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Working Together for the Common Good

My support for Lew Frederick on the blight of abandoned houses

Rep. Dennis Richardson | 6/26/2013, 4:15 p.m.
A Republican from southern Oregon works with a Portland Democrat for the common good
Rep. Dennis Richardson

There once was a group of men at a church who had the assignment to move a grand piano from one room to another. The piano was very heavy and several of the concerned volunteers discussed ideas on how to move it without harming themselves or the piano. Finally, a wise man suggested they all should gather close around the piano and together “lift where you stand.” They did so and the piano was easily moved because of the unified effort. What we do here in the Oregon State Legislature is often like the men in this story.

Politics is a team sport. In state government, no legislation can pass without a majority vote of legislators in both the House of Representatives and the State Senate, followed by the Governor’s signature.

As state representatives we are elected by voters in only one of Oregon’s 60 House districts, yet we are elected to serve the best interests of all the residents of the entire state and not merely those in our own districts. That’s why for more than a decade, I have focused so much of my effort on balancing the state budget, invigorating the state’s economy, and promoting a world-class educational system.

In addition to statewide policy, individual legislators have issues in their own districts that deserve to be addressed without concern for party or politics. Whenever possible, I try to “lift where I stand” and help other legislators craft solutions that benefit the people in their districts.

For instance, Rep. Lew Frederick, D-north and northeast Portland, came to our Consumer Protection and Government Efficiency Committee with a bill (HB 2662) to help his Portland neighborhoods do something about the blight of abandoned houses that attract squatters, drug dealers and derelicts.

Of Oregon’s homes in foreclosure nearly 1/3 are vacant. Rep. Frederick’s bill originally contained provisions that assessed up to a $150 fine per day against property owners who failed to maintain their properties, and did not suggest a solution to the underlying problem. As introduced, such provisions were likely to kill his bill.

After the public hearing I asked Rep. Frederick what he was trying to accomplish. He said his goal was to enable residents in blighted neighborhoods to do something about abandoned homes that often sit empty for years and become public nuisances. In some cases community leaders are unable to even determine the whereabouts of the property owners. We worked together to amend the language in his bill.

The final version enables communities to place notices on such abandoned properties and, when possible, to notify the owners of the need to clean up and maintain their properties. If the nuisance is not corrected, local government now has the power to do the maintenance or make necessary repairs on the properties and place a priority lien on the county records for the amount of the “actual and demonstrable costs” incurred by the local government.

The final version of HB 2662A is a win/win for all concerned. Neighbors now have a means to correct the blight of an abandoned house and yard; local government now have a process where an abandoned house in a neighborhood can be maintained and the costs incurred eventually will be repaid when the house is sold or refinanced; and, even the abandoned property’s owner may be benefited when the house finally is sold, since it was not allowed to grossly deteriorate, become a meth lab or an attractive nuisance to squatters.

Rep. Frederick was gracious during his House floor speech by referring to my assistance with his bill. HB 2662A passed both the House and Senate and has been signed into law.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle can provide hundreds of similar stories of working together for the common good. Since news reports generally focus on political acrimony and discord, I thought you might appreciate knowing that it is common practice, among the rank and file members of the House and Senate, for legislators to work together for the benefit of the citizens who live and work in all districts across the great State of Oregon.

It’s an honor to work with such dedicated legislators and to serve the citizens of my district and all of Oregon.

Rep. Dennis Richardson is a Republican lawmaker from Central Point, Ore., serving parts of Jackson and Josephine counties.

Here's a Youtube video link of Rep. Lew Frederick introducing House Bill 2662A: