Q&A: Clackamas County commission candidates discuss issues
Editor's note: Not all candidates responded.
What do you think is the most important issue Clackamas County is facing? How would you address it?
Position 2 Candidates
The top priority in my campaign and my life is to look out for the next generation. Someone did it for us without knowing our names and we must do the same. Children are the future, and they must be nurtured in school, at home, and in society so that they can thrive and become the leaders of tomorrow. A child's success must be considered holistically and that means access to education and opportunities, a safe and stable home, real solutions to climate chaos, and a society that protects their interests and works to be a thriving place to live, grow, and to flourish. That is why I ran and was elected to the North Clackamas School Board where I serve currently as Chair.
With that said, there are many other issues facing the voters of Clackamas County. I see these main issues as access to housing, homelessness, public safety, climate chaos, addiction, affordability, and not currently having an effective County Commission that truly represents all of us. The people of Clackamas County deserve a local government that is responsive and effective to address their needs and that begins with the leadership of the Board of Commissioners. The Board must arrive at solutions and provide transparency and accountability to the public for results. I have worked for many years in the service of others in my community and in my day job.
I have a solid record of working on behalf of others and achieving results. From the purest place in my heart, I want to see everyone in our community thrive today and tomorrow. As an accomplished Black Woman, I know I have the experience both lived and professionally to accomplish this.
As commissioner I will:
• Look out for the next generation — providing for their well-being and development, including health care, housing, education, environmental justice, and childcare when parents are at work.
• Build an inclusive county that works for everyone — we must be intentional about including all of our residents whether they are communities of color, immigrants, refugees, or residents of our rural areas.
• Take care of those who have taken care of us — essential workers have kept our society going during these difficult times. We owe them a debt to care for them and look out for their livelihood, repaying their sacrifices.
People in Clackamas County do not want the problems Portland is facing with crime and homelessness.
Currently the most important issue facing Clackamas County is the growing cost of housing and rents which leads more people to either fall into homelessness or move outside the County for lower cost housing. As more people become homeless the more likely that the issues with mental health and substance abuse increase. How would you address it?
I would continue to push for more transitional shelters that are managed like our Veterans Village. Residents are provided shelter with an understanding that they need to take the steps that help them transition back into permanent housing. Also, we need to build more lower cost modular housing, workforce housing, and affordable middle housing. There are opportunities to put homeless residents to work whereby they help build the shelters and or assist in the operations of the shelters. They need to be productive in order to succeed.
Because substance abuse and mental health is often widespread among the homeless it is imperative there are regional mental health and drug/alcohol treatment centers established as soon as possible.
Position 5 Candidates
Too many small businesses, families, seniors and workers are struggling to make ends meet. As a Clackamas County Commissioner, I'm proud to have made a tangible difference when it comes to creating good-paying jobs, supporting our local economy and small business community, and creating more affordable housing in our community. But I won't stop pushing because I know there's a lot more we need to do.
The County has many opportunities to support our workforce and support employers. I've secured investments for infrastructure projects that create good-paying jobs right here in Clackamas County. I've helped our small businesses by creating recovery centers through the Chambers of Commerce using Federal emergency dollars during the pandemic. I've supported increased resources for public safety so that every person in our community can go to work or school without fear from crime or for their safety. And I've worked to fund rural broadband so businesses and employees can work better from home.
But in addition to creating good local jobs and supporting small businesses, we need to push to do much more to keep our community affordable. I'll continue to be the loudest voice in the room when it comes to cutting through bureaucratic red tape and building more affordable housing, so we can get people off of the streets and into permanent homes. And I'll always say no to unfair tolling schemes that will disproportionately impact Clackamas County families who already pay their fair share for roads and services.
Economic decline is the most important issue Clackamas County is facing. I am going to address the issue through continued activism about investing in oil and gas exploration and production companies.
I think that some of the most important issues facing the County are the recent Tolling proposals, increase in crime and growing homelessness in the region.
The tolling will have a huge impact on Clackamas County, and I stand opposed to it. People travel back and forth on I-205 multiple times per day for work, this is an unfair and harmful tax. The overflow of traffic through Clackamas County residential areas will impact safety for residents due to cars flooding residential areas to avoid the tolls. Businesses will also be affected on either side of the tolling corridor because people will resist frequenting those businesses as much because of the tolls. Who will pay for the extra wear and tear on the Clackamas County roads with the new traffic? This will affect low-income people who will face hardship from the tolls. If this is still an issue by the time I am elected, I will do whatever I can within the County authority and jurisdiction to stand against its implementation!
Opioid overdose hospitalizations in Clackamas County rose 18% from 2020-21, and Oregon now has the highest rate of opioid misuse while ranking last in access to treatment. How would you address drug addiction issues in the county?
Position 2 Candidates
We must address this crisis with compassion. We must also first recognize that this is a crisis, and it is impacting all aspects of our community. This is not an issue that only impacts certain segments of our society. Almost all of us have been touched by this national problem. I have spent much of my career dedicated to taking care of those who have taken care of us. Coming from a military family, and working with veterans, I know that we owe many of those suffering from addiction a debt that we are not currently fulfilling. We must work to provide education, wrap-around services, healthcare, and opportunities, and make life-saving care available, such as Naloxone.
While I believe in enforcing the law, this is not a problem we can arrest ourselves out of. We cannot continue the same failed solutions. I feel strongly that we can only create safety for our communities by both being intentional in working to interrupt and arrest the root causes that create insecurity and by also ensuring that government entities provide fair and equitable treatment for all our residents as well as provide public service personnel with the support they need to be successful.
Clackamas County must do much more to address addiction and mental health challenges that directly contribute to making our communities less safe. And we also need upstream interventions. I will use my experience with nonprofit service providers to push to scale up these efforts and make sure they are done in culturally specific and responsive ways. Lastly, we also must hold law enforcement accountable, creating clear expectations and training to counter bias and having consequences when members of law enforcement engage in racist or other discriminatory behavior.
First, I would advocate for the repeal of Measure 110. Secondly, I will continue to advocate for establishing regional mental health and drug/alcohol treatment centers as soon as possible. Additionally, I support more emphasis/resources on enforcement of illegal drug activity and meaningful prosecution for people that deal drugs.
Position 5 candidates
Oregon has an addiction crisis, and it got much worse throughout the pandemic. Our leaders have to make this a top priority to save lives, prevent crime, and keep people housed. Right away, I will do everything in my power to hold the state bureaucracy accountable for distributing the dollars that were approved and promised to providers around the state, including here in Clackamas.
I'm proud that under my leadership Clackamas County joined the successful lawsuit against major drug manufacturers for their role in the opioid crisis. Those millions of dollars in settlement payments will be reinvested into treatment and prevention here in Clackamas County. But it's clear that we need to do so much more, and I won't stop until we do. People are dying from their addictions while state agencies slow down the process of getting critical funds out the door.
Too often, drug addiction issues are directly related to mental health challenges. That's why I feel that addressing the opioid crisis plaguing our community must include community investment in mental health resources. And since over 80% of misused prescriptions are obtained from someone other than a doctor, the County's investment in prescription drug disposal and storage is huge. People most commonly report that they got drugs from a friend or family member, so we've planted several prescription drug take-back sites throughout the county to avoid drug abuse issues resulting from medication getting into the wrong hands.
If opioids are legal like cigarettes and beer it becomes a gift which once tried may normalize into use and if it's illegal, it's about the money and the hyped-up benefits. A campaign against drugs isn't enough we've gotta show the positives, take the mystery away, and the why as well, and then let them decide keeping opioids illegal as far as I know.
I would look at our current situation and assess the shortfalls in addressing the mental health issues and look for areas in which we can improve. We need to realize that whatever we are doing is not fully addressing the problem otherwise it would not be rising. I feel as though I am uniquely positioned to help strategize programs that will help create a better framework. My Bachelors degree is in Human Development which will offer a full array of potential solutions.
Over half of the 597 homeless residents recently counted in Clackamas County were unaided by sheltering programs at the time of the survey. What is the most effective way to reduce the number of people living without a home?
Position 2 candidates
My first priority is to create a coordinated access system for folks seeking help in Clackamas County. Oftentimes, support is spread out and difficult to navigate. It is extremely demoralizing and frustrating for folks who require urgent assistance. By gathering resources and growing a cooperative system of community organizations, we are better able to leverage resources and respond to urgent needs quickly and efficiently. The bottom line is that folks experiencing homelessness should be able to access shelter and have their basic needs met, period. This priority also includes building the partnership infrastructure for this county in ways that mimic our neighboring counties.
My second priority is to make housing truly affordable both in the short and long term. I am concerned that we are not seizing this moment to plan for greater housing affordability and creation. This is a complex issue, but we must move to diversify neighborhoods and offer a variety of housing options to folks while working with current residents as partners, not adversaries to address this issue in our community. We should value community input and address tough questions, but we need to recognize that we will need additional housing in our County.
We cannot fall into the trap of simply sweeping human beings from one location to another only for them to lose what is left of their items, relocate somewhere else, or return shortly. That is not a solution. And even more, we as a county are better than that. I am running for county commissioner to bring real solutions to our community, not failed vanity projects that disrespect the humanity of many who simply need a hand up. Many of whom gave us and our great Country much more.
The most effective way to reduce the number of people living without a home is to increase shelter capacity, build smaller and more affordable housing, and provide treatment for those with mental health and substance abuse issues.
Position 5 candidates
It's unacceptable that so many of our neighbors don't have a roof over their heads. In the short term, meeting folks where they are at and extending resources is essential to rectifying this issue that we're seeing in our community and watched get out of hand in neighboring communities. Key to success is providing case management navigation services which helps connect people to services. In Clackamas County we have successfully permanently housed 100 chronically homeless households in the last seven months through implementation of our Clackamas centric Local Implementation Plan. Our plan connects individuals with resources that address mental and physical health, addiction issues, and find employment. Under my leadership in Clackamas County, we've expanded mobile crisis services, and created Mental Health Go Teams/ Clackamas Safe and Strong which help address mental health challenges for those in crisis.
At the end of the day, we know that housing is what ends homelessness. Temporary solutions like shelters are important, but the only way to solve the problem in the long term is to help people into safe, affordable and permanent homes. I have been a champion for affordable housing construction using voter-approved bond dollars and through public/private development. While Metro's bond dollars had a goal of providing 812 new units, through innovative public/private partnerships, Clackamas County has 1700 new units in the pipeline.
Break up the property owners and allow renters to buy. Furthermore, if we offer jobs for shelter programs that should put the homelessness choice with the homeless.
The first thing we need to do is assess the root causes so we can better assess the proper help. We need to get creative about the problem by perhaps looking into group home living for those who have severe mental illness. These people may not be able to ever be fully independent but may thrive in a group setting with structure. Thinking outside the lines in which we are currently doing (things) may very well begin to really address the problem. Full scale drug and alcohol programs would also be beneficial to those (who) suffer from those barriers.
As businesses countywide are reporting staffing shortages, what is the best way for the county to attract and retain employees to help foster a vibrant local economy?
Position 2 candidates
We must make our county a desirable place to live and work. The world has changed, and we must adapt to it, not continue with the status quo. We need innovation and progress, not business as usual. To remain competitive, we must provide a living wage, an affordable and inclusive community, and access to transportation. One thing the pandemic has shown us is with startling clarity the inequities in society, as well as how vulnerable many of our community truly are. We must work tirelessly to protect our families and communities using a multi-faceted approach. To best protect our community, we must think holistically, and this means addressing economic, physical, mental, and spiritual needs.
Childcare is expensive and out of reach for many in our community. I support efforts to get more funding to subsidize childcare, not only so that working-class families can access child care, but so caretakers can receive a living wage to care for our children. It is long overdue to take a closer look at our childcare systems because it is not working. We need to build infrastructure, support burgeoning childcare ventures, and help ensure that every family in the county has access to high-quality, culturally relevant, free/affordable child care. A step in the right direction would be to follow Multnomah County's lead and pass universal preschool measures. I sit on a state committee, Education Recovery where we are looking at all levels of care including childcare.
Clackamas County is lacking public transit in many areas. 82nd avenue also includes part of Clackamas County and needs to be revamped and invested in, similarly to the challenges in Portland. Many low-income families are put in difficult situations if their vehicles are unable to be on the road and getting to work becomes difficult. Clackamas County currently has privately run local commuter vans that help get residents closer to TriMet max lines. I would love to see local-specific rideshare in our deep rural areas that focus on getting people to health care solutions. I also would love to see the private commuter vans have bike rack options. I want increased access to transit so people like myself do not need to travel to simply use public transportation.
Lastly, my daughter used to take public transportation to the Molalla Clackamas Community College Campus. She was at a remote bus stop one day when a large pick-up chased her while shouting ugly things. She traveled a mile on foot before getting to a small industrial area and stopping a truck driver for help. Most of our bus stops are in remote spaces, I will work to change that.
First of all I believe we can attract and retain employees if we have adequate housing available that is affordable. Employees are drawn to higher paying jobs and the County has encouraged expansion of industries that provide higher paying jobs. We also promote workforce development opportunities to provide the skills and training that increase the earning potential that ultimately attracts workers and fosters a vibrant local economy. Working with our schools, Community College, and trades to provide the training and education is vital to developing a workforce where all can thrive.
Position 5 candidates
As a Clackamas County Commissioner, I've been an ardent supporter of our chambers of commerce, of apprenticeship programs, career and technical skills training programs, and supporting our community colleges and students there. That's why I'm endorsed by the Oregon City Business Alliance, Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce, Portland Business Alliance and numerous business owners in our community.
One way for Clackamas County to attract and retain employees is to make our region an affordable place to live with good schools. That means good, market rate housing that's close to where our employers have jobs to fill. It means saying no to tolling that would make it more costly for our residents and employers alike to get to and from work every day. And when your tax dollars are funding infrastructure projects and creating jobs, we need to make sure that those jobs pay a livable wage and provide good benefits to workers so that they will stay in our region.
Reducing welfare programs that pay the non-working population is a good way to increase the working population and address the staffing shortages
Retaining quality staff begins with creating a harmonious work environment where people feel valued and appreciated for their contributions. By creating this type of work environment, you are going to not only attract creative people, but you will keep them. Another factor is the monetary compensation needs to be adequate for the workload that they are performing. Employees also would like to experience growth and opportunity within a company to keep engaged in learning and trying new things.
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