© 2022 Tootie Smith for Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

The Perils of Progressive Policies

As of right now, so-called progressives have been in charge of Portland for decades, the Oregon Legislature for years, the U.S. Senate and Congress and the White House.

So what, exactly, do we have to show for it?

We are literally surrounded on a daily basis by mounting evidence that the policies they champion continue to fail.

Let’s start at the local level. The City of Portland has long been dominated by the most far-left politicians that city’s population has to offer. There are no Republicans in charge, or even anywhere at the table. How’s that working out?

A soft-on-crime approach has led to an explosion in the number of car thefts. An attempt to appear politically correct caused the disbanding of the gang violence task force. Shootings are a regular occurrence, and the city is now covered in graffiti.

An “anything goes” approach to drug use and homelessness has resulted in the proliferation of tents on public sidewalks. Garbage lies in piles immediately visible from multiple major freeways corridors.

It’s increasingly obvious that what they’re doing isn’t working. And yet, we aren’t hearing any new ideas from the city’s leaders. All we get are excuses and promises that with even more of other peoples’ money, they’ll start to turn the corner on solving these problems.

At the state level, Democrats have held the governor’s office in Oregon since 1987. Even though Republicans held legislative majorities up until 2006 and managed to bring the House to a 30-30 split in the 2010 election, they’ve since been in the minority and superminority in both the state House and Senate.

The state has frequently had record revenues in that time. Taxes have been raised over and over again. But there is no indication whatsoever that state services are any better than they’ve been or that its agencies are more responsive to citizens.

Again, all we keep hearing is that lawmakers absolutely must have more money to make these systems work. But they never will, because there is no accountability for lack of performance or poor customer service.

At the federal level, we’re seeing a culmination of many issues coming together in disastrous fashion. Fiscal literacy and sanity were long ago thrown out the window, and the costs of essential household goods continues to skyrocket. The energy independence we achieved under the Trump administration has been replaced by a return to depending on other countries to meet those critical needs. A foreign policy based on the projection of weakness caused us to abandon our allies in Afghanistan and sit back and watch hopelessly as Russia attacked the Ukraine.

Luckily, we don’t have to be stuck on these trajectories.

We are months away from the November 2022 election, which gives us the chance to get back on the right track at the local, state and federal levels. Pretty soon, voters will be able to ask themselves if these current crop of candidates and policies are working, or if we can stand to do something different.

I eagerly await our opportunity to change course. Because it’s obvious that these progressive policies are not working and that we deserve so much better than this.

Finding the Right Balance

Having completely failed to address the homeless crisis in any meaningful way, Portland politicians have concocted another way of dealing with it. This mostly involves passing legislation telling every other city throughout Oregon to take care of the problem while simultaneously limiting what they actually can do.

Before the Oregon Legislature adjourned on June 26, it passed House Bill 3115. This contentious measure passed the House and Senate on largely party-line votes and was signed by the governor June 23.

It’s based on the 2018 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Martin v. City of Boise case. That ruling essentially stated that the homeless can’t be punished for sleeping outside on public property if there are adequate alternatives or the local law includes reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.

Even though the Ninth Circuit Court is frequently overturned, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear an appeal of the Martin v. Boise decision in 2019. Ever since, municipalities have been examining their options for addressing the homeless crisis while remaining in compliance with the ruling.

The first section of House Bill 3115 requires any local law regulating sitting, laying, sleeping or keeping warm and dry outside on public property to be objectively reasonable to the homeless.

If it’s felt that the local ordinance has limitations that aren’t reasonable and are in violation of HB 3115, a homeless person can have a right of action for relief or as a defense to the ordinance. And even though monetary damages are not allowed under the new law, attorney fees are. This will incentivize activist attorneys and organizations to take up cases against local governments attempting to solve their homelessness issues.

An emergency clause was added to the end of HB 3115 so local governments can start reviewing their ordinances to ensure compliance with the new law. The full implementation of HB 3115 is delayed until July 1, 2023 so local governments can develop a plan of how to comply with it.

Back when I served in the Legislature, I always made it a point to vote against any bills that would create unfunded mandates for local governments. Many local governments are small towns with limited tax bases and simply don’t have the time and resources to clean up messes sent to them from bureaucrats and politicians in Salem. Yet that is exactly what has happened here with HB 3115.

We’ve all seen these problems get worse over the last few years. My fear is that the passage of HB 3115, combined with Oregon’s further moves towards the complete decriminalization of drugs, is going to continue this trend.

I’m also fully aware that in politics, there is a pendulum that swings back and forth. And every time it swings too far in one direction, it comes right back.

Oregon’s voters and politicians have decided to take a permissive approach to drugs and homelessness. The results will likely prove disastrous to the average person in this state. However, I remain confident that once that happens, citizens will demand solutions that find the right balance and that properly addresses these problems once and for all.

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…

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.

Enough is Enough

Every election is about choices, and the upcoming May 19 primary voters will never see a bigger contrast in two candidates.

Citizens decide every two or four years if they’re happy with their political leadership. If are, they stay the course and incumbents are re-elected. But if they aren’t, they decide it’s time for a change and new leaders take office.

Elections are never without consequences.

In 2016, voters took a chance on electing Jim Bernard as chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners. They gave him the benefit of the doubt and believed his campaign promises. So, what do we have to show for almost four years of Bernard’s chairmanship?

When Bernard took over as chair, the county’s budget was not only balanced, but it had a surplus. That was the result of my own personal efforts, and it was achieved without raising taxes on county residents.

As chair, Bernard also had the benefit of record revenues coming into county coffers. Instead of prudently managing those limited resources, Bernard decided the county government should rely more on consultants and pay them for all kinds of “special projects” that don’t benefit the average citizen.

The results of this approach have been predictably disastrous. They’ve led to the county’s budget being $20 million in deficit the last couple of years. Officials have called for a “rightsizing,” which is an acknowledgement that county government has grown beyond the means of properly funding it.  

When I was on the Board of County Commissioners, Clackamas County residents were being asked to pay higher vehicle registration fees to pay for a bridge in Multnomah County. Our taxpayers were being put on the hook for bailing out a neighboring county because of its inability and unwillingness to maintain its own infrastructure. I took up the efforts to fight back, and we were successful. The people of Clackamas County stood up, said “no,” and were heard.

Under the chairmanship of Jim Bernard, county residents will see an increase in their vehicle registration fees. But it wasn’t due to a vote of the people. Rather, it’s due to a decision that was made behind closed doors without public input.

As county commissioner, I fought to make sure Clackamas County had its own unique identity that was independent of Portland and Metro. Jim Bernard has spent the last few years catering to interests representing those entities. In fact, he personally contributed money to the political action committee that is promoting Metro’s new income tax measure. Metro also billed the county $5,000 for campaign measures, essentially using your tax dollars to campaign for more tax dollars.

Not only is Jim Bernard personally contributing to this campaign—you are, too, through your tax dollars.

One of the reasons Bernard is able to contribute to campaigns to raise taxes is because his own personal property taxes have been reduced by almost one-third. Last year, Bernard, as chairman of the board of commissioners, successfully petitioned the county assessor’s office for the reduction. That office obliged. It’s surprising that he would need any tax relief, as he and his wife, a county department head, bring home over a quarter of a million dollars in taxpayer-funded salaries every year.

Over the years, Bernard has also been fined $12,000 for failing to report a campaign contribution and found guilty of abusing his position by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. After he was found guilty, he fully intended to have county taxpayers pick up the tab for $20,000 in legal bills he incurred fighting the proven charge. Political pressure prompted his fellow commissioners to make Bernard pay his own attorney fees.

They say that that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. If that’s the case, then Clackamas County residents know what to expect from another four years of Jim Bernard as chair of the board of commissioners. It involves higher taxes for you, lower taxes for him, more consultants, more special projects, more billion-dollar boondoggles and questionable ethics on display. The big question is, have you had enough?


I’m running for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners to give voters a clear choice. There is an alternative to the high tax, high spending policies that continue to undermine the prosperity of businesses, individuals and families in Clackamas County. I proudly stand behind my over two decades of public service as I ask for your support and your vote.

Customer Service as a Top Priority

At the end of the day, the purpose of every public organization should be to improve the quality of life for the citizens it serves. But far too often, it seems that the politicians and bureaucrats in government agencies prioritize pet projects over their residents’ needs.

Throughout my careers in both the public and private sector, I’ve placed an emphasis on customer service. It’s the same approach I intend to take as the next chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.

Customer service was critical back when I was owning and operating businesses. My husband and I ran a historic bed and breakfast hospitality site in Molalla. We always made sure that our customers received the experience that they expected and were happy with the service we provided them.

In the private sector, failure to meet customers’ expectations usually means having to close your doors. If you raise your prices too high, customers will take their business elsewhere. If you aren’t responsive to what your customers want, you won’t have any more of them.

Somehow, people in the public sector often have a completely different attitude. They seem to forget that they are there to serve the public, and not the other way around.

As a longtime resident of Clackamas County, I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with the level and quality of service being provided by those who are supposed to be leading us. It’s one of the biggest reasons I’m running for commission chair.

Residents’ quality of life is eroding in many key areas. To put it simply, Portland’s problems seem to be making their way over to Clackamas County, with the tacit encouragement of our county board of commissioners and its chair. Instead of focusing taxpayer resources on solutions that could solve some of those problems, our county politicians are demanding more taxes be paid to them and other organizations like Metro. No private business would survive by conducting itself that way.

Take transportation, for example. The county has a big backlog of roads that need to be better maintained. Good customer service would dictate that the county start fixing potholes. Commute times continue to grow as Portland area traffic gets worse over time. Are there any plans to build new roads? Sadly, there are not. It isn’t even being discussed. And given current county political leadership, I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

The answer to our road quality and traffic problems isn’t to continue pouring billions of dollars into inefficient light rail systems that most residents don’t use and never will. It isn’t to charge residents tolls to drive on existing roads that their tax dollars have already paid for. Not only is that a failure of leadership, but it’s bad customer service. Clackamas County residents deserve better than that.

County leadership needs to do a better job of being responsive to citizens’ concerns, rather than viewing them as sources of additional revenue. As chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, I intend to put the customer service of county residents at the forefront of every decision I make.

Putting Clackamas County and Its Residents First

One of the most important function of a commissioner is to represent the interests of county residents. That’s especially true of whichever commissioner serves as chair of the board of commissioners.

As a longtime Clackamas County resident, I’m extremely familiar with the county’s communities and its residents’ needs. I’ve seen the area evolve over the years alongside the neighboring metropolis of Portland. And I feel it’s more important than ever that Clackamas County and its cities have their own unique identities that are independent of the state’s largest city.

Even though some of its cities are considered suburbs of Portland, the vast majority of Clackamas County is rural. I think we need to allow and encourage those communities to maintain and preserve their small town feels and rural characters.

As Portland has grown, so has the severity of its problems. We’ve seen increases of such urban issues as graffiti, traffic and homelessness. But worse yet, some of these social ills are starting to spread out to nearby communities, including some of the cities in Clackamas County.

That’s one of the most important reasons why we need to preserve the county’s autonomy and empower its residents to choose their own collective destiny.

For far too long, we’ve seen the county’s interests become subservient to Metro, the regional governing authority. I agree with the many county residents who feel that Metro is another costly level of government that undermines other, more local municipalities like cities.

In response to the loss of $11 million in revenue per month caused by the coronavirus crisis, Metro has laid off nearly half of its employees. It’s likely that more will be furloughed.

Before all of this, Metro was considering a multi-million-dollar tax measure in the name of funding services for the homeless. And even though thousands of Americans and Oregonians have lost their jobs, Metro is going ahead with its proposed tax measure.

If passed by voters, Clackamas residents and businesses would be surrendering themselves to the taxing authority of one of the worst managed cities in America. 

The idea of having the City of Portland collecting taxes from folks outside its jurisdiction, without the direct concurrence of Clackamas County residents, is simply wrong.  If we somehow got this question before Clackamas County voters asking if they want to have taxes collected from them by the City of Portland, I’m confident they would say no.

Current Clackamas County Commission Chair Jim Bernard has spent his entire political career doing the bidding of officials from Portland and Metro. By contrast, when I served as county commissioner from 2013 and 2017, I stood up to those urban interests and put my constituents first.

Portland’s problems are due largely to its officials’ lack of leadership and the chronic mismanagement of vast amounts of taxpayer dollars. Clackamas County residents should not be left holding the bag for the failures of politicians and bureaucrats from the City of Portland and Metro.

It’s time we had a county commissioner chair who was willing to stand up for our citizens’ interests instead of writing blank checks to bail Portland and Metro out for their failed policies. I’m proud of my track record of doing right by the citizens of Clackamas County, and it’s why I’m running for chair of its board of commissioners.

Leadership in Times of Crisis

Now, more than ever, citizens need to know that their local governments and the officials in them have adequately prepared for any disasters that may arise. That is one of the many reasons why I became certified through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

When I served as Clackamas County Commissioner from 2013 to 2017, I realized that there was a lack of preparedness at the local level. That was especially troubling to me, given that the county has over 400,000 residents and covers over one million acres of land.

I wanted to do everything possible to ensure that Clackamas County residents could benefit from the best available knowledge and preparedness services. Something had to be done, and that’s why I volunteered to become FEMA certified.

Obviously, I didn’t know at the time that there would be an international outbreak of the Coronavirus years later. Much of the emergency and disaster preparedness that has taken place in Oregon is in anticipation of a major earthquake, as the region is well overdue for one.

But I think that regardless of the type of emergency that happens, people need to know that they can rely on government to continue functioning. Leadership becomes more important than ever, to ensure that citizens get the help they need and services are still provided.

My FEMA training and certification taught me what my leadership role would be in an emergency and how to listen to health authorities, law enforcement and transportation agencies to get daily life back to normal as quickly as possible for citizens.

The absolute most important obligation that government has in disaster situations is to provide for safety. Peoples’ lives and health can be protected by government agencies if they do an adequate job of planning ahead. As such, financial reserves, testing kits and education programs must be readily available.

Also critical is that the health care system be protected. This is best done by ensuring that health care professionals like doctors and nurses are able to do their jobs. It will become much more difficult to care for sick patients if those professionals end up quarantined.

Aside from the immediate emergency, there are other long-term ramifications that government officials must consider. One is the need to protect the economy. Financial markets need to be stable. Peoples’ livelihoods and the ability to earn paycheck must be maintained. When making decisions about how to respond to disaster situations, government agencies should consider the effects that their actions could potentially have on businesses. Ideally, those same agencies would have budgets that are in good health and include adequate reserve funds. Any prudently managed agency should plan ahead in good times and set funds aside in case anything goes wrong. Failure to do so is nothing more than an abdication of official duties.

In troubled times, people look to governments, and the people who run them, to maintain public confidence and instill trust.  Through my FEMA certification and training, I’ve learned the kinds of leadership skills that can help Clackamas County residents through any potential crisis.