"When all think alike, no one thinks very much." — Walter Lippman
This may be the biggest problem on the County Commission today — they all think alike. The Commission needs a new voice. The County needs a commissioner who will question current policies and look for new ways to improve delivery of county services.
ISSUES I CARE MOST ABOUT
Ignoring the pleas from health services staff, County Commissioners cut programs that provided reproductive health, family planning, and contraceptive services. They also cut public health programs for vaccinations and sexually transmitted diseases. The County restored the vaccination and STD services recently. It should also restore the reproductive health programs that help the poor and uninsured. If we want to reduce the number of abortions, the County should help women avoid unwanted pregnancies. I respect a woman’s right to continue or terminate her pregnancy. My opponent was the political director for Oregon Right to Life and seems to be imposing that organization's perspectives on County residents.
Fun is serious business. If we want to increase income in the County we should try harder to attract the millions of retirees and remote workers who are able to relocate anywhere. These folks usually include fun as a criterion in deciding where to live. Retirees and remote workers already bring more income to the county than any company we hope to entice to locate here. Marion County Commissioners should be making Marion County more fun. We have many festivals and attractions that bring people to the county, but we could do much more to make Marion County the place people want to live. I propose that the county finally do something with the vacant land on the north side of the bus mall in Salem. The county should construct a year-round open-air market run on solar power to generate revenue and provide emergency power. This market could be an incubator for small start-ups. I propose the county add to Silver Falls and Shellberg parks by acquiring the other three waterfalls north of Mehama. This could open a southern gateway to the waterfalls and increase visitors. I propose increasing access to the forests, rivers, and streams in the County. We should help communities become more like resorts such as Sunriver with safe trails in park-like settings connecting the residents to businesses and schools. An example where this could be done in Marion County is by constructing a multi-use path along Cordon Road in Salem.
Are we compromising the health of our children by allowing the Covanta garbage burner to continue to operate? The garbage burner has been allowed to operate for years without adequately testing the emissions from the burner. We need to have other garbage disposal options in place so that when/if the burner is closed, we can quickly move to safer and less expensive disposal options.
Service is Fun
For decades, I have relied on missionaries from the Church of Latter Day Saints to help build and maintain trails in Salem. They've always been fun to work with. A few months ago, we were maintaining trails and I mentioned that service can be fun. The missionaries corrected and said "Service is Fun." That is the motto for my campaign. When I work with others planting trees, maintaining gardens, building trails, and helping the homeless folks, I see smiles on the faces of those serving and I see hope. We have thousands of people in Marion County that want to help others and improve this county. The County should expand volunteer opportunities and make service to others and the community easier.
The County did not provide evacuation orders to all residents in the path of the Beachie Fire in 2020. We need to evaluate that response and find ways to improve emergency responses. Climate change requires that our communities prepare for the emergencies we will face whether it is wildfires, floods, high temperatures, or other calamities. Every community should have a solar-powered community hub that offers emergency communications, community Wi-Fi, meeting space, and shelter.
Compassion is an economic development strategy. Marion County is responsible for the health care of its residents, and that includes care for those living in our parks and on our streets with mental health and addiction problems. We have hundreds of people in mental health crisis living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Half of our homeless are women living in conditions that amplify the mental health problems they may have. Hundreds of children are homeless. Rather than blaming these folks, which the Commissioners continue to do, the County needs to increase efforts to provide safe and sanitary shelter for people, and work with cities to serve these people in need. People and companies do not want to relocate to cities that treat their citizens so poorly that tents line the streets and parents and their children don’t feel safe in parks because of high homeless populations. Unmanaged camps have become havens for thieves that prey on neighbors. It is harder to rent or sell businesses where the homeless people are camping in the doorways. Homelessness impacts us all economically. It doesn’t have to be this way in Marion County. While 30-40 percent of homeless people have mental health issues that may prevent employment, thousands want a job so they may rent an apartment or find other safe living situations. When homeless folks are provided safe and sanitary shelter, they frequently find jobs and apartments as demonstrated by the successes of the shelter sites in Salem. Businesses in Marion County are struggling to find employees. Businesses are operating below capacity because they can’t find enough workers, the answer is clear — use County resources to provide stability for those experiencing homelessness and bring together folks who want to work with those who need workers.
Salem and State Cooperation
Over half of the County residents live in Salem, yet none of the Commissioners are from Salem. I have heard from City Councilors that we need better cooperation between the two local governments. Having a Salem resident on the Commission will improve cooperation.
Current Commissioners also complain that Democratic dominance at the state level adversely affects the funding for the County. Maybe more funds would be available if a Democratic Commissioner was requesting the funds.