Setting the Record Straight

Misleading info is being put out on YouTube and social media. So I will try to set the record straight. 

Recently the sheriff issued an op ed making a variety of statements regarding the condition of the county’s finances.
Using loaded terms such as “crisis” , “astonishing” and suggesting we are going to cut jobs to build a much needed courthouse.
I am writing as your representative to correct the record and put some context around the issues we face.
Let me start by stating that the county has a “triple -AAA- credit rating”- rather unlikely if we were mismanaging our finances and/or were in a crisis. Our budget is balanced this year, as the law requires. Looking forward, we are concerned that revenues are rising a a slower rate than the demand for services so we are taking a proactive stance to ” right size” the budget NOW instead of waiting for it to BE a crisis. I call it a belt tightening. We have a number of vacant positions and have imposed a hiring freeze except for critical positions. We are working with our unions in a cooperative venture to accomplish this. The general manager has even eliminated 3 assistant County administrator postions in the executive offices to help in the belt tightening. The numbers the sheriff floated are months old and the gap we are going to eliminate is much lower. Staff are working on that analysis as we speak. Meanwhile, in an effort to be proactive we have directed all depts to look for areas they could cut ,IF NEEDED,in advance, to prepare fora variety of possibilities. County managers and staff have stepped up and done that so all alternatives and contingencies are thought through proactiviely.
I have said that we need new accounting software to bring Clackamas County into the 21st century and help our finance team . Forecasting is an inexact process but to be effective they need the best tools we can get. That is a cost of about 2 million dollars . The board agreed and that is an additi that has been addressed. It is also a cost that can be spread over a number of years so as not to devastate a budget- again good planning.
As for the sheriffs budget, of our discretionary funds- about 134 million- he gets almost 50% of that money- about $70 million, plus $ from 3 city contracts and an enhanced law enforcement district. That leaves the balance for all a other general fund services, too numerous to list here. While we all agree that we would like more deputies on the street, his executive team and civilian staff are pretty well filled and I have it on good authority that the problem is the allocation of the resources we give him and not necessarily the amount. Of course the ultimate question then becomes ” what do you want me to cut to give you more when your current allocation of resources is questionable.?” Shall we cut mental health? homelessness? screening staff for hiring people? accountants? the volunteer coordinator that works with the hundreds of citizen volunteers that make the tax payers dollar go further?etc
Finally lets talk about the court house project and other capital needs. The court house was built about 1936 when we had about 45k people. Today we are approaching 420 k . We have squeezed 11 courts in a building built for 1 plus county staff. Occasionally it has had to be evacuated because of poor air quality, is only 3 feet from falling into the river and cannot be “remodeled ” into a better court. Previous administrations in 1998 planned for this eventuality when planning and building the Redsoils Campus. The land was purchased and infrastructure installed for the eventnual courthouse to be located there. That forethought was instrumental in our receivng 96 million dollars from the state!Even former conservative commissioners Smith and Ludlow supported building it in that location. It is also unsafe for people using the courts as accused and victims often find themselves face to face in the corridors awaiting trial- imagine how intimidating that is to crime victims and victims of spousal abuse. But, the good news, as I said, is the state will give us 96 million dollars towards its replacement. That’s 96 million dollars of your state taxes coming back to Clackamas County for a project we must do, no matter what. It would be financially irresponsible to turn that down. So we have directed our project coordinator to come up with financing scenarios for the balance. We have 5 to choose from and will be making that decision soon. Not all require financing from the public via bonding. Some are public /private partnerships, through bonding, w/ voter approval the cheapest in the long run. Do we have other pressing capital needs? Yes- a new jail is one, roads and bridges,libraries, parks, the sewer treatment plant( being paid for w/ rate payer dollars btw) but none have 96 million dollars offered by the state. So when an opportunity to save money occurs for a much needed project , you shift your priorities and take advantage of it. It will probably be 2 years out before we actually start construction, in the meantime we will adjust our budget, tighten the belt, balance our budget as we always do, and move forward. There is no crisis!! No missing money!! Oh, btw, we increased the sheriffs budget by 5.5 million last year, keeping a commitment we made to him 2 years ago. How soon he forgets!
On a personal note, as one who served in the USMC and in a law enforcement career, I am a true friend of law enforcement. I have ridden with every agency in Clackamas County since I became a commissioner to see what our law enforcement professionals deal with. No other commissioner has done that. So I am disappointed that issues such as this, with misinformation or inaccurate context, are publicized. I believe that you have a right to expect that the sheriff and the Board should sit down and solve problems , not make them worse by upsetting people unnecessarily. Ken

Today I am writing to correct a mistake i made in my post about the court house last week. It will also be corrected next week in the newspaper since it was too late to do so for the upcoming addition. This is done in the spirit of accuracy and of owning and correcting ones mistakes.
Last week I said in a post about the court house that it had to be located in the county seat by law. That is incorrect. After further research it turns out that it must be located in the jurisdiction it serves only.Traditionally, however, they are located in the county seat. I apologize for that error. To the greater point, the reasons for locating it on the Red Soils Campus remain valid- from land acquisition and infrastructure to the usefulness to the public by having it close to many of the other services needed by them.
Finally, I have discussed the Sears building and it’s appropriateness as a court . It is not considered suitable for that use just like the building standards for a home are not suitable for a school or a hospital. Additionally, I am given to understand it would require the approval of the merchants and owners at the mall for that type of use .
I hope this will clear up and misconceptions.

Recently there was an article in the newspaper regarding our plans for a new county courthouse. Unfortunately the author appears to have not been aware of some information regarding the law nor plans for the courthouse.There were also some assumption regarding the traffic court that were incorrect. I am writing this to correct the record.
For starters, by law, traffic court cannot be in the county seat, which is Oregon City. That is one reason it is located in the Clackamas Town center area. Conversely, the Clackamas County Courthouse must, by law, be located in the county seat. That is why they are located where they are. The county could not, by law put the new courthouse in the old Sears building. There was once a plan to put the traffic court in the sheriff departments Brooks building on Sunnyside, but the sheriff had other needs for that building.
His call to make.
AS for the financial issues surrounding the plans for a new courthouse-the plan originated in 1998 as part of the county master plan for the Redsoils Campus. There is infrastructure underground that was constructed for a new courthouse because previous commissions planned ahead for the eventuality of a new courthouse. They also acquired sufficient land for that purpose at the site. The original courthouse in downtown Oregon City was built about 1936 when we had about 40,000 people. It was built for 1 court and the county offices. Today , there are 11 courts squeezed into the building, and part of the D.A’s staff/offices and it is severely overcrowded, unhealthy, past it’s useful life for its designed purpose, and at risk of falling into the river- 3 feet from a 100 foot drop.
Our population is now almost 420,000 and we need at least 14 courts(judges) and the security issues are very poor for victims of crime, among many other problems.
Fast forward to today- the state, recognizing many courts in Oregon are well past there prime, has established a program to help finance new ones. WE are near or at the top of the list. They will return to Clackamas County $96 million for the construction of a new court. I would be grossly irresponsible to turn down the return of $96 million of your tax dollars to Clackamas County for a much needed project that has been planned and prepared for for over 20 years. AS for the balance of the financing, we are looking at various scenarios, one of which is a public/private partnership with the construction firm, when it is selected. We can also ask you , via a bond. WE have not decided which way we intend to go, but if we end up asking you, you will definitely have the opportunity to vote on it. Finally, many citizens who access court services also need the services of our Social Services Dept. This puts them both in close proximity to each other, and makes it much more convenient for our citizens to use.
I Hope this is helpful to you. If you have questions feel free to call me or email me and I will do my best to answer them.

Sheriff's logo

Clackamas County HAS NOT cut the sheriff’s budget, nor are his transition/treatment centers due to close right now. The state Legislature did cut the community corrections budget statewide. We argued against that. We are currently talking to legislators, attempting to get that budget decision reversed. I personally have spoken to two of them about it. We are hand in hand with our sheriff on this.

I will be personally supporting reversing this decision, and I know our county commission does also! In point of fact we have increased the sheriff’s budget over the last two years, honoring a commitment this board made to increase staffing at the jail so that he could open 26 (I think) beds for those with mental and emotional issues. This issue languished for years before I was elected and Commissioner Bernard was elected chair! Those beds stood empty due to lack of staffing. What is true is that those programs will close if we cannot get the state to reverse their funding decision in the upcoming short session.

I encourage anyone who reads this to contact state legislators, senators, and the governor’s office and ask them to reverse this decision.

As a retired law enforcement professional and former Marine, I support our law enforcement community as long as they act responsibly, professionally and with understanding. It is absurd to think our commission would support cutting funds from a program that demonstrably works and helps people transition to a better life.

Blue Lake Regional Park (areal view)
Blue Lake Regional Park

So I recently heard that some folks think Metro is buying park lands and not telling folks where the parks are. Well, they have purchased 17,000 acres of land w/ the dollars VOTERS approved via bond measures. Here is a link to the parks and natural areas. I hope this dispels rumors and keeps things in perspective. Let’s go and enjoy our investment!