There are certain expectations that come from living in a free society. The most important is that, as long as you work hard, obey the law and don’t hurt anyone else, you’re generally free to go about your business peacefully.
That is what is often referred to as the social contract. In exchange for taking care of your business, you are essentially left alone. The taxes that you pay go towards government services that you and your neighbors will use on a regular basis.
What we’ve witnessed, as time goes on, has been a one-way violation of the terms of the longstanding agreement that is the social contract.
Many responsible taxpaying citizens have suddenly found the government and its agencies to be interfering in their affairs for no good reason. Instead of working for them, they feel more and more like those agencies are praying on them. Those agencies become less responsive while demanding additional taxpayer dollars. People start to feel like they’re serving the government, instead of the other way around.
The social contract is one of those things that binds of all, whether we’re aware of it or not. It’s an inherent understanding that we all carry deep down inside. But we also know when it isn’t working as it’s intended.
It’s a violation of the social contract when well-connected elites seem to live by a different standard than the rest of us do. If the rules only apply to some of the people some of the time, that means that the contract is not being honored.
There are dire long-term consequences of the continued breaching of the social contract. Business owners who are constantly victimized by vandalism and theft, only to see those crimes go unprosecuted, will no longer wish to uphold their end of the deal. They will relocate their businesses, and this is something we’re already seeing in areas like Portland.
Citizens who feel that their taxpayer dollars are being squandered on things they never asked for will vote against further increases. They’ll also start demanding accountability from their elected representatives who have failed to deliver.
Those were the kinds of circumstances that inspired me to run for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners in 2020. As a longtime resident, I was concerned that the county’s budget was becoming bloated. Instead of county services being improved, I saw consultants getting paid exorbitant amounts of money and wondering what benefit we were getting out of it. I didn’t feel that the county was working for the benefit of the people who were paying its bills.
It’s important to me that the people of Clackamas County feel that our organization is holding up its end of the social contract. I’ve made every effort to emphasize and prioritize the services that are most essential to county residents. And I will continue to take this approach for as long as they allow me to serve as the chair of the county board of commissioners.
10 March 2021
Let the People Have Their Say
The fight over vehicle registration fees in Clackamas County has been going on for a very long time now, in some form or another. And throughout the last decade, I have consistently said people have a right to vote for new taxes or fees. sided with the people of this county in opposing it.
A previous board of commissioners had approved a vehicle registration fee in December 2010. The worst part of the proposal? The funds raised through it were going to be used to replace the Sellwood Bridge—which is located in Multnomah County. That’s right; Clackamas County voters were going to be paying more to register their cars to pay for a bridge in a county they don’t live in.
The fee was scheduled to start in 2012. But before that could happen, though, understandably outraged residents circulated a petition to force a vote on it. They obtained the required number of valid signatures to put it on the May 2011 ballot.
Clackamas County voters soundly rejected the vehicle registration fee 63 to 36 percent. Around 31,000 residents supported it, but over 53,000 opposed it. The voters had spoken loudly and clearly. Apparently, they weren’t interested in paying higher vehicle registration fees to fund a bridge located in another county.
I joined those residents in opposing that proposal from the very beginning. In fact, I think that issue was among those that helped get me elected to the board of commissioners in the November 2012 general election.
Flash forward four years from then, after the 2016 election. The board of commissioners and its chair position had changed, bringing with them a whole new set of priorities. And even though county voters had overwhelmingly stood against the vehicle registration fee, the board decided to bring it back. This time, it was done without any public involvement.
As was the case years before, I was against it. I also suspected that the majority of county voters who voted against it probably hadn’t changed their minds.
I was so unhappy with the high-tax, high-spending approach of that county board and its chair that I ran for the chairmanship position last year. Voters agreed with my positions and I won outright in the May 2020 primary election.
Part of my platform was my consistent opposition to the vehicle registration fee and a commitment to having it repealed.
I recently brought the fee before my fellow commissioners in the hopes that they would agree with me and the majority of the citizens they represent. Much to my disappointment, most of my fellow board members wanted to maintain the status quo of having the fee in place. I even gave them the chance to have it referred to voters again, just like it had been almost ten years ago to the day. They weren’t willing to do that.
To me, the most important function of a commissioner’s job is to listen to the people of the county. If the residents voted to keep the vehicle registration fee, I would support that stance.
It isn’t too late for us to bring this fee up for a vote. But I need your help convincing my fellow commissioners.
If you want my fellow commissioners to give you a vote on repealing the vehicle registration, email firstname.lastname@example.org. I will work to ensure that your voice is heard on this, and all other matters. Hopefully, the rest of the board will eventually agree.
21 May 2020
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.
7 May 2020
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.
5 May 2020
A Higher Standard
Public officials are held to high standards, and for good reason—their roles involve being stewards of taxpayer dollars. That’s why it’s important that people holding elected office strive to be honest and ethical.
One of the main reasons I’m running for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners is I don’t feel those values are being represented in that office. Current Clackamas County Board of Commissioners Chair Jim Bernard has a troubling history of ethical lapses.
Bernard failed to recuse himself on votes to approve his wife as the director of the county’s tourism and cultural affairs department one year after marrying her. He subsequentially voted to approve budgets and pay raises for her.
According to this Oregonian article, Bernard “broke state ethics laws when he used his official position and government email to urge the county to hand over records to his wife for a possible lawsuit against the county.” It was also found that he “failed to declare a conflict of interest at a meeting where his wife’s request for information was discussed” and “attended part of the executive session where his wife’s request for records was discussed.”
Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 244.040(1) prohibits public officials from using or attempting to use their official position or office to obtain a financial benefit or avoid having a financial detriment for themselves, their relative or household member, that would not have otherwise been available but for holding their position or office.
To make matters even worse, Bernard convinced his fellow commissioners to have county taxpayers foot the bill for his $20,000 in legal fees pertaining to the investigation of his unethical conduct. That is despite the fact that Bernard and his wife cost taxpayers a quarter of a million dollars per year in salary alone. It is substantially more once you include the costs of their insurance and PERS contributions.
Bernard has never been shy about his desires to have county residents pay higher property taxes, to both the county and to Metro. He is supporting Metro’s pending property tax proposal.
But what most people don’t know is that Bernard himself has gone through the process of having his own personal property taxes reduced. Last December, he filed an appeal with the county assessor’s office, asking for a 32 percent cut in his property taxes. That’s right—he got his own property taxes reduced while supporting additional increases to the property taxes you will be paying.
I’m proud to say that I’ve never been found guilty of ethics violations, nor have any such complaints been filed against me during my multiple stints of serving in public office. At no point did I ever use public office to directly benefit myself or a member of my family or household.
Elections are all about choices. In this regard, the upcoming vote for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners could not be more clear. Jim Bernard has abused his authority, been found guilty of it, and had the audacity to expect you, as the taxpayer, to fund his legal bills when he got caught. He wants lower property taxes for himself and higher property taxes for you.
As the next chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, I will hold myself to a high ethical standard and put a stop to the shameful pattern of behavior that we’ve seen out of that office for the past few years.
30 April 2020
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.
21 April 2020
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.
16 April 2020
The Fundamentals of Good Management
There were a lot of things I learned when I served in the Oregon House of Representatives from 2001 to 2005. One of them was how to best prioritize and utilize taxpayer resources to fund critical government services.
I was assigned to the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee. Many of my colleagues were on policy committees and would be able to go home once they were done meeting. Not me. Because Ways and Means has several subcommittees, I would often find myself at the capitol in Salem early in the morning and well into the evening.
All of that time learning the ins and outs of the state budget was very necessary, as the national recession devastated Oregonians’ pocketbooks. Our state government is largely dependent on income tax, so that meant fewer revenues were available. But the budget still needed to be balanced.
The demand for government services outpaced the dollars that were available, so we had to determine which programs provided the best value to the state’s residents. By the time we were done, the budget was balanced without citizens being burdened by more taxes.
I took the same approach when serving on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners from 2013 to 2017. Not only was the budget balanced, but the county had a surplus of funds.
Sadly, that is no longer the case. Under its current board of commissioners, the county has taken a completely different direction. The result is that the budget has faced a shortfall of $20 million over the past two years.
How did we get here? It’s simple. County government grew beyond its means. More programs were added. Consultants were paid to conduct “special projects,” with no accountability for performance or their value to county residents.
Starting last August, I began to publicly question current Clackamas County Commission Chair Jim Bernard about how and why things have gotten to this point. His response, or lack thereof, helped me conclude something I had long suspected—he’s a huge part of the problem.
Bernard’s lack of leadership results from the fact that he is not a manager. That’s why he doesn’t know how to budget public funds with a proactive approach to preparedness. And it’s one of the main reasons that, instead of planning for the future, the county government is lurching from crisis to crisis.
In that sense, and in terms of basic governing philosophy the contrast between Bernard and myself could not be clearer. Let me elaborate and spell it out.
I have always firmly believed that the government exists to serve the public, and not the other way around. The responsible approach is to work with the revenue that the county has available to it and properly prioritize those resources. Constantly asking citizens for more money just to grow budgets, for the county and for other entities like Metro, is irresponsible.
Instead of telling citizens how the county can help them in this time of crisis, the county’s leaders are choosing to put the government first and ask for more money.
The crisis occurring right now is that companies are losing money and workers are losing their jobs. It isn’t that the county and Metro don’t have enough of other peoples’ money to grow their budgets and bureaucracies as much as they would like to.
My governing philosophy came from years of running private sector businesses. I know what it’s like to manage organizations through good times and bad. Most importantly, I’m proud of the work I’ve done both in the Legislature and on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners to put good management practices in place. As your next commission chair, I plan to build on those years of experience to get the county government back on the right track.
14 April 2020
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.
9 April 2020
Getting Back to Basics
All too often, we see what happens when the government tries to do too much—cost overruns, lax oversight, mission creep between different agencies and core functions not being done well. That is one of the many reasons that I’ve always thought government should stick to doing a few things and should seek to do them well.
In my two terms in the Oregon House of Representatives, I saw the results of the state government trying to be all things to all people. My first term began in 2001 and the nation was in recession. I was assigned to the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee and tasked with balancing the budget amid declining revenues.
Luckily, my colleagues and I were able to accomplish this without raising taxes. We did it by identifying and prioritizing key services. Expensive, non-essential programs that only served a few people were eliminated and spending was brought under control.
In the years since then, our state leaders have constantly expanded the scope of what they think the state government should do. And now that the economy may be headed into recession, the state could be in a world of hurt and potentially painful budget cuts.
One of the reasons I enjoyed serving as Clackamas County Commissioner from 2013 to 2017 is that county government has the unique position of being the closest to the citizens it serves.
During my stint as commissioner, I took the same approach to governance and budgeting that I did in the Legislature. Not only was the budget balanced, but the county had a surplus of funds.
In the years since then, the county leadership has taken a much different direction. The approach has been to grow government’s footprint without regard to the ability to pay for it further on down the line. Consequentially, this fiscal recklessness has meant deficits of $20 million over the last two years and discussions about the need for “rightsizing” county government.
The real problem is that county government got too large in the first place. It’s time to get back to the basics.
County government’s top priorities should be law enforcement and all aspects of its criminal justice system, the infrastructure that is needed to keep people and products moving, and essential services that are valued by citizens, such as alleviating homelessness.
As chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, I will use my previous experience to return the county’s budget to sound financial footing. I have a proven track record, at the state and county level, of balancing budgets without burdening citizens with higher taxes.