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An election campaign is all about trust

The recent Washington County Commissioners’ debate at the Hillsboro Main Library featured Andy Duyck and Allen Amabisca running for the chairman position and Bob Terry and Elizabeth Furse running for the District 4 seat.

The two incumbents, Duyck and Terry emphasized their experience as incumbents, while Amabisca and Furse focused on the importance of citizen involvement.

As the evening wore on, it became clear the differences between the incumbents and the challengers was the most fundamental issue in any election campaign: “Who do you trust?”

Duyck and Terry defended their records in getting Washington County through the Great Recession by focusing on their business friendly strategy to traded sector corporations like Nike and Intel. Amabisca and Furse countered that we’ve been too oriented to big box businesses and are losing sight of helping small businesses, the farming economy and diversifying our local economy.

But here’s where the great divide between the two incumbents and their challengers emerges: Amabisca and Furse are willing to engage county citizens in a bigger vision of our future.

As a homeless advocate, I’ve seen how frayed our safety net has become. Duyck said funding for social services is mostly state funds. It’s actually federal pass-through money.

But the problems don’t stop there. Our schools are underfunded and overcrowded. Vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will require help to integrate back into civilian life. Duyck and Terry are clearly unwilling to address these issues through the general fund budget, and have been silent about going to voters for a social services levy to help the most vulnerable among us.

Amabisca and Furse, by contrast, are willing to think outside the box while bringing citizens into the conversation about what the mission of the county ought to be in challenging times.

Duyck and Terry offer more of the same with the caveat that the buck stops with them, not an engaged citizenry. Amabisca and Furse want to engage citizens throughout the decision-making process, not merely as a rubber stamp of the commission’s agenda.

The difference between the incumbents and the challengers was clearest when Chairman Duyck was asked what, if anything he would do differently, in light of the urban/rural reserves decision?

At first he said “nothing,” but then added he’d eliminate the appeals process via LCDC, LUBA and the courts and go straight to the Legislature. This stunning comment was strongly countered by Furse who defended the Appeals Court’s role.

Duyck’s comment betrays a shocking indifference to our checks and balances system. It also implies a willingness to derail Oregon’s land use planning system by fast tracking decisions to the Legislature.

This underscores the essential difference between Duyck and Terry and Amabisca and Furse. The incumbents are in effect saying “trust us.” Their challengers are saying “trust the process,” based on citizen involvement and due process of law.

The battle over rural and urban reserves came down to the Oregon Court of Appeals telling the current board it had wasted four years by using “pseudo” facts to justify a plan that did not stand judicial review and required a legislative bailout.

Duyck is apparently willing to play Russian roulette the next time.

The question before voters is, do you trust the folks who got us into this legal and political quagmire, or new leaders who are willing to engage citizens of the county to think outside the box as we face the challenges of the 21st century?

Elections do make a difference!

Russ Dondero is professor emeritus of Pacific University’s Department of Politics and Government in Forest Grove.




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