“Unlimited and unregulated growth leads inexorably to a lowered quality of life”

BLM Photo by Robert Hostetter. Public Domain.

Governor Tom McCall’s message to the Oregon Legislature in 1973 calling for statewide land use planning.

Ladies and gentlemen of the 57th Legislative Assembly, Governor Holmes, other distinguished guests, elected and from private life and in the departments of government, and my fellow citizens. Oregon is an inspiration. Whether you come to it or are born to it, you become entranced by our state’s beauty, the opportunity she affords, and the independent spirit of her citizens. Oregon is an inspiration even to those who do not choose to come here to live. The story of the Willamette River, our ecological Easter, has evoked cries of hurrah all across the nation and in distant parts of the world, and we have heard, along with the applause for Oregon, lamentations for other states where progress has fallen prey to expediency.


Oregon’s story is an inspiration to all Americans who believe they should be able to influence their government and their law-making process. The most intensive special interest pressure ever brought to bear on this legislature was by the lobbyists who came from afar to declare that the Bottle Bill will not pass, but it did pass, because you and your constituents were inspired by an love for the tradition and the beauty of our home. You and I shouldn’t claim we love Oregon more than anyone else, but that we love Oregon as much as anyone. Our thoughts today and our deliberations to come must spring from our determination to keep Oregon lovable and to make it even more livable.


This is the last occasion on which I will stand in this chamber before a newly elected assembly asking enactment of a comprehensive package of laws. God willing, I expect to address you again, but not with such a wide array of ideas. You have listened to me in the past with more than pro forma politeness, and I deeply appreciate the attention you’re giving me today, but there is a shameless threat in our environment and of the whole quality of our life, and that is the unfettered despoiling of our land.


Sagebrush subdivisions, coastal condo-mania, and the ravenous rampage of suburbia here in the Willamette Valley all threaten to mock Oregon’s status as the environmental model of this nation. We’re dismayed that we have not stopped misuse of the land, which is our most valuable finite natural resource. Umbrage at blatant disrespect for sound planning is not taken just here in Salem because less than a month ago, for example, Jefferson’s county commissioners appealed to me for a moratorium on subdivisions in that county because the speculators, the speculators had out—run local capacity for rational control.


We’re in dire need of state land use policy, dire need of new subdivision law, and new standards for planning and zoning by the counties and cities of our state. The interests of Oregon for today and in the future must be protected from grasping wastrels of the land. We must respect another truism, that unlimited and unregulated growth leads inexorably to a lowered quality of life.


By the end of this month, I will submit messages, as many as 12 in number, covering these and other principal topics related briefly in the planning budget now in your hands. I will ask you to submit to the people a proposal for reducing the fiscal rigidity of our highway trust fund, which so depresses our ability to provide a truly integrated transportation system.


I will ask you to authorize a $150 million foundation to raise funds to overcome that immense backlog we have in our transportation situation in Oregon. The details of this proposal will be presented to you in an extraordinary message that will reach your desks tomorrow.


In Oregon, our accomplishments of the next days and the next months will stem as before from the labors of people who gave the best of themselves, of public servants who put the interests of the people ahead of personal or party interests.


We’ll not accomplish everything we came here to do as individuals, everything we believe we should. Even though we do our very upmost personally to fulfill public expectations, there must be consideration, flexibility, and compromise if plans are to become reality in this session.


56 years ago, Governor Sam spoke of a state rich in accomplishment. He spoke of an intelligent and prosperous people, a state towering in history and scenic beauty. His idealism in 1917 is equally at home today in Oregon, a state renowned to the world and precious to us all. In his charge to his legislative assembly, Governor Sam McCall expressed his love for Massachusetts, and his words serve as an expression to you of my love for our great state of Oregon. These are the words.


“For us to tarnish the luster of a fame so splendid would be shameful; not to diminish it would be a very great thing, but to augment it would indeed be glory.”