© 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 The energy independence we achieved under the Trump administration has been replaced by a return to depending on other countries to meet those critical needs.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.

All Eyes on Clackamas

Even though much of Clackamas County is rural in nature, it’s considered part of the Portland metropolitan area. The “tri-county area” consists of Clackamas, Washington and Multnomah counties. Those three jurisdictions are also part of Metro.

Due to the close proximity that some of Clackamas County has with the state’s largest city, it’s subjected to what we’ve long called Portland Creep. This is largely because Portland’s problems have a tendency to spread to its outlying areas. So do many of the misguided public policies that help create and perpetuate those problems.

But over the past decade, Clackamas has also become a political bellwether of sorts. Its direction has gone back and forth a few times, depending on how our residents feel about what’s going on in and around Portland.

What I’ve found is that when Portland Creep becomes too excessive, the residents of Clackamas County push back.

That was the case during the November 2012 general election. There was a proposal in place to raise the vehicle registration fees in Clackamas County to pay to replace the Sellwood Bridge, which happens to be located in Multnomah County.

Voters rightly rejected that idea and also decided to switch the direction on the board of county commissioners. I was swept into office that year.

But four years later, the pendulum swung back in the other direction. A familiar pattern repeated itself, and county residents were soon being saddled with higher taxes, more spending, money going into the pockets of consultants instead of towards essential services and a budget that was out of control.

County voters had enough by the May 2020 primary election. Despite being heavily outspent, I ousted the ethically challenged former board chair. Similarly, voters threw out an incumbent who had been aligned with the former chair in the November 2020 general election. They spoke loudly and clearly that they wanted change, and I heard them.

I took office in January 2021 and immediately set about reversing the previous board’s misguided policies, as the voters had mandated.

We’ve had some wins along the way, but there have also been some setbacks. The changes the voters wanted only directed affected two of the five seats on the board of commissioners. But two more of those seats will be up for election later on this year.

People all over Oregon will be watching this election to see which direction Clackamas County will be going. Will the residents of this county decide to preserve our autonomy, or lump us in with other neighboring jurisdictions that have failed to address the crime, graffiti and homelessness that are plaguing the region?

One of the commissioners up for re-election this May was appointed to her seat with the votes of the two commissioners who have since been outed from office. She has fiercely resisted my efforts to reverse course and is standing in the way of doing so.

The other commissioner who will be appearing on the ballot has failed to be a reliable vote on matters he has claimed to support throughout his career in office.

So which way are we going to go? We have the next few months to figure it out. I remain as steadfast as ever in opposing Portland Creep, but I need fellow commissioners who share that commitment. We need to choose wisely, because the future of Clackamas County depends on it.

Fleeing from a Free-for-All

Over the past year, I’ve written about the decriminalization of two of the biggest problems facing the residents of the Portland metropolitan area and Oregon—drug use and homelessness. Now, some people are hoping to add prostitution to the list of illicit activities that will be allowed to take place in this state.

Efforts are underway to gather enough signatures to place a ballot decriminalizing sex work on a future ballot for voters to decide. This is the same process that was used two years ago to legalize the possession of user amounts of extremely dangerous drugs like methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.

The promise made to voters was that instead of ending up in the criminal justice system, low-level drug offenders would be offered the treatment that they need. But it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

There was never the capacity in place to handle the numbers of people who have sought treatment after the ballot measure passed and took effect. As a result, there are no consequences for those addicts.

Many addicts only get better because they were forced to by the criminal justice system. They reached rock bottom, in part, because of the legal consequences of their substance abuse. But that is no longer happening in Oregon.

Similarly, homelessness has been decriminalized through the passage of legislation at the state capitol in Salem.

Some would argue that drug use and prostitution are victimless crimes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is, addicts’ families go through hell watching their loved ones struggle to get clean and stay that way. And not more than a few addicts steal to fuel their habits, resulting in rampant property crime. It’s also very well known that many people who work in the sex industry got there as a result of human trafficking, which is one of the worst crimes imaginable.

It stands to reason that once you’ve legitimized and legalized something, you will end up with more of it. Are homelessness or drug use decreasing in Oregon, or are they increasing? I see no evidence that either of these things are getting better.

A prime example of this is happening in California right now. That state decided to decriminalize petty theft, and it is now going through the roof. Stores and national chains are closing their doors because of the losses caused by the kinds of brazen thefts that state government is tacitly encouraging.

I used to be proud to say that Oregon was a great place to raise a family. It was safe, the schools were good and there was quality of life.

All of that has become more difficult to truthfully tell folks from out of state who ask how things are here. As it is, many families have already left for other states because they were discouraged by the problems they see getting worse over time. Some of the biggest reasons they left included homelessness and drug use. The decriminalization of sex work and prostitution will not help do anything but convince more families to pack up and leave Oregon.

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.

My Closing Arguments

The May 19 primary election is just around the corner. Voter pamphlet statements have gone out, and people have received their ballots. Many have even turned them in by now. Yard signs are up, and so are field signs. Campaign websites are filled with content, candidate social media pages are active and voters’ mailboxes are flooded with election-related materials.

The coronavirus crisis is unprecedented in our elections, which means that we have to do things differently. It has limited the amount of grassroots, retail politicking that candidates can do. Gone are the handshakes, parades and town hall meetings. Instead, they’re replaced by virtual meetings broadcast over the internet.

These next few days are especially critical in my race for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners. Since there are only two candidates, there will be no runoff in the November general election. It will all be decided on May 19.

I’ve been using all the available means over the past couple of months to make the case as to why I should replace Jim Bernard as the chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners. The biggest reason is that I feel the county is heading in the wrong direction under his “leadership” and I think I can do a better job.

As a former small business owner, two-term member of the Oregon House of Representatives and commissioner, I have the right experience. I was on the legislature’s Ways and Means Committee and helped balance budgets, even in difficult times. Under my leadership, Clackamas County’s budget had a surplus. It has been squandered in the years since and replaced with growing deficits.

Our residents are spending more time stuck in traffic on roads that haven’t been maintained, while billion-dollar, fixed route light rail boondoggles continue to be forced on them. Homelessness from Portland is making its way to our communities, due to decades of public policies that make housing less affordable for working people. But instead of focusing on these problems, Bernard has called for higher taxes to pay more consultants for “special projects” that do not benefit county residents.

These problems have been perpetuated and made worse over time, and no amount of tax dollars going to the county, or Metro, is going to make them better. It’s been a matter of misplaced priorities and reckless spending that I intend to put a stop to.

Instead of incurring debt and raising taxes to construct a new courthouse, I will lead efforts to lease and renovate existing commercial space for a fraction of the cost. I will put Clackamas County residents first, not county government, and certainly not Metro.

My emphasis will be on customer service and being responsive to what county residents want and don’t want. County government will work to prioritize key services that aren’t already provided at the city, state or federal levels.

Lastly, I will advocate for loggers, ranchers, farmers and truckers and stand with business owners to create a more prosperous county. I will work to create an environment where the entrepreneurial spirit can thrive, instead of treating businesses and their owners as revenue sources to continue growing county government.

But I need your help to do all this. I need you to turn in your ballots by May 19 so they can be counted and our voices can be heard. And together, we can, and will, get Clackamas County back on the right track.

Why the New Clackamas County Courthouse Would be a Horrific Waste of Tax-Dollars

The current Clackamas County Board of Commissioners has announced its plans to build a new courthouse. There are many reasons I am opposed to this horrific waste of taxpayer dollars.

For one, polling has shown that 78 percent of county voters are against paying more taxes for a new courthouse facility. That, in and of itself, should be enough of a reason to oppose it.

The new courthouse comes with an estimated cost of $230 million. Those costs would be paid by county residents who are already feeling the impacts of $9 billion in new taxes from the 2019 legislative session and the county’s increased vehicle registration fee. Those layers of taxation don’t even include the multiple tax increases being pursued by Metro.

These increases are all being sought simultaneously by multiple layers of government, from the county, Metro and the State of Oregon, regardless of the ability of the average person to continue paying for it. Even if Clackamas County residents are seeing wage increases, they are quickly eaten up by the spending demands of county and state bureaucrats. All of these tax increases contribute to the Portland area’s skyrocketing cost of living.

To fund this unnecessary courthouse project, Clackamas County Board of Commissioners Chair Jim Bernard and his cohorts want to impose an additional 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on property taxes. What this means is that a homeowner whose property is valued at $350,000 will pay $595 more in property taxes every year. It also means that housing will become less affordable for everybody living in the county.

The fact of the matter is, county residents are concerned about traffic congestion, excessive government taxing and spending and homelessness. Having a nice, new enough courthouse does not rank anywhere on their lists of priorities.

A better, less cost option would be to consider leasing existing retail spaces that are presently unoccupied or otherwise abandoned. That would keep property on the tax rolls in perpetuity and require much less in the way of taxes from citizens.

Voters are growing increasingly angry over continued taxation as the only solution to solving problems. They want leaders who will listen and who can think outside the box. I’m running for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners because my track record of public service proves my willingness to lead on these issues.

Looking at our problems with a new lens won’t cost money. But the cost of continuing down the path of more taxing and more spending is disastrous. I’m more than happy to provide an alternative to the status quo and its constant attempts to separate you from your hard-earned tax dollars.