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Could the Jordan Cove Energy Project (JCEP) signal the next chapter in a continual erosion of elected representative government in Coos County?

The process began years ago with the Port of Coos Bay commissioners no longer answerable to the citizens of the area, but to the governor as political appointees. Two years ago the Coos County Board of Commissioners (BOC) abdicated much of their control over the Sheriffs budget to Bandon Dunes.

The latest round began with the creation of an Enterprise Zone (EZ) with the cities of Coos Bay, North Bend, the Port of Coos Bay (PCB) and BOC as public members. Actually PCB membership includes the State of Oregon as a de facto fifth public member.

The Community Enhancement Plan (CEP) is a scheme developed by the EZ partners to accept from JCEP Community Service Fees (CSF) as part of a 20-year tax break in lieu of traditional property taxes. JCEP along with the EZ parties must each approve the CEP document, making JCEP the sixth and only private EZ member.

Half of the CSF goes to the South Coast Community Foundation (SCCF) a non-profit corporation. This money could be (their words), but is not dedicated to support public schools.

A quarter of the CSF would go to the Waterfront Development Partnership (WDP) whose membership is comprised of EZ members. Who will benefit from the millions collected? Will some of it funnel back to support JCEP?

The final quarter of the CSF would be paid to the governmental agencies, in return for abating JCEP’s property tax obligation. This represents a fraction of JCEPs liability if imposed as property taxes. This at a time when some EZ members are struggling with their budgets.

By allowing 75 percent of the CSF to be controlled by unelected groups unanswerable to the citizens of Coos County, the EZ members are abdicating their fiduciary responsibility via the CEP to the SCCF and the WDP. This constitutes a weakening of the people’s control over their government representatives and the public monies they hold in our trust.

More importantly this arrangement between the EZ and JCEP constitutes a public/private joint venture, with future CSF payments to the EZ members’ dependent upon JCEP’s continued financial health. Are these the roles the framers of the Constitution envisioned for government?

Steve Scheer

Coos Bay

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