Some of the topics of conversation and questions I hear when out and about in our community along with thoughts about each.
Q: Do you support tolling I-205?
A: No. Government proponents have no clear vision on how to solve the congestion and traffic problem. Tolling will make it worse. The problem is no new highways or freeways have been built in Oregon in 30 years due to state-wide lands and environmental laws. What good will tolling do until those issues are addressed?
Q: Do support Clackamas County Commissioners vote on raising the Vehicle Registration Fee, VFR?
A: No. voters clearly voted against this fee increase by 64% in 2016. I support the will of voters. Elected leaders must listen to their constituents and the commission is not listening. Additionally, Oregon Legislature passed a VFR in 2017 session for road maintenance as well. The price to register your car with government will almost double. Money for that increase is just now starting to come in.
Q: What’s your plan to help curb crime and homeless population?
A: The biggest cause of homelessness is a result of addiction, mental illness or crime. And to a lesser degree the high cost of housing also plays a role. I support evaluations of people who live in camps or on the street. Determine the reason behind it. Do they suffer from addictions? If so mandatory treatment with follow-up services with eventual job placement. Buying tiny houses while maladies exist only exasperates the problem and does not solve it. Support for more mental health services should become a priority for delivery of county services. Our courts and law enforcement officials should be allowed to arrest and prosecute criminals who hide and terrorize the homeless population.
Q: What is your view on taxation in light of the fact that the legislature raised record amount in taxes?
A: No new taxes. This Super Majority commission wants to tax its citizens just like the Super Majority in Oregon Legislature with their $9 billion tax increase, which includes taking the $1.4 billion kicker refund check. As Chair of Clackamas County Commission, budgeting is a priority for me. I have served in legislature for 2 sessions on Ways and Means and operated three corporations. Currently, the County board of commissioners have a budget deficit of at least $10 million which is a violation of state budget law. Obviously, they are not doing the job that votes elected them to do. As a commissioner for four years, we not only balanced the budget but carried a surplus forward.
Q: Do support a new court house?
A: Not until budget is balanced. The current courthouse is old and crumbling but leaders must balance the county check book before citizens can be asked to support this project.
I don’t believe citizens have the appetite for more increased taxes to pay for a new courthouse when the old one is still useable, although aged.
The state of Oregon gave Clackamas County $31 million for design and research, it will not match the current $200 million Taj Mahal elaborate structure the current commissioners have planned. Where will the money come from? The county can bond but how will the payments be made? Will commissioners pass another tax like the Vehicle Registration Fee without a vote?
Q: What about fixing potholes on our county roads?
A: The Oregon Legislature passed in 2017 session an increase in the gas tax and Vehicle Registration Fee to pay for repairs. An audit needs to be completed to determine where the money is and if county is using it as intended.
Q: What about METRO?
A: Metro regional planning has hurt the quality of life in Clackamas County: 1. by increasing housing density by manipulating land use laws. 2. Increased transportation taxes for light rail while letting our roads deteriorate. 3. Passing a housing bond, yet they say no new homes will be constructed for 8-10 years. 4. Policies have forced an increase of homelessness and crime into neighborhoods from Portland, their center of operation.
Q: Why do we need a county commission anyway?
A: County commissioners are the ground game that implements the state and federal laws that legislatures pass. County Commissioners fund Sheriff’s Department, Ambulance, River and Mountain Rescue, Pet Shelter, Elections and Recording office. It provides a courthouse, Taxation Department and collection of state taxes, criminal convictions, public health, Treasurer and Finance Departments, land use, sewer, building permitting, agriculture and forestry. Clackamas County has 70 volunteer boards and commissions, 16 cities, about 2,000 employees, one million acres stretching from Lake Oswego to Mt. Hood. We have an abundance of agriculture and forestry lands and encompass the richest and poorest communities in Oregon.
Q: Can County commissioners pass laws?
A: Yes and no. Commissioners can pass ordinances that affect certain jurisdictions defined in statute. Clackamas County Commissioners can impose taxes without a vote of the people or refer tax increases to voters. Commissioners can raise sewer fees and other county fees, rule on minor land use issues and code enforcement. Clackamas County is Oregon’s third largest county with a population of 400,000 people.
Q: What is the governance model for Clackamas County?
A: Clackamas County is a statutory county versus a home rule county with five commissioners including an elected chair. The Chair sets the agenda and runs the business meetings, while all commissioners have an equal vote. Currently there are no districts and all commissioners are elected county wide.