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A Community-Wide Effort results in Clackamas County moving to ‘Lower Risk’

Published in Pamplin MediaGroup – EstacadaNews

“This is great news for our Clackamas County residents and businesses. I’d like to express my thanks to our local business community and residents for their sacrifices as they worked to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community. I’m hopeful that with our collective efforts we will soon fully reopen and get back to business,” Clackamas County Commission Chair Tootie Smith said.

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Content credit to Pamplin MediaGroup – EstacadaNews

Public forests should be restored and replanted.

Published in Pamplin MediaGroup – PortlandTribune

We call on Oregonians to reject obstructionist efforts that ignore the trauma, suffering and future livelihoods of fellow Oregonians. Help us move forward by supporting efforts to restore and replant our treasured forests.

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Content credit to Pamplin MediaGroup – PortlandTribune

Promises Made, Promises Kept

This time last year, I was elected chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners outright in the May 2020 primary election. I accomplished this by winning over 50 percent of the vote, meaning that a runoff in the November general election would not be necessary.

People all over Oregon took notice of my upset win. I had taken on an incumbent with a huge war chest of campaign cash, was heavily outspent and still came out on top.

Many people wondered how I managed to pull it off.

As a longtime resident of this county, I’m keenly aware of the issues that matter the most to my neighbors. I’ve always made it a point to keep in touch with people and hear their concerns about the issues affecting them. And most importantly, I paid attention to what the board of commissioners and its former chair were doing and where those actions and decisions were leading the county.

In the years since I had last served as commissioner, the county went from being responsive to citizen concerns to more worried about the well-being of consultants who provided questionable services to people who never asked for them in the first place.

Instead of being mindful about the way that taxpayer dollars were being spent, the board’s chair was constantly looking for more ways to fund these bogus expenses and unnecessary expansion of non-essential county government operations.

Rather than having a budget that balanced, it was ballooning, bulging and becoming unsustainable.

Perhaps worst of all, the priorities of Clackamas County residents were taking a backseat to those of Metro.

Serving the citizens was less of a priority for the former chair than his own family’s personal financial gain. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission was sufficiently outraged by his actions to find him guilty and impose a fine. The former chair then had the audacity to ask county taxpayers to foot the bill for his related legal expenses. His fellow commissioners went along with it, until public outrage caused them to reverse their position.

I took office in January and hit the ground running to get the county going back in the right direction. When I found out that Metro was charging our constituents too much for garbage pickup service, I lead the charge to hold that agency accountable.

When it was suggested that our commissioners and other elected officials should get pay raises, I voted against it. I also made every effort to repeal a vehicle registration fee that the previous board put in place with no public input.

While we’ve been successful in getting the county’s budget back to being balanced and pushing back on Metro, I’ve also been outvoted on some of these matters. I’ve also had to contend with the constant use of our regular business sessions as soapboxes for activists who are still disgruntled that the commissioners they supported and campaigned for were fired by the county’s voters for doing a bad job.

I’m pleased to report that, after almost half of a year on the job, Clackamas County is back on track.

Reversing years of poor policy decisions and misplaced priorities hasn’t been easy. Nor will it all get done overnight. However, I’m just as committed to the cause as I was last year, when the results of the 2020 May primary election were first announced.

As always, I invite comments by all at any time here…

Oregon’s opening process has been beyond frustrating.

Published in WSLS 10 News

“We are just so done with this,” said Tootie Smith, chairwoman of the Clackamas County Board of Supervisors and a former Republican Oregon State House Representative. “There’s a huge amount of frustration that people have.”

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Content credit to WSLS 10 News

We Must Not Be Unprepared

Unfortunately, residents throughout the rural parts of Oregon have become used to the ghastly sights and smells resulting from catastrophic wildfires ravaging the landscape. And while these disasters have become commonplace in areas like the southern part of the state, we experienced that same horror and terror last summer right here in Clackamas County.

Our county may be considered part of the Portland metropolitan area, but in all actuality, most of it is rural and includes vast swaths of federal forestlands. Given those circumstances, it’s quite surprising, and extremely lucky, that something like that hadn’t happened much sooner.

Despite all the devastation and property damage we experienced, Clackamas County had zero deaths resulting from last summer’s wildfires. I credit the hard work and dedication of our firefighters and other professionals for their efforts to protect the lives of our vulnerable citizens in difficult circumstances.

Often times, some people characterize these kinds of fires as inevitable and say it’s the result of “climate change.” But many Oregonians started warning us decades ago that the growing trend of leaving our government-owned forests unmanaged would have consequences that include leaving us more vulnerable to massive blazes. They were right.

What that means is, the kinds of fires that scorched earth and caused evacuations in our own backyards mere months ago are avoidable. That’s true, but only if we take the right approaches.

There are things we can do to prepare for these worst-case scenarios. For example, our communities, especially those that are close to heavily forested areas, should have evacuation routes already established and made available to the public. This simple step can go a long way towards saving lives when it matters the most, and should be coupled with an early warning communication system.

Long and short-term plans should also be in place to identify areas of our public forests most in need of maintenance. We must get people back to work in our woods to ensure that fuel loads are limited and kept under control.

Aside from the proactive and preventative steps that can be done locally, the state can also play a role.

Years back, a group of legislators formed the Wildfire Caucus in an attempt to develop legislation aimed at mitigating wildfire risks. That group is still active and meeting as the legislature’s 2021 session is underway.

As a former legislator, I’m familiar with the impact and influence that state lawmakers can have in creating solutions to complex problems. I’ve been in touch with the members of Clackamas County’s legislative delegation. And even though we may have some philosophical and ideological differences at times, I’m happy to report that everyone is on the same page when it comes to this issue. We all agree that the scenario we had last summer is one that we would all like to avoid repeating.

I’ll continue working with our legislators and my fellow commissioners in the coming months to ensure that we do all we can do to make Clackamas County as prepared as possible by the time wildfire season gets here this summer.

The Perils of Government Overreach

Last fall, I made some public statements that caused quite a stir. Fed up with the government-forced lockdown of COVID restrictions, I simply said that I was going to have family and friends over for Thanksgiving and that our governor lacked the authority to tell me otherwise.

Although I made national news for this stance and garnered a lot of support, this also resulted in me having my fair share of detractors. I even received death threats, and people who were upset that I was elected chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners started talking publicly about launching a recall against me due to this simple statement that at any other time in history where the political temperature was not so out of line with common sense, would have been an unnecessary and quite boring comment.

Some people were literally accusing me of trying to kill others because I simply wanted to enjoy a holiday tradition with my family. And by the way, for the record, not a single case of COVID was spread due to my Thanksgiving meal. Nobody died and nobody got sick. We had a great time, the same way we do every year.

I wasn’t intending to become any kind of poster child for the growing pushback against government overreach. But it seems that is exactly what ended up happening.

All these months later, my position hasn’t changed, for one big reason: I believe that anything the government does to someone else, it can also do to you. This is exactly why we need to be able to identify overreach when it happens and be prepared to resist it.

It was recently announced that Clackamas, and many other counties throughout Oregon, will soon be back in the extreme-risk category. This would subject businesses, many of whom had just re-opened and brought employees back, to close their doors yet again. It would mean the end of indoor dining for the foreseeable future and more hardship for our job creators, just as they were starting to get back on their feet.

The fact of the matter is, several states are lifting restrictions. Others have been re-opening, and even completely open, for months. There is literally no evidence whatsoever that these states and the people living in them are somehow any less safe than anyone here in Oregon.

Many states have already done away with mask mandates. Some never had them in the first place. Texas allowed its businesses to re-open at full capacity weeks ago. Many states, months longer, with no marked spike in Covid related deaths.

Yet, despite all of that, Oregon’s OSHA is considering extending the rules requiring masks and social distancing in all businesses indefinitely under permanent rulemaking.

Officials will not state how low the case numbers have to be, or what percentage of the population will have to be vaccinated, before those rules ever go away.

A final decision on the rulemaking is due May 4. Now, mind you, these are decisions that are being made by officials that nobody voted for, who do not hold elected office and are in no way directly accountable to the people whose livelihoods they are threatening and even destroying. There has never been a clearer example of the abuses of the administrative state.

We need more than assurances that these rules, if implemented, will eventually be repealed. Anything short of that is government overreach, plain and simple.

The U.S. Constitution was put in place to limit government, to prevent exactly this kind of overreach from occurring. We’re now at a point in time, in Oregon, where government seems unlimited in its abilities to restrict what you, as an individual, can and cannot do.

It’s not supposed to work that way. Government is supposed to work for us.

As the chair of the board of commissioners, I’ve been pushing back on the governor and her agencies’ attempts to close Clackamas County. I will continue doing so. And if this is still going on by the time Thanksgiving rolls around again, you can bet that I’ll be having my family over and won’t be asking permission from the governor or any other politician.

Tootie Smith demands Gov Brown return public health authority back to the counties where it is mandated by Oregon constitution.

The Governor’s new lockdowns are unacceptable.

Her plans for over the last year have been an abject failure, driving businesses to bankruptcy, people to unemployment lines and harming the mental health of adults and children alike.

Its time for new innovative proven technologies to fight Covid 19, like what the airlines have been using for months now. Science, technology and innovation are our friends and we can’t even have a conversation in this state about it.

As more and more people are being vaccinated every day, it is time for a new approach that does not penalize businesses. I implore the state to use an accurate data driven approach they have touted to make decisions about business restrictions.  If the state were truly using a data driven approach, we would not be restricting restaurants and closing gyms.

Gov Brown needs to return what she took away through executive order and that is: the public health authority to the counties of Oregon as mandated by Oregon Constitution.  That is the job of county government and  each county knows their metrics, health and businesses.

 Gov Brown’s actions continue to erode trust in our communities and is preventing the people who are charged by law with caring for the public health of their communities from doing their job. It’s time Gov Brown care and respect the people she was elected to serve.

I want to be clear, that although  we are advocating that Gov Brown consider another approach to restrictions on businesses, I believe we should continue to follow the public safety protocols that we have been following for the past year to keep us safe.

It’s important for residents to know many different approaches can be done at the same time. We can open businesses, preserve the health of everyone, provide vaccinations and develop ways to combat future known and unknown viruses  with proven technology. Oregon deserves better, each person deserves better.

Hold Their Feet to the Fire

As chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, it’s my job to set the agenda in such a way that the county’s 400,000 residents are well-served. When I suspect that they aren’t being well-served, I must bring that to the attention of my fellow commissioners so we can work together to make it right.

This is exactly what happened recently. I was informed that Metro may be overcharging county residents for trash collection services.

Unfortunately for Metro, they’ve been called out on this bogus practice. The Board of Commissioners has taken the first step towards correcting this wrong, due to public pressure. Now I’m counting on you to help keep up the pressure and hold them accountable.

When I ran for the chairmanship position last year, one of the central planks of my platform was ensuring that Clackamas County residents get their money’s worth. Another was standing up to Metro and not letting that agency take advantage of our taxpayers.

At my direction, an ordinance was drawn up to amend the county’s code to state that if Metro reduces or is required by a court to reduce its tip fee, the waste management fee shall be reduced for customers on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

A first reading of this ordinance was held April 1. As part of that public process, testimony was heard by the board regarding the ordinance.

The citizens who testified were adamant that the county look out for them by passing the ordinance. Like me, they are tired of being taken advantage of by Metro. They’re tired of watching that agency’s budget balloon over time while the problems it’s charged with solving continue to get worse. Most importantly, they know it’s not right for Metro to overcharge our county’s residents. And they’re getting tired of hearing excuses as to why this agency refuses to be responsive to the public it’s supposed to be serving.

All five of the Clackamas County Commissioners voted to approve the first reading of that ordinance. While that’s an encouraging first step, this matter is not yet settled.

In order to be officially passed, ordinances need to have first and second readings. The April 1 meeting was the first reading of the proposed ordinance. Its second reading is scheduled for the board’s April 15 business meeting, which starts at 10 a.m.  

Anyone hoping to testify on this ordinance can do so either in person or virtually via Zoom. The link to the meeting webpage, which has information on how to participate via Zoom, is below:

Board of County Commissioners’ Business Meeting (In-Person and Virtual Meeting) – April 15, 2021 | Clackamas County

The passionate testimony of concerned citizens helped the commissioners decide to vote to move this issue forward to the final vote on April 15th. And even though all of the commissioners voted for it, some may change their minds if the public doesn’t speak up again on this issue.

We’re so close to getting a huge win for this county’s taxpayers. All we need is for you to again express your support for this ordinance to get it through to passage.

Once again, you can attend the meeting in-person or on Zoom. Details on the meeting below:

Board of County Commissioners’ Business Meeting (In-Person and Virtual Meeting) – April 15, 2021 | Clackamas County

Thank you for adding your voice and allowing me to serve in defense of Clackamas County.

Tipping Fee Tipping Point.

Metro is up to its same old tricks. And we need to tell them to stop it.

Metro is overcharging for residential garbage and the Clackamas County Commission can put an end to this by simply amending the county code to pass on reduced Metro fees to the residential customers that are being overcharged.

We need your voice of support to help correct this violation. 

This time last year, I was campaigning for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners on a platform of fiscal responsibility. That included a pledge to county residents to ensure they get what their tax dollars are paying for.

I also ran on the need for the board of commissioners to put the county and its residents before those of outside entities like Metro.

Voters agreed with my stances, and I won the chair position outright in the May 2020 primary election. But even though county residents had expressed their desire for more responsible handling of their hard-earned money, I’m still faced with resistance from agencies, public employees with agendas and some of my fellow commissioners.

First, I fought to repeal the vehicle registration fee that the previous board of commissioners imposed without adequate public process. Now, I’m taking on Metro, as all indications are that it’s up to the same old shenanigans when it comes to your money.

Metro operates a dump in Clackamas County. Whenever a hauler goes to dump garbage there, it pays a tipping fee to Metro of just under $100 per ton.

The county grants franchises for trash collection services and its board of commissioners establishes a waste management fee to set the limit on what the franchisee may charge to customers.

But it turns out that Metro is charging garbage customers in the county more than the service costs to provide. Even worse, Metro is paying the contractors who actually provide the service less than they’re supposed to. Documentation exists to prove these claims.

This is in direct violation of Metro’s charter. Section 15 of that document states that “charges for the provision of goods or services by Metro may not exceed the costs of providing the goods or services.” As such, the tip fee is illegal and must be reduced to a charge that is in a legal amount more in line with the cost of providing those services.

Metro’s dubious practice was challenged in court by a couple of county residents. In response, Metro had an attorney file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that Clackamas County residents lack standing in the matter. In other words, Metro used your tax dollars to pay an attorney to tell a judge that it’s none of your business if you don’t get the services you’re paying for.

An argument made by Metro’s taxpayer-funded attorneys states that even if the tipping fee is reduced, there is no guarantee the savings will be passed on to county residents. To me, this is nothing more than a cop-out and an attempt by Metro to avoid accountability.

In response, I’m putting an ordinance before my fellow commissioners. If passed, it will amend the county’s code to state that if Metro reduces or is required by a court to reduce its tip fee, the waste management fee shall be reduced for customers on a dollar-by-dollar basis.

The first hearing of this proposed ordinance is scheduled for Thursday, April 1 at 10 a.m. A second reading is tentatively scheduled for two weeks later, on April 15.

I’m doing everything I can to look out for the ratepayers and taxpayers in Clackamas County, but I need your help to do so. Any citizens who agree that we should be getting what we pay for out of Metro is strongly urged to participate and testify in favor of the ordinance.

Taking on Metro is no small task, but it’s one I know we can take on together. Help me hold this agency accountable to, and for, every resident of Clackamas County.

Are Our Kids Supposed to be Social Experiments for Oregon’s New Drug Law?

Over the past couple of weeks, law enforcement officials and prosecutors from throughout Oregon have started to realize the aftermath of Measure 110’s passage in last November’s general election. The bottom line is that it will drastically affect their ability to do their jobs.

Measure 110, which took effect February 1, changes possession of user amounts of controlled substances to a violation instead of a crime. Fortunately, Commercial Drug Offenses (CDOs) for many substances will remain a felony and some will be a Class A misdemeanor.

Unfortunately, the legal threshold between what will constitute a violation versus a crime is still somewhat baffling. Someone can now possess up to 40 units of LSD and methadone and 40 oxycodone pills and have it considered a mere violation.

What all of this means is that the investigation of drug crimes will now become more complicated and difficult than ever before.

That’s not even the worst part. Oregon voters were sold a bill of goods, in the form of a promise that passage of the measure would lead to more people getting the addiction treatment help that they need. But this recent article shows that this state is ill-equipped to deal with the anticipated influx of people wanting to utilize those programs.

As it currently stands, Oregon taxpayers spend billions of dollars on treatment programs. That spending is not tracked, and the system is already overwhelmed with people waiting months for addiction treatment services and not receiving them.

Oregon is a state whose residents already struggle with substance abuse. An estimated 300,000 residents are battling an addiction of some sort or another. We’re among the top states for abuse of painkillers and methamphetamine.

Although I’ve long believed in our initiative petition system, I believe it was abused in this case. Out-of-state interests decided to spend a few million dollars to essentially run an experiment in our beloved state, using some of our most vulnerable and underserved residents as guinea pigs.

If this measure produces the outcomes desired by its sponsors, you can expect to see similar versions of it popping up in other states. However, if it creates problems or makes existing ones even worse, which I believe will be the case, we alone will have to deal with the consequences.

Public policy is often described as a pendulum that swings back and forth, based on the actions and reactions to different decisions that are made. Sometimes the pendulum swings too far in one direction or another and eventually comes swinging back to a point of reasonable balance.

It can be argued that the War on Drugs took things too far in one direction, with the long-term incarcerations of millions of Americans for simple drug possession. But that pendulum seems to be heading to the opposite extreme, and I hope that we’re ready to bring it back into balance once everyone realizes that it’s gone too far.

Tootie Smith welcomes your comments and ideas to this or any topic of interest here…