Incumbent Clackamas County Commissioners Sonya Fischer and Paul Savas are up for reelection in May. Fischer is a Democrat, and Savas is a Republican. The instinctual response to these races is partisan identification. We all run to our ideological silos, closing our hearts and minds to new information. Rubberstamp votes for either candidate are destructive to our republic.
I have been guilty of hyper-partisanship in the past. As a registered Democrat, I implicitly trust the policy positions of Commissioner Fischer. She has bold initiatives to assist the homeless and tackle public health. She is not blind to the fact that over 750,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. I applaud her courage.
Paul Savas is a good man. He is a moderate Republican. He's more of a conservative Democrat, when compared to the fire-breathing Republicans on the board. Shull and Smith are the wild-eyed radicals, not Paul Savas. They think we are living in West Texas. Savas is good at smoothing the rough edges of both Shull and Smith. He should also be applauded.
There is a part of me that wants both reelected. The continuity of competence is vital for Clackamas County. But, I cannot support either candidate. The reason is quite simple: Clackamas County Sheriff's deputy Brian Lister. Mr. Lister was prosecuted for bobcat poaching in 2020. He was subsequently put on paid leave. During this time the state of Oregon stripped Lister's law enforcement certification.
Past reporting indicated that Lister could be on paid leave for up to two years even after criminal prosecution. He made close to $80,000 per year. Does this mean that Clackamas County is on the hook for $160,000? That money could have been spent on green spaces, social services or even tax cuts. Instead, Clackamas County has inaugurated a new era, the era of the "bobcat bailout."
Why do you think Lister is still getting paid? The answer is found in the police union contract. Buried in hundreds, if not thousands of pages, are kinds of sweetheart deals and shenanigans. This union contract was presented to the board of commissioners. They all had the opportunity to read the contract, before voting. Did they? Or was it a rubberstamp, another giveaway to rapacious police unions?
Fischer has been telling me for months that she supports police reform, but she accepted two $250 campaign contributions from Clackamas County Sheriff Angela Brandenburg and County DA John Wentworth, so I question Fischer's ability to conduct objective oversight.
Our tax dollars are precious. President Grover Cleveland, in his first inaugural address, stated: "Limit public expenditures to the actual needs of the government economically administered." While I disagree with Cleveland's overall economic philosophy, we all should listen to his words. Waste hurts both the taxpayer and government efficiency. Citizens lose trust in our elected leaders' oversight of government. This is a recipe for disaster.
Neither Savas nor Fischer can hide in an ivory tower. They must obey the voice of the people. Right now they are failing in their oversight duties. Until and unless Savas and Fischer renounce the bobcat bailout, I will continue to vigorously oppose their reelection.
Brian Fitzgerald is a resident of Happy Valley.
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