In a confusing bit of wordsmithing, elected officials approve amendments to 2017 resolution

FILE PHOTO - The Clackamas Board of County Comissioners (from left): Mark Shull, Sonya Fischer, Chair Tootie Smith, Paul Savas and Martha Schrader. Clackamas County commissioners voted Tuesday, March 16, to approve an amended resolution from 2017 committing the board to work in a "nonpartisan" manner.

The reaffirmation of the resolution came at the request of Commissioner Paul Savas who suggested the board take another look at the three-year-old document to include new language addressing political parties or personal benefit for board members. The request follows weeks of calls from County Chair Tootie Smith for board members to "check their politics at the door" as they seek to work on serious issues facing the residents of Clackamas County.

The discussion to amend the 2017 resolution lasted only about 23 minutes, but proved intensely hard to follow as even the commissioners themselves had to back up several times to ensure they were following proper procedure in adopting amendments to the language provided by Savas.

Much of the confusion centered around use of the word "electioneering" to which varying definitions provided a lack of clarity.

"If we are so confused, amongst us, then the people who read this will also be confused, so I suggest we keep the current nonpartisan resolution or get rid of word electioneering," said Commissioner Sonya Fischer.

Smith and Fischer both brought up the question of whether "electioneering" has actually been a problem to the board.

"I don't want to embarrass anyone past or present but, you know, I've heard and seen during work sessions, critical comments made that, 'this party is doing that, so therefore, this.' Or, 'that party is doing that, so therefore, that,'" Savas said. "It has happened, and I'm not going to name names; that's not my goal."

Smith said she hasn't witnessed those particular moments and gave examples where the board has come together to support certain campaigns, such as the Children's Safety Levy on the 2020 ballot, or the upcoming Sheriff's Levy in May 2021.

"Since I've been here, I have not heard 'Democrat' or 'Republican' mentioned in our business meetings. Maybe it has, and I missed it. I apologize," Smith said. "But I will say, for instance, this board, like you did in the past, referred the Children's Safety Levy to the voters. You took a position that you wanted it to be voted on. You took a position that you thought it was important and should be funded. That cannot be viewed as electioneering because it's decent policy."

Savas responded that those instances were inherently nonpartisan issues and would not fall within the purview of "electioneering."

Fischer submitted a motion to approve the resolution for a vote by the board at an upcoming business meeting, to which Smith seconded the motion.

Commissioner Mark Shull and Savas went back and forth for a moment clearing up the language Savas had suggested by implementing it on the final page of the document, minus the word "electioneering."

The board unanimously approved both motions. The resolution will receive final approval at an upcoming Thursday business meeting.

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