© 2022 Tootie Smith for Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

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.

My Record on Taxes and Spending

One of the biggest reasons I’m running for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners is the continued fiscal irresponsibility being shown by that body. I strongly feel that the county is on the wrong track when it comes to taxing and spending, and I am determined to fix it.

Throughout my years of public service, I’ve faced many difficult budgetary decisions. But I was always able to find a way to balance budgets and leave them in better shape than I found them.

I served in the Oregon House of Representatives from 2001 to 2005. That stint in the Legislature included holding the position of Deputy Majority Leader and being a member of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee.

The nation was still in the grips of recession, and the state budget was in terrible shape. Revenues flowing into state coffers were declining. Many of my legislative colleagues said that the only way to balance the budget was to raise taxes.

However, I knew that people were struggling as they yet to experience any sort of economic recovery. I also believed strongly that raising their tax burden would make life harder for them, their families and businesses throughout the state.

Along with my colleagues, I set forth to identify and prioritize key services. We also cut any spending that we felt was wasteful and unnecessary. Despite the challenges involved, we balanced the budget without raising taxes.

I inherited a similar situation when first elected to the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners in November 2012. America was still coming out of its worst economy in nearly 100 years, since the Great Depression.

Even though there was constant pressure to raise taxes and fees, I listened to the county residents who were my constituents and found a way to balance the budget. In fact, the county’s budget had a surplus by the time my four-year term ended in January 2017.

So how has the county faired since then? Not nearly as well.

There is no doubt that the national economy is now much better than it was when I served in the Legislature and the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners. The state of Oregon has experienced record revenues for years and so has Clackamas County.

However, the county has experienced a $20 million deficit over the past two years. Its financial situation has gotten so dire that Sheriff Craig Roberts has public called for an audit of the county’s funds.

To make matters worse, commissioners voted to increase residents’ vehicle registration fees. I successfully lead the charge to fight back against similar vehicle registration fee increases when I served on the Board of Commissioners.

The current Clackamas County Commissioners and its Chair Jim Bernard aren’t content to let it stop there. They’re also supporting more bonds and taxes for Metro, an agency with a very poor track record when it comes to spending the public’s money.

Rather than hold Metro accountable, Jim Bernard and the commissioners are putting you on the hook for more multi-billion dollar mistakes.

Your choice in the upcoming Clackamas County Commissioner chair’s race couldn’t be clearer. I am proud to stand behind my record of balanced budgets and sound financial management. My top priority was always to make sure that your hard-earned tax dollars were spent wisely and responsibly, at both the state and county level.

Jim Bernard has demonstrated time and again that he considers your pocketbook a source for bailouts for bungling bureaucrats and their billion-dollar boondoggles.

As the next chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, I will work tirelessly to ensure that the county’s budget is not balanced on your back through unnecessary tax and fee increases.