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State senator: How did Oregon become one news story after another about drugs, crime and homelessness?

Keeping Portland crime out of Clackamas County isn't a campaign slogan; it's an imperative. I'm often asked how Oregon, this beautiful state we all treasure, has become one news story after another about drugs, crime and homelessness. Though the answer is complicated, my response is simple. Our government is out of balance.Bill Kennemer

Legislation doesn't happen in a vacuum. Changing laws takes majorities, either a simple 31 House and 16 Senate-member majority, or sometimes constitutional majorities, which can overturn the will of voters without a vote of the people. As a state representative, my opponent Rep. Mark Meek, has been part of an anti-public safety majority, voting in lockstep with Speaker Tina Kotek and disregarding the voices of our police and elected district attorneys. Every one of those votes made us less safe.

Oregon's legislature has been on a reckless path, reducing sentences for people who commit crime. The legislature's defund-police faction has passed laws taking tools away from law enforcement. We see the results of these votes on our streets and in our neighborhoods. We read about it on websites like NextDoor and Facebook when neighbors post that they were robbed, vandalized or witnessed crimes.

And we hear it on the nightly news as Portland's homicide rate has climbed to the highest in over four decades. Since 2017, more than a dozen laws have been passed that treat criminals like they're the victims, while also tying the hands of police. Mark Meek has supported nearly every one of them.

As an experienced psychologist, it wasn't difficult for me to understand that if we disconnected drug sentencing from drug treatment, while simultaneously reducing sentencing for drug-driven crimes like property and identity theft, we'd see a rapid increase in crime, substance abuse and drug overdoses. Sadly, the legislature passed both laws on the same day!

We also know when people are suffering severe addiction, they can't maintain housing or employment.

Many of the 2,500 addicted Oregonians who annually would have been sentenced into drug treatment, since 2017, are now instead living on our streets. The human services crisis is overwhelming, and the crime backlog has overwhelmed our police and court systems. But these changes in the law didn't just involve reduced sentences for drugs and property crimes.

Meek's vote on Senate Bill 1008 reduced sentencing for violent juvenile offenders. The Oregonian reported that since passage of SB 1008, there are 819 Measure 11-juveniles who will receive lighter sentences than voters approved. Sadistic rapists and murders will be back on our streets at age 25. Voters knew better than Meek that it would be unsafe to have these young predators released so soon. Mark didn't listen.

I've bucked my party on many issues from health care to labor rights because it was the right thing to do for the people of Clackamas County. Rep. Meek can't say he supports public safety while simultaneously voting repeatedly against the advice of our sheriffs, DAs and frontline police. He could have shown the necessary political courage to keep Portland crime out of our county. He chose his party's power over people.

I'm proud in this race to have earned the support of our Clackamas County public safety community. As your state senator, I'll continue to stand up to the imbalance in Salem and vote to keep my neighbors safe.

Bill Kennemer is the Republican state senator from District 20, which is located entirely in Clackamas County. Kennemer is cross-nominated by the Independent Party of Oregon for reelection on the Nov. 8 ballot.

You can read Rep. Mark Meek's response by clicking here.


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