News, politics, Washington County

County seeks public input on commissioner redistricting process

Following the 2020 census, political boundaries across the landscape are shifting thanks to redistricting, and Washington County residents have been asked to weigh in on the process of redrawing the four Board of Commissioner Districts that divide the county. 

For residents of unincorporated Washington County—Gales Creek, Timber, Buxton, Manning and more—the Washington County Board of Commissioners are often the most directly impactful to their day-to-day life, making decisions on everything from the cost of garbage and recycling to road projects, taxes, and liquor licenses for businesses. 

Currently, residents of western Washington County are in District 4, represented by former Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey. 

The board of commissioners agreed to release five redistricting proposals to the public on July 12; created with the aid of Portland State University’s Population Research Center, the five options can be viewed online

Each district must be drawn to have roughly the same population—hence the large landmass of the current District 4, covering the most sparsely populated part of the county—but the lines, changed by statute every 10 years, can vary. 

“The 2020 census showed that district 2 has grown more than the other districts, so the county needs to make district 2 smaller and the others bigger,” the county said in a press release.

When the process is completed, no district should have a population larger than 103% of any other district. Completed maps will be finished in time to be used for the 2024 election cycle, the county said. 

Under four of the five proposals, residents of the western portion of the county who read this newspaper would see few significant changes. 

One plan, however, would see a seismic shift in district 4, and it would also mean residents of Buxton and Manning might have different representatives, depending on which side of Highway 26 they live in. 

The plan, dubbed the “Urban/Rural Balance Plan” aims to create districts with a mix of rural and urban populations. 

Under that plan, a new District 2 would follow the upper portion of Washington County, stretching from the West Slope neighborhood near Portland all the way to the Tophill area, just a few miles south of Columbia County’s Vernonia. Along the way, the district would include Helvatia, North Plains, Mountaindale, and parts of Manning and Buxton. 

The dividing line, largely following Highway 26, would mean places like the Dairy Queen in Manning would have a different county commissioner than the Dairy Creek Tavern across the street. It would be a familiar political situation; until Oregon’s local legislative maps were updated following the census, Highway 26 served as the boundary between two legislative districts. 

To weigh in on all the proposals, visit the county’s online webpage showing maps of each proposal; an interactive map; and fill out a county survey by September 9. 

Spanish: click here.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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