Throughout my campaign for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, I’ve emphasized the need to focus on the most essential of services. And out of all of them, law and order is arguably the most critical.
When I served on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners from 2013 to 2017, I strived to ensure that county residents had adequate law enforcement by fully funding the sheriff’s office. It was, and is, important to me that our deputies and other personnel in that office have high morale because that results in better performance and service for citizens.
I advocated for full employment of that office. That includes multiple divisions of the sheriff’s office, such as patrol, jail and investigations. I also voted to keep benefit packages whole by increasing medical benefits.
As your next Clackamas County Board of Commissioners chair, I will use common sense budgeting practices to balance the budget, as I have before, and provide the services that are necessary to keep citizens safe.
I will do this by prioritizing core public service functions over specialty projects.
I’m speaking, specifically, of the new courthouse that the current commissioners are pushing in spite of public opposition.
That project is estimated to cost $230 million, including debt service. Commissioners have considered funding it through a property tax increase of 17 cents per $1,000 in assessed value. The owner of a home valued at $350,000 would face an additional $595 in taxes per year.
It’s true that the Legislature has allocated $31 million to the county for the study and planning of the courthouse. But that is contingent upon the county providing matching funds. Given that the county’s budget has become unsustainable, that scenario is simply unrealistic.
Fortunately, there is a better way to meet the same need for improved courthouse facilities.
The first step would be to renegotiate with the Legislature and aske for the $31 million outright to do the project. Then I would change the project to better meet taxpayers’ needs.
My plan is to rent one of the abandoned mall sites and retrofit it. The cost of this approach would be around $20 million, or less than 10 percent than what is being proposed right now.
The coronavirus situation and the advent of online shopping has caused an increase of available storefronts at malls like the Clackamas Town Center. They include the Sears building, and J.C. Penny’s may soon also be vacant.
Over the long-term, this will keep the properties on the tax rolls through a long-term lease agreement to be worked out with the mall’s owner.
The Clackamas Town Center is located right off of I-205 and is accessible through existing light rail and bus systems. Its buildings already have adequate parking, escalators, elevators and are compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
More importantly, I know for a fact that this approach will work. How do I know? Because I’ve done it before, while serving as a Clackamas County Commissioner.
A judge was looking to relocate her crowded courtrooms. So we rented an abandoned commercial structure that had previously housed a Joanne’s Fabrics. The building was located inside of a strip mall right behind the Clackamas Town Center.
I believe that county residents will be much better served by this creative solution than they will by being put on the hook for property taxes to fund a project that they do not support.