© 2022 Tootie Smith for Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

Another Attack on Rural Oregon

One of the biggest problems we face in Oregon is the growing divide between those in the urban and rural areas. And despite all that they might have in common, public policy issues often come up that remind them that they live in completely different worlds.

The most recent example of this is IP-13. It’s an initiative petition that’s being circulated in an attempt to gather enough signatures to get it on the ballot for the November 2022 general election. Its sponsors are calling it the “Abuse, Neglect and Assault Exemption Modification and Improvement Act.” But what rural Oregonians already know is that this kind of misguided measure could devastate some of this state’s most critical industries. The fact that these industries are mostly located in rural areas is certainly not lost upon those who live there.

The worst part of this proposal is that its proponents admit in their own materials that it will deliberately damage agricultural, farming and ranching operations throughout this state. The website promoting the measure states that “this would impact many industries that currently involve animals.”

“Although IP-13 does not ban any particular industry, it does criminalize many of the common practices that currently exist in these industries,” the website states.

If passed, IP-13 would “remove the exemption for hunting, fishing and trapping from our cruelty laws.”

“Animals being raised for their meat would have to be processed after they die of natural causes, such as old age,” the website states. “This would certainly increase the cost to raise animals.”

What do Oregon’s agricultural producers think of this proposal? Well, the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB) is taking a strong stance in opposition.

On its website, www.oregonfb.org, the bureau states that the measure “would criminalize good animal husbandry practices, hunting and fishing, animal breeding of both pets and livestock, and even home rodent control. It also would create a new felony category for teachers, advisors, or parents who show children how to care for animals.”

The OFB says that IP-13 would effectively make it a sex crime to artificially inseminate animals and potentially targeting preg-checking and even planned breeding of animals.

So where do I stand on this issue? Not surprisingly, I’m right there with our farmers and ranchers.

For generations, my family has lived on our farm outside of Molalla. I know what goes into keeping an agricultural operation going, in good years and bad. And I can’t recall a single time when I thought to ask someone from Portland or Eugene for advice on how to run the farm. Nor do I ever see such a thing happening in the future.

During my service in the Legislature, I always made it a point to be a friend to agriculture and all of its related industries. There are many reasons why.

At the end of the day, agriculture is Oregon’s top industry. Cattle contributes nearly $1 billion to the state’s economy, and it is the state’s number one agricultural commodity as a result. Our farmers and ranchers are hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people, who do what they do extremely well. They deserve our support, instead of these constant attempts to undermine their livelihoods.

In the coming weeks and months, you may be approached by petitioners requesting you to sign IP-13 so it qualifies for the ballot. I recommend refusing that request. We need to stand with our agricultural producers and reject this latest attack on rural Oregon.

What We’re Working Toward

In order to truly thrive, an organization needs to have clearly defined goals and objectives in place. Those goals should be agreed upon by the organization’s leaders and employees and be understood by all involved, for the sake of achieving a sense of buy-in.

As chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, my duties include getting a sense of what the county’s residents want us to accomplish on their behalf. That helps us to identify priorities and figure out the best ways to implement them.

Earlier this year, the board went over what its goals are for the next few years. This was done not too long after I took over as the new chair.

Many of the key goals we worked on involved building public trust through good government. My fellow commissioners agreed that the county’s budget should be structurally sound, sustainable and completely tied to results. The timeline for this to be done was originally left vague, as a range of two to three years, with a specific date left incomplete. Under my leadership, the goal now states that it will be done by 2022. The county has already taken the steps to meet that goal.

Another priority area for the commissioners was growing a vibrant economy. The goals for doing that were originally fairly open-ended; the board wanted to increase the number of businesses operating in a supportive environment over the course of two to three years.

I insisted that there be better benchmarks to measure progress. The board agreed. Now, the goal is to have 75 percent of our county businesses reporting that they’re operating in a supportive environment by the year 2024. Even better is that we’re looking to have a 15 percent increase in jobs that meet the self-sufficiency standard wage by 2026.

The board also wants to build a strong infrastructure. We want to find federal, state and regional funding for the next phase of the Sunrise Gateway Multimodal Corridor by 2024. I’m pleased to report that we appear to be on track in meeting this goal, as the county secured state funding for planning and community engagement for this project during the 2021 legislative session.

All of this proves and demonstrates that it’s much easier to get things done when you know what you’re working towards. In a short period of time, the board of commissioners has been able to state what it is that we want to do, set firm deadlines and taken solid, concrete, measurable steps to getting them done. This is exactly what I meant when I said that I intended to use the position as chair to get the county back on the right track. We obviously have a lot of work ahead of us, but I think we’ve gotten off to a great start this year.

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

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.

The Relationship Between Business and Government

The coronavirus and the resulting shutdown continue to have devastating consequences for businesses and workers alike. An economy that had been growing at a healthy pace has literally come to a halt as storefronts remain shuttered worldwide.

Job creators are becoming increasingly anxious amid uncertainty as to when they can open their doors again. Some may never be able to. Many are still incurring expenses, even though their sources of revenue have dried up.

Having been a small business owner, I’m familiar with the struggles faced by our entrepreneurs. Throughout my years of public service, I always remembered the valuable perspective that I gained from that experience. That’s why I feel that it’s important for government at all levels to create policies that enable businesses to grow and thrive.

But far too often, politicians and bureaucrats take the approach that the needs of government must come first. They seem to forget that the revenues that fund their agencies come out of the pockets and paychecks of people who work for a living and those who employ them.

This current crisis highlights the differences between our leaders who understand how business works and those who do not. Those who do not understand are moving ahead with plans to increase tax burdens on employers, employees, property owners and anyone else who pays into government coffers. They’re already bemoaning the lost revenues that they were already counting on to grow government programs, hire more consultants and add to agency payrolls. I have experience in this area. When I first took office as a State Representative, the nation was reeling from a recession. The state’s budget was out of balance, and there were constant calls for tax increases.

As a member of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, I was tasked with figuring out the best way to balance that budget. And I’m proud to say that we got it done, by prioritizing key functions, and without raising taxes.

Despite the difficult circumstances we’re in right now, plans are underway to raise taxes on the residents of Oregon and Clackamas County. Those proposals were developed when the economy was surging. Now, with peoples’ livelihoods in the balance, and families struggling to make ends meet, those demands for higher taxes are unchanged.  

At the state level, businesses are going to be asked to pay the Corporate Activity Tax that was passed by the Legislature last year. That tax is applied to sales instead of profits, meaning that a business will have to pay it, even if it is losing money.

Also being proposed is a tax increase whose proceeds will go to Metro under the guise of providing services for the homeless. Much like the “affordable housing” measure that was passed in 2018, there is no guarantee that the funds will go towards their intended purpose or do anything to solve the problem. What it will do is give Metro more of your hard-earned dollars to grow its bureaucracy while producing little in the way of results.

I’m running for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners to represent all of the small business owners, families and workers who are the backbone of our economy. Their needs have been ignored for too long by those who would put government first, instead of encouraging our businesses to prosper and thrive.

Farmers, Loggers, Ranchers and Truckers Are Essential

I’ve long admired the pioneer spirit that founded Oregon, as well as the industries that brought people to this region in the first place. And as much as society and the world have changed since then, our natural resource industries are still a critical part of the state’s economy.

Even though we’ve seen the advent of technology, tourism and other industries, Oregon and Clackamas County still their fair share of people working off of the land. I’m happy to say that I’m one of them.

I grew up on a farm in the south part of Clackamas County. That experience taught me hard work, independence and self-sufficiency, qualities which have served me well. It also inspired me to get my start in the public policy arena, where one of my first positions was an executive director of the Oregon Lands Coalition.

To this day, my husband and I are the proud owners of Meadowbrook Hill Farm. We live in a log cabin home that we built ourselves.

I know what it’s like to wake up early to handle the many tasks and duties that are involved with running farm operations. Logging and farming are also labors of love, and I have the utmost respect for people working in those professions.

During my two terms in the Oregon House of Representatives, I fought hard for the farmers, ranchers, loggers and other natural resource workers in my district and statewide. My voting record was one of strong support for private property rights and the ability of citizens to use their land as they see fit.

When the Timber Unity movement started last year in response to cap and trade legislation that would have devastated rural Oregon, I stood in solidarity with the members of its grassroots organization. Due to my longtime support of our vital natural resource industries, my candidacy for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners has been endorsed by Timber Unity. I wear that endorsement as a badge of honor.

In these challenging and unprecedented times, we’ve been reminded of just how important those natural resource industries are. Equally important are the trucks and their drivers who deliver those products to market. Can you imagine how difficult things would be right now if cap and trade had passed? It would have created hardships for many of the trucking companies who are now working overtime to make sure that the food our farmers grow can get to customers. That awful legislation threatened those same farmers, ranchers and loggers that our economy so desperately needs.

I’m proud to have the support of Timber Unity and will represent our farmers, ranchers, truckers and loggers….all of whom are absolutely essential to our economy and way of life.

Prudent Planning with Proper Priorities

After years of riding on the coattails of a booming national economy with low unemployment, the State of Oregon is now in a world of hurt.

The impact of the coronavirus and resulting forced government closures of business have caused a record number of unemployment claims to be filed. Because Oregon has no sales tax, it is highly reliant on property and income taxes. This means that the years of record revenue flowing into state coffers could dwindle to a mere trickle almost overnight.

Layoffs and furloughs began in the hospitality and leisure sectors, with restaurants and hotels being hit hard. Then they started happening in the manufacturing sector. The public sector hasn’t been immune to job losses, either, with Metro and the City of Portland both having to reduce their number of staff positions.

So when the state was collecting record revenues from taxpayers for the past few years, was there any kind of plan put in place for any eventual downtown in the economy? Sadly, it appears that there was not.

That’s unfortunate, because it’s important that government hold steady in times of crisis and emergency. Citizens look to their leaders to maintain continuity of service. Instead, we’re seeing state government fail to provide that safety net and security when the people of Oregon need it the most.

The federal government has even stepped in and has provided an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits. All of those newly unemployed workers should have been able to file their unemployment claims immediately to start receiving the benefits that they’ve been paying into. That would have made it easier for them to keep paying their bills and buying necessities like groceries.

Instead, those same workers are expressing widespread frustration. Many are unable to log in to state computer systems. Still others sit and wait on hold for long periods of time through telephone systems that are also outdated and inadequate to meet the surging demand.

While it’s true that most people could not have anticipated that a global pandemic would shut down large segments of the economy, prudent management practices still should have been in place to ensure that vulnerable citizens did not slip through the cracks. But, unfortunately, this was not done.

What were the government priorities that were deemed more important than taking care of the same people whose taxes fund these same systems that are now failing them? Well, Oregon’s political leaders decided that instead of taking care of vital business, they would pass record amounts of taxes on them and individuals to continue growing bureaucracy.

Rather than preparing us for a time of future uncertainty, our governor used her executive authority to use $5 million in state funds to implement cap and trade policies. That’s despite the fact that most of the counties in Oregon, representing around half of its population, opposed the same kind of bill when it was proposed in the 2019 and 2020 legislative sessions.

If nothing else, the Timber Unity movement that grew from the governor’s actions, and the recent events following the coronavirus outbreak, highlight the importance of our timber and trucking industries.

We’ve seen what happens when store shelves go without essential paper products. Our political leaders shouldn’t be bullying the trucking industry into giving up money to grow state government programs. They we should be asking what they can do to make it easier for them to get their products to market.

I’m proud to say that my candidacy for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners is endorsed by Timber Unity. The support that I’m getting from business leaders and workers isn’t just due to the decades that I’ve been a champion for their various industries. It’s also because of my many years of management leadership in the private sector.

I intend to put that management experience to good use as the new chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, along with everything I learned as a former commissioner and two-term member of the Oregon House of Representatives. What’s becoming increasingly obvious is that our current leaders left us ill-prepared for the crisis we face and that our workers, families and businesses deserve better than what we’ve gotten from them thus far.

Saving for a Rainy Day Before It Starts Pouring

Everyone is aware of the immediate impacts of the coronavirus, with regular news reports on the numbers of infections, deaths, product shortages, closures and restrictions on peoples’ daily activities. But much less obvious are its short and long-term impacts on the economy, businesses, household finances and government budgets.

It’s always been my philosophy that government budgets should more closely resemble those of individual taxpayers. These basic principles include the belief that we need to live within our means, avoid incurring unnecessary debt and put money aside in good times in preparation for a rainy day.

All indications are that the politicians and bureaucrats currently running the State of Oregon and Clackamas County have ignored those principles. The price that will be paid as a result is staggering.

Because Oregon does not have a sales tax, the state relies heavily on an income tax. That is one of the reasons that the state is usually one of the first affected by national recessions and also one of the last to recover. It stands to reason that if people lose their jobs, they’re going to have a difficult time paying income taxes.

Local governments tend to be funded through property taxes. The constant pressure to increase those taxes and add layers of levies and bonds is a huge contributing factor to the high cost of housing in Oregon. This is despite the fact that the state’s voters passed a ballot measure in the 1990s to limit property tax increases.

The Great Recession that started in late 2008 should have taught important lessons about the need to budget prudently. But it would appear that officials in state and county government failed to learn those lessons, and instead kept assuming that record revenues would roll into their coffers uninterrupted.

These new realities are now becoming impossible to ignore.

This recent Oregonian article details a recent legislative hearing, in which the governor’s chief of staff told lawmakers they will need to be cautious about how they spend money because Oregon could be headed into a long and deep economic downtown.

That same legislative body passed some of the largest increases in the state’s history during its 2019 regular session, despite several consecutive years of record revenue. The current state budget stands at a whopping $83 billion. Divided by the state’s four million residents, that is over $20,000 per man, woman and child in Oregon.

At the local level, I’ve been sounding the alarm about Clackamas County’s deficit budget situation since August. The county has received $1.2 billion in revenues for its all funds budget, which is also a record. However, a culture of mismanagement and lack of prudent planning and proper prioritization have combined to produce an $8 million deficit.

What will Oregon state and Clackamas County officials do once the coronavirus impacts on their budgets become obvious? Will they take the proper steps to end wasteful spending? I seriously doubt it.

Some state lawmakers are always quick to blame the state’s lack of a sales tax for the fact that there never seems to be enough revenue to match their appetites for spending. The aforementioned article even quotes one lawmaker as decrying the federal tax cuts that have put more money in the pockets of families and business owners.

The current Clackamas County Board of Commissioners has expressed support for multiple other taxing and spending measures, including the costly construction of a new courthouse that is opposed by most of the county’s voters.

These troubling times and circumstances require common sense leadership. During my service in the Oregon House of Representatives, I helped balance the budget in the aftermath of a recession without raising taxes. Similarly, I left Clackamas County with a budget surplus in my four-year term as commissioner.

The politicians currently in charge chose to spend money freely during good economic times, instead of preparing for the eventual downturn that is now upon us. I’m running for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners because I think we need to get back on the right track, without balancing the budget on your back.

Nik Blosser, Governor Brown’s chief of staff, said lawmakers should be cautious in how they spend money from the state budget because Oregon could be headed into a long and deep economic downturn. The likely economic fallout from coronavirus related shutdowns across the country.

This action comes on the heels of some of the largest tax increases from the 2019 legislature in memory. The state budget is also one of the richest since statehood at $83 billion.
Lack of a sales tax and President Trump’s federal tax cuts were blamed by some lawmakers as the culprits.

mas County was in a $8 million deficit while revenues came in at a record $1.2 billion all-funds budget.

Nik Blosser, Governor Brown’s chief of staff, said lawmakers should be cautious in how they spend money from the state budget because Oregon could be headed into a long and deep economic downturn. The likely economic fallout from coronavirus related shutdowns across the country.

This action comes on the heels of some of the largest tax increases from the 2019 legislature in memory. The state budget is also one of the richest since statehood at $83 billion.
Lack of a sales tax and President Trump’s federal tax cuts were blamed by some lawmakers as the culprits.