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Coalition backing measure that would have funded services for abused and neglected children acknowledges defeat.

SCREENSHOT - CLACKAMAS COUNTY ELECTIONS - The Yes for Clackamas Kids campaign acknowledged defeat Wednesday evening in a statement calling for renewed focus and efforts to help local youth dealing with abuse and neglect.  Proponents of the measure aimed at providing more funding to nonprofits in Clackamas County that serve some of the area's most vulnerable children have officially acknowledged their effort fell short.

In a press release issued 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, backers of Measure 3-564 — also known as the Children's Safety Levy — acknowledged that the current margin of "Yes" votes (45%) to "No" votes (55%) is just too large to overcome. The most recent results released by the Clackamas County elections division showed a gap of 18,653 votes. FILE PHOTO - Yes for Clackamas Kids campaign calls for renewed focus on and efforts to help vulnerable children in Clackamas County.

The measure would have established a new property tax raising approximately $8 million in annual revenue for the county to dole out to local nonprofits serving at-risk youth, including foster children and victims of neglect and abuse.

Dan Lombardi, communications director for the Yes for Clackamas Kids campaign, said that their coalition assumes that at least 62% of the more than 71,000 votes would need to yield a "Yes" vote for the measure to pass.

"Over three counts, we just haven't seen that type of shift and don't expect to with additional ballots," Lombardi said.

Lombardi said that the loss is particularly saddening when considering the widespread fear — from both health and education officals in Oregon and across the country — that instances of neglect and abuse have increased during the pandemic but gone unreported due to children not coming into contact with as many mandatory reporters.

"This levy would have allowed for organizations on the ground to meet that increased need," he said. "These organizations will have to get creative and will need the full support of the community to make sure they can keep their doors open for every kid who needs trauma services."

The press release contains statements expressing dismay over the result from several of the measure's most vocal and prominent supporters including Clackamas County District Attorney-elect John Wentworth and County Commissioner Sonya Fischer.

Wentworth said that he's disappointed with the result on behalf of the chldren and families that could have benefitted from the boost to local services the measure might have provided.FILE PHOTO - Clackamas County Comissioner Sonya Fischer

"The levy was a crucial opportunity to end cycles of trauma, making sure that the kids in our community can stay out of the criminal justice system and instead thrive into adulthood," he said.

Fischer took the opportunity to highlight the importance of the work done by the nonprofit groups in Clackamas County to serve at-risk youth and called for renewed attention to the issue of providing services to kids in the community dealing with neglect and abuse.

"While this issue didn't get the attention of the presidential election, it was every bit as important to the children affected and was a missed opportunity to change thousands of young lives for the better," Fischer said. "This cannot be the end of our commitment to our children's future. It must be a wakeup call for our community to come together in more creative and committed ways."

Simon Fulford, director of Parrott Creek Child and Family Services, and Melissa Erlbaum, director of Clackamas Women's Services, were also vocal proponents of measure as two of the prominent organizations that could have benefitted from the increased funding. They'll now be forced to get creative in finding ways to fill the gaps in services and continue to partner with the county to find more resources for at-risk youth in the area.

"After 10 years of hard work, this is definitely not the result we were looking for. We are disappointed that a majority of voters were influenced by the anti-Metro transportation tax campaign and didn't fully recognize the critical need for increased children's safety services right here in Clackamas County," Erlbaum said. "As disheartening as this is, we will get right back to work providing proven and trusted support services to our vulnerable children and families, knowing that we'll have to work even harder to meet the increased need that this ongoing pandemic and economic downturn has brought upon our communities."

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