McMinnville City residents are receiving ballots mid-October for a city-wide election. This is a Special Election, held to answer a question referred to voters by petition signatures gathered over the summer with the intent to overturn city ordinance 5059, passed by the City Council in October, 2018.

Voters must return ballots by November 5th, 2019, at 8pm.

What do I need to know?

KEY FACTS

  • McMinnville Fire Department has struggled recently with staffing an resources. One challenge identified is the high rate of emergency calls from local care centers. While the 15 care centers house just 3% of McMinnville population, they account for over 35% of the emergency calls handled by the department, roughly 500 calls per year, at a cost of over $1 Million/year.
  • In response, McMinnville City Council passed Ordinance 5059 in October, 2018. The ordinance creates a business license fee for care centers, as well as establishing a $1500 fine for “unnecessary” emergency calls.
  • The Oregon Health Care Association, an industry group, has gathered signatures and placed a measure on the November 5th ballot which would overturn this ordinance. They argue that the fine is too steep, and the license fee will force businesses to pass costs on to residents.
  • Since passage of the ordinance in 2018, Fire Chief Leipfert has reported that unnecessary calls to 911 have gone down significantly: There were 413 fewer calls during a 9 month period in 2019 as compared to the same period in 2018, suggesting that the ordinance is on track to save the city $1 million this year.
  • A YES vote overturns the ordinance. A NO vote retains the current ordinance, fee structure, and fines.

TIMELINE

  • McMinnville FY18-29 Budget (page 72)
    • Total Budget: $3.5 Million, an increase of $.5 Million over previous year
    • 88% (7059) of all 2017 calls are EMS, only 12% (979) are fire calls
    • “Workload issues have been identified as a reason for high turnover within the department. Since 2014, the Department has lost 13 members or 40% of our work force to other departments.”
  • 9/24/18, News Register: Fire chief sounds alarm over his diminished ranks
    • Volunteer Firefighters getting hard to find, and significant staff turnover costs the Department more in new hire training, limiting advanced training for existing staff
    • Due to the number of EMS calls, Fire Department is not meeting expectations at response time for fires, even in the center of the city “because our primary engine is still out assisting on EMS calls when fire calls come in.”
    • McMinnville averages three calls per care center bed in the community, accounting for 37% of total call volume. Nationally the expectation is 1 call per nursing home.
  • City Council Meeting Minutes, September 19, 2018
    • “The biggest challenge was that the management and nursing staff at these care homes had a high turnover rate and the information about how to properly use 9-1-1 did not get passed on to the new employees.”
  • 10/11/18, News Register: Care centers to be fined for frivolous 911 calls
    • McMinnville City Council passes ordinance 5059. The ordinance establishes a fine of $1500 for unnecessary emergency calls. Care centers must also obtain specialty businesses licenses for $500 initially and annual renewal fees of $200 per bed.
    • Care center residents in McMinnville represent approximately 3% of the population, yet Fire Chief Leipfert testified that his department “responded to move than 500 unnecessary calls from care centers last year”, including for:
      • Helping residents who had rolled out of their beds.
      • Evaluating minor changes in medical conditions.
      • Inserting IVs.
      • Transporting residents to hospitals because the care center didn’t renew prescription medications.
      • Helping care center staff for the sake of simple convenience.
      • Providing routine care for wounds.
    • Definition of “unnecessary call” guided by state guidelines regarding standard of care expected from care facilities
    • Chief Leipfert “has tried working with [care center] administrators for the past four years ‘with little or no success'”
  • 10/16/18, News Register Editorial: Care centers should shoulder cost of unnecessary 911 calls
    • “Leipfert told councilors Tuesday his department responded to more than 500 unnecessary medical calls to care centers last year, at a cost of $1.1 million. These calls hamper his department’s effectiveness in responding to genuine medical emergencies, he said.”
    • “Targeting the main source of unnecessary 911 calls feels justified. The nature of many care centers is changing. Medicaid requires more of them to take in additional challenging residents than the traditional senior population. Those issues need to be addressed nationally. But, locally, first responders need relief now. “
  • 12/17/18, News Register: Care centers expected to seek charter amendment
    • A petition is filed with the city, the “Elderly and Disabled Persons Protection Act”. The proposed amendment would prohibit the city from imposing any standards of care on facilities already subject to state and federal licensing
    • The chief petitioner is Art Bradley, employee wellness coach for The Springs Senior Living, which is headquartered in McMinnville but has no local care centers (and is therefore not subject to ordinance 5059); however, Bradley’s boss, Fee Stubblefield, serves on the board of OHCA
  • 1/14/19, News Register: Care center petitioner challenges ballot title
    • There have also been rumblings that the Oregon Healthcare Association, the primary opponent of the law, may attempt a statewide ban on the McMinnville law and all similar local ordinances during the upcoming Oregon Legislature.”
    • Chief Leipfert says there has been a 20% reduction in care facility calls over the last 3 months, and 12 facilities have so far submitted the business license application and initial fee ($500, with an annual renewal of $200 per bed)
  • 1/21/19, News Register: Care centers’ battle with city gets heated
    • A meeting between the City of McMinnville and representatives of the Oregon Health Care Association went badly. Chairman of the board of OHCA, Fee Stubblefield, did not attend but told the paper that it was “an absolute disaster”.
    • Stubblefield also accused the McMinnville Fire Department of increasing inspections of local care centers for fire and safety hazards at a “very suspect” time in negotiations
  • 3/18/19, News Register: Care centers agree to ballot title
    • The question will be, “Shall charter prohibit McMinnville from impositing standards of care or taxes/fees/fines primarily or exclusively on care facilities?”
    • 3,095 signatures must be gathered to get the measure on the ballot (15% of registered voters as of December, 2018)
  • 3/20/19: McMinnville City Council Work Session
  • 3/22/19, News Register: City looks to bolster care center 911 law
    • McMinnville City Attorney David Koch asked City Councillors to consider amending the law to include a patient’s bill of rights (stating individuals will not be fined by the city directly OR penalized by care centers for calling 911 on their own)
    • Other proposed amendments would include requiring care center staff training, maintaining records of training, and keeping updated, written disaster preparedness plans
  • 5/23/19, News Register: Mailer fighting care center fees sent to Mac residents
    • Arthur Bradley, the chief petitioner behind the petition, signed the letter to McMinnville voters which claimed that new fees “will likely have to pass on to the seniors living in these communities”
    • City Attorney David Koch said to do so would be a violation of the law. “Nonemergency care fees are prohibited from being passed onto residents.”
    • 5/24/19, Letter to the Editor, News Register, Unfounded petition pitch
  • 6/6/19, News Register Editorial: Care centers shouldn’t be scare centers
    • “Understandably, McMinnville care centers oppose reimbursing the city for the cost of business licensing overhead and ambulance responses for unjustified 911 calls. But they should stop scaring voters — and their elderly and vulnerable residents — for political gain. “
  • 6/27/19, Jeb Bladine: Mixed stories relay care center issues
    • “Meanwhile, local care centers have paid $89,000 to date in licensing fees, with about $64,000 outstanding; emergency calls from care centers are down 22 percent; and the city has not issued any fines for non-emergency EMS calls. It appears the city achieved the desired results from the EMS fines, but a ballot measure effort still seeks to overturn the city law. “
  • 6/27/19, McMinnville City Council President Kellie Menke, City looking out for care center residents
    • “The fee runs $200 a year, or $16.67 a month, per bed. It’s a small price to pay to know all staff will be getting safety training once a year — training not provided by the facilities.”
  • 7/4/19, News Register: Signatures submitted to repeal care center law
    • 4,994 petition signatures were collected and submitted, of the 3095 required to qualify for the ballot
    • The ballot measure restricts the city from enacting any tax, fee, fine on care facilities, and repeals the city’s ordinance 5059 which enacted the current law
    • Under the current law, no fines have yet been collected, but the law has continued to be a deterrent since passed in October 2018
  • 7/18/19, News Register: Care center measure goes before council
  • 7/25/19, News Register: Council rejects 911 measure
    • City Councilors rejected placing the proposed amendment on the ballot, despite supporters having gathered enough signatures. Council President Menke was the only vote in support
    • However, the vote does not matter, as 3,455 signatures were valid after verification by City Recorder Bisset, so the measure will go before voters on November 5, 2019 without council approval
  • 8/8/19, News Register: Council may strike back at care centers’ ballot measure
  • 8/15/19, News Register: Council looks to soften care center law
    • McMinnville City Council decides against putting it’s own ballot measure before voters to compete with the submitted measure already scheduled
    • Instead, Councilors would rather work to amend the fees with the help of the Oregon Health Care Association
    • Fire Chief Leipfert told the council that the ordinance had been successful: “In this nine months of this year post-ordinance, compared with the 9 months of the same period of the year before, we’re down 287 calls to care homes.”
    • Oregon Health Care Association complained to councilors that the OHCA was not previously included in conversations. Chief Leipfert stated that he was not aware the association was a stakeholder.
  • 8/30/19, Letter to the Editor by Councilor Kellie Menki, EMS ordinance is working
    • “Since Ordinance 5059 was enacted only 2 facilities have incurred fines, and both fines were abated in the interest of providing an educational opportunity”
  • 9/6/19, News Register: Chamber advocates for care center measure
    • McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce has sided with local care centers against the city’s ordinance; however, the Chamber receives $10,000 in public funding from the City, which raises questions
    • State law prohibits public employees from taking positions on election issues, but City Manager Jeff Towery serves on the Chamber Board
    • The Chamber Board took the vote in a meeting when Towery was on vacation, without prior notice of the agenda ite
  • 9/19/19, News Register: Council may amend care center law
    • The cost of the special election on November 5, 2019 will be between $60,000 – $80,000 and the City of McMinnville will have to pay for it because no other local district had a question to put on the ballot for this special election, according to County Clerk Brian Van Bergen
  • 9/26/19, News Register: City won’t change care center law for now
    • City Council decided against amending any of the fees or fines until after voters have their say in November
    • Another member of the city budget committee, Cherry Haas, spoke in favor of the ordinance, urging city council members to stand firm
    • Del Zook, CEO of Rock of Ages Mennonite Home (and LTE writer on 10/4, though he did not identify his position), spoke against the ordinance, decrying additional regulations in an already highly regulated field. Rock of Ages is not affected by the law as it is outside of McMinnville.
    • “Between Nov. 1, 2017, to Sept. 1, 2018, fire department records show there were 1,473 emergency medical calls. During the same nine-month period between Nov. 1, 2018, and Sept. 1, 2019 (while the law was in effect), there were 1,060 emergency medical calls.”  – a total of 413 fewer calls year over year, and nearly approaching the estimated 500 calls which in 2017 cost the city $1 Million
    • Oregon Health Care Association again complains that they were not consulted in advance of the ordinance passing. City Council members remain open to working on adjustments to the ordinance in concert with the OHCA.
  • 10/4/19, Letters to the Editor, Brad Lunt, Delvin Zook, Scott Hill (Mayor of McMinnville
    • Lunt (a former member of the McMinnville City Budget Committee) and Hill (current Mayor) wrote in support of the ordinance; Zook writes in opposition
  • 10/11/19, Jeb Bladine: Care center vote a political train wreck
    • Bladine encourages all parties to return to the table to revisit the ordinance, regardless of the outcome of the election
  • November 5, 2019 Voter’s Pamphlet