© 2022 Tootie Smith for Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

Let’s Salvage and Manage What Remains

Summer is now officially underway. We can all recall last summer, when catastrophic wildfires touched and torched nearly every corner of Oregon. Devastation was literally everywhere, and much of it remains to this very day.

The small town of Gates, in the Santiam Canyon, is gone and has started the long rebuilding process. In Southern Oregon, a fire left a substantial scar throughout downtown Phoenix and Talent, burning and destroying businesses and homes alike.

Locally, we choked on smoke and faced evacuations as many Clackamas County residents were threatened by fires that came far too close for comfort. That was followed, months later, by ice storms that fell countless trees in and beyond our county.

A relatively dry winter, with limited snowpack and not nearly enough accumulated rainfall, are all contributing to the expectation that this fire season could be just as bad and even worse.

There have been some encouraging signs along the way, though.

In years past, the push to salvage burned areas, pull dead timber out and replant new, young, healthy trees has been met with a brick wall of resistance by environmental organizations. They’ve fought ferociously to halt any salvage attempts by filing lawsuits.

Even in the instances when the courts threw those suits out, correctly recognizing them as frivolous, they dragged the process out for long enough that the timber became no longer economically viable.

Now, we seem to know better. Efforts were made to aggressively salvage many of the areas that burned last year. Predictably, the same kind of lawsuits were filed by environmentalists. But they were largely shut down in court and the salvage activity has continued.

Many of us have been saying for years that managing forests in the first place is the best way to prevent these fires from happening. That way of thinking seems to be catching on, as more Oregonians become adversely impacted from the fires and the toxic air conditions that they create.

Obviously, there’s a lot more work that needs to be done, on the forest floor, as well as at our state capitol in Salem and our nation’s capitol Washington D.C. It took decades to get these poor policies in place, and it will take time to replace them with better ones.

But the momentum for change is growing and seems to have reached a critical mass. I just pray that we won’t see more devastation before that happens. I’m not sure how many more fires and close calls this state can afford to have.

As always, I welcome all comments.  Please feel free to contact me by clicking here.

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.

My Vision for Clackamas County and Its Future

The last few weeks that I’ve spent campaigning in person and online have given me the chance to think about what kind of future I would like to see for Clackamas County and its residents.

It’s important for leaders to have a road map in mind so they can set the right priorities and determine if progress is being made. Goals and benchmarks help guide the path forward.

My top priority right now would be to make sure that the county, and all of its businesses, are re-opened as quickly as safely as possible. The coronavirus crisis has shown how important it is for the county to be prepared for an emergency and have adequate reserve funds. I will help the county plan for those eventualities through my Federal Emergency Management Agency training.

Under my chairmanship, the county will be planning better for tomorrow’s challenges. That way, the next time a recession hits, the county government won’t have to make cuts or sacrifice services.

The county budget should be balanced without the need for additional tax burdens on our property owners, businesses, families and workers. I helped balance the state budget as a member of the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee as we recovered from recession. This was done by prioritizing programs instead of raising taxes.

Ideally, the county should have a budget surplus. It did the last time I was county commissioner, and I will work to make sure that it does again.

I envision county residents being able to commute to work safely on well-maintained roads with adequate traffic capacity. I see the sheriff’s office funded responsibly enough to be well-staffed so that deputies are able to respond quickly to calls for service.

My vision includes courthouse facilities that the county leases with parking, elevators and Americans with Disabilities Act access already in place and that is easy for public transportation and vehicle traffic to get to.  

I see strong, healthy, vibrant, diverse communities throughout Clackamas County that are independent of Portland and maintain their unique characters. They include everything from suburbs like West Linn, Happy Valley and Lake Oswego to smaller, more rural towns like Molalla, Sandy and Estacada.

I picture thriving main streets where merchants and neighbors know each other. I see small businesses that are locally owned and operated open their doors for tourists, visitors and residents alike. I envision people coming from all over the world to enjoy outdoor recreation in our majestic mountains and on our rivers.

I dream of seeing those same business owners feeling well-served by their county government, instead of constantly being asked to fund its bureaucracy and those of Metro. I see a county government that takes a responsive, proactive, customer service-based approach and puts its residents’ needs before those of itself, Metro and Portland.

This is what I have in mind and why I am running for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners. I’m asking for your vote and for you to turn in your ballot by May 19.

Tootie Smith’s plan to Re-Open Clackamas County

Summary of a Draft to Re-Open Clackamas County

Combatting CoVid-19

By Tootie Smith

May 7, 2020

Download PDF of full report here

Combatting CoVid-19 in its tracks and returning society to normal is as important as caring for the people who have contracted the disease.

Realizing that government assistance programs will soon extinguish, and a functional economy is integral to survival, it is vital that Oregon and Clackamas County specifically attempt to re-open its businesses, governments, schools, recreation and sporting events, outdoor activities and all medical facilities in a responsible manner. This plan includes guidelines to keep people healthy while recognizing individual responsibility for people’s own health and welfare and people’s own behavior upon the health and welfare of others.

The most current data used from the Oregon Health Authority is evaluated which leads to the conclusion that Clackamas County can begin to reopen. Oregon’s current mortality rate is 0.04 which is close to the 0.03 mortality rate of the Hong Kong Flu (H3N2) and the Swine Flu (H1N1). Supporting data is shown on page 1 in figure 1. Statistics for Clackamas County show a decline in growth rate similar to statewide collection.

Criteria for opening as established by health authorities and Gov. Brown has been met and is proved by scientific established procedures, data collection coupled with people’s willingness to change their behavior by  minimizing the spread of the disease through isolation, hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes is also integral. Personal responsibility in all areas is key and should be noted.

Demographics are important to note since an overwhelming majority of deaths occurred in ages 60 to 90 with 95% suffering from underlying health conditions. Ages 0 to 49 have a total of 1,330 infections and no deaths ending May 3, 2020. Oregon’s total population is 4.2 million. It could be concluded that CoVid-19 is on par with other diseases and the threat of higher infection and mortality rate assumed by university models did not meet expectations. Page 1, figure 1.

Decline in growth rate.  The peak occurred on April 4, 2020 for all of Oregon, and Clackamas County is well past the peak according to Figure 4 on page 4, OHA positive total cases is 2,680 for all Oregon ending May 3.  This criterion has been met.

Sufficient personal protective equipment, PPE. Figure 6 on page 6 shows the PPE inventory for May 3, 2020, which supports OHA’s statement that we have sufficient PPE for an increase when Oregon returns to work.  This criterion has been met.

Hospital surge capacity. Data shows ample hospital beds are available in Figure 7 on page 7. The criterion has been met.

Robust testing and tracking along with strategies for caring for the hardest hit, vulnerable and homeless are discussed on page 8. Tests are available. The criterion has been met.

Ultimately, Guidelines and Goals are identified which includes acknowledging the fact that learning to ward off potential known and unknown viruses for a future outbreak is essential. Strategies for combating and defeating most all viruses are presented with scientific data and proven techniques on pages 9 and 10. Main sectors in American life is listed with an outline for how to reopen successfully.

Two important examples are cited as preventative measures for stopping viruses before they become a pandemic. The use of UV lighting in HVAC systems in schools, hospitals and care facilities should be recommended as it kills viruses. Wastewater treatment facilities can begin robust testing to include identification of virus where the population sector lives.

It cannot be stressed enough that a functional healthy economy is as vital to the human condition as is their physical and mental health. Both economic health and physical bodily health can be attained at the same time and should become our goal as we learn to live and prosper in a world where disease is present.

Government Exists to Serve the People

It is clear by now that the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic shutdown is going to hit people and businesses right in their pocketbooks. What can government do to ease the pain for the average family from economic ruin?

The generous unemployment benefits from the federal government will help in the short term, but there’s a higher picture to consider. Suspend the newly enacted taxes that were passed or considered by three levels of government.

Clackamas County residents are looking at having to pay several new taxes and fees being implemented by multiple layers of government. Despite the hardships being faced by many of our citizens, they can expect to give more of their hard-earned dollars to Clackamas County, Metro and the State of Oregon whether you are employed or not.

Clackamas County residents spoke loudly and clearly a few years back when they rejected an increased vehicle registration fee with 64 percent of the vote. Despite that, the current Board of County Commissioners and Chair Jim Bernard worked behind closed doors and without public input to increase the fee anyway.

Metro, a regional agency with a poor track record of effectively managing taxpayer dollars, is insisting that voters approve yet another tax in the upcoming May 19 election for homeless services. At this rate we all will be homeless. Tax increases are being shoved on us while businesses remain shut by government and residents have been told for weeks to stay in their homes.

Instead, plans were made to continue increasing taxes and growing and expanding state and local government. An entirely new tax was passed. The 2019 legislative session passed the Corporate Activities Tax (CAT), which assessed businesses based on their gross sales. It is coming due now.

But anyone who has ever run a business knows that some operate on very slim margins. That method of taxation doesn’t take into account the overhead that businesses have. Some have high volumes of sales with slim profit margins on each sale. Others have higher profits on smaller numbers of sales. But all of those businesses are treated the same under the CAT. The worst thing about the CAT is that it is applied regardless of whether a business is profitable. In short, a business can lose money and still owe the tax.

 During the last few years of economic expansion, the State of Oregon saw record revenues flowing into its coffers. For instance, money was not spent on new computers for filing of the sudden surge in unemployment claims. Nor was there much discussion over the past few legislative sessions of providing tax relief for businesses, individuals or families. A few years back, the federal government gave money to Oregon for computer upgrades. The money vanished where?

Meanwhile, Clackamas County ran up huge budget deficits for the preceding two years while record taxpayer revenues were gathered. Metro, likewise, laid off 40 percent of its workforce due to the closure of its public venues. And they still want to tax us.

Clackamas County, Metro and the State of Oregon exist to serve the taxpayers who fund their budgets, and not the other way around. All three of these entities should be working to make life easier for taxpayers and entrepreneurs, not more difficult. 

Unfortunately, the people who are elected to leadership positions in all three of those organizations are more worried about growing government than they are about protecting taxpayers.

As the next chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, I will help guide the county through this and any other crisis over the next few years with an approach based on customer service. There’s sane no reason that struggling businesses and families should be facing multiple additional layers of taxation right now. The right action to take would be to reduce the amount of taxes and fees they’re paying until we can fully recover from the effects of this pandemic.