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Assessor will try to unseat chairman.

Byline: ELECTION 2008 By Winston Ross The Register-Guard

COQUILLE - Most of the time, a county assessor's profile is a low one. There might be an occasional flare-up about whether someone's property really is or isn't worth what the county says it is, but nothing that would make the front page of the newspaper.

Last year, however, Coos County discovered an exception to that rule. Threatened with the loss of up to $7 million in federal timber payments, the board of commissioners decided it best to pre-emptively slash their budget, cutting 45 percent of the general fund, axing 65 county jobs and freeing 70 inmates from the county jail. By getting a head start, the commissioners argued, they'd save 35 jobs in the long run.

County Assessor Bob Main disagreed. The reductions in his staff meant he couldn't keep the office open full time, he declared, so he unilaterally decided to close the office to the public 20 hours a week, taping paper to the windows so people couldn't see inside.

That move didn't sit so well with the commissioners, who ordered maintenance workers to remove the paper and threatened Main's employees with termination if they participated in such a stunt again.

Main calls the dustup a "blip" today, but it can be no coincidence that he is now running to unseat the powerful, controversial chairman of the board, John Griffith. Main doesn't hesitate to explain why he is running, launching into a slew of charges against the seven-year incumbent.

"I'd like to bring a different look to the board," Main said, "where we have a more open policy, and not these agendas that go on with noncompetitive contracts and tax breaks that aren't known by everybody."

Griffith refused to be interviewed by The Register-Guard and has accused the newspaper of trying to "throw" the 2004 election.

Main's list of gripes with the current government is long. He said the board persuaded legislators to grant a $32 million tax write-off for Northwest Natural Gas, operators of the 60-mile natural gas pipeline that runs from Coquille to Roseburg, at the same time "we went from 249 jail beds to 95, letting prisoners back on the street and jeopardizing people's safety."

He also criticizes the $50 million pipeline project itself, saying only 600 users are hooked into the line and that it hasn't resulted in the industrial boom county leaders had hoped for when they agreed to build it.

The board also approved a $400,000 budget for an unnecessary new assessment and taxation system, Main said, and in October commissioners signed off on a $265,000 contract for computer work without a public bidding process.

"My opponent is saying it was an emergency," Main said. "Nowhere in this contract does it say it was an emergency."

Those actions make Griffith's threat last spring to take the hinges off the doors of Main's office "insignificant," he said. "That's just John," he said. "He likes that kind of controversy. It has nothing to do with why I'm running."

Main considers his chief accomplishment as assessor a 75 percent reduction in the number of appeals to the county's property valuations. Last year, he said, there were 42 appeals out of 53,000 accounts, a fact he attributes to a public outreach effort to work with property owners, explain the system and listen to concerns.

Main became an appraiser in 1974 after graduating from Southern Oregon University. He worked in Josephine County for four years as an analyst and residential appraiser before returning to the county in which he was raised. He has worked as a residential appraiser, commercial appraiser, analyst and computer manager in Coos County, he said.

Griffith, a former newspaper reporter and logger, has become a powerful voice for the south coast since he was first elected commissioner in 2000.

A controversy over his reappointment to the Ocean Policy Advisory Council led to a multi-year delay in the discussion on whether to site marine reserves in Oregon, a concept Griffith staunchly opposes. Gov. Ted Kulongoski initially decided not to reappoint Griffith to the seat, after conservationists complained that his work on the council only served to obstruct the process.

"I am one of the main people responsible since 2000 for holding against unreasonable attempts by activists to close sections of the ocean to fishing," Griffith writes on his Web site.

Griffith also is an outspoken opponent of restrictions put in place to protect the threatened Western snowy plover. The commissioners sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force a second look at designation of critical habitat areas for the bird.

Griffith writes on his Web site that he considered not seeking re-election but that others encouraging him to run "chased away that idea. ...It's not an easy job or without controversy. It's not supposed to be."

So far this year, Griffith has reported $21,000 in campaign contributions, which include $17,000 from Common Ground Consulting in Bandon. The advertising agency lists itself as a contact for the Oregon Coast Defense League, which is sounding the alarm about potential wave energy parks off the coast.

Other contributors include Timm Slater, former North Bend Mayor and executive director of the Coos Bay Chamber of Commerce, the Coquille Tribe, Seneca Jones Timber Company and Greentree Logging Inc.

Main's contributions pale by comparison. He reported $3,112, with help from the Oregon Hunters Association and a $1,200 loan he made to his campaign.

JOHN GRIFFITH

Age: Unavailable

Elective offices held: Coos County commissioner

Family: Wife, son, two daughters

Education: Some college

Contact info: www.votejohngriffith.com

BOB MAIN

Age: 58

Elective offices held: Coos County assessor seven years, past president of Oregon Hunter's Association, past president of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Education: Bachelor of science degree in business administration, Southern Oregon University

Family: Married 35 years, two children

Contact info: www.mainnet.org
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Title Annotation:Elections; Bob Main disputes actions taken by the Coos County board of commissioners
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 2, 2008
Words:980
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