it well.

Expanding to five members would enable commissioners to better divide the heavy workload of county government and become more fluent in the topics before them. Representation requires greater professionalism.

County government should represent the people.

The Deschutes County Dog Control Board has 5 members.

The Deschutes County 4-H Budget Committee has 5 members.

The Deschutes County Planning Commission has 7 members.

The Redmond Airport Commission has 12 members.

County Commission has only 3?

Out of 41 boards and committees at Deschutes County alone, only two have as few as three members. (See them all here.) There’s a reason for that. Representation requires more people at the table.

No other local government body has as few as three members. Each city council inside Deschutes County has 5-7 members for a much smaller population.

Expanding county commission is a simple reform that can reduce conflict through greater cooperation.

In the news:

Source Weekly: Sign the Petition to Increase the Size of the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners

Increasing the number of people on the county commission to a number closer to that is an idea worth exploring if it leads to a more efficient government at the county level.

Redmond Spokesman: Column: Expand the number of Deschutes County commissioners

Our current board of three commissioners is simply incapable of mitigating the demands of our growing population. We at the League of Women Voters believe voters would be much better served by a five-member county commissioner board…

The decisions made by the Deschutes County Commission are too important to leave to just three people.

More than 200,000 people live in Deschutes County now. Our home has grown to include a vibrant economy and diverse communities. The County should have a commission capable of meeting the professional obligations required to serve a modern community.

It is time to expand the County Commission and better meet the needs of the people who live here.

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