Board of Commissioners
Question 1: What is the first major improvement for life in Polk County that you feel can be accomplished by the Board of Commissioners with your help?
Question 2: If you had a gift of $100,000 to add to the funding of any one (and only one) county program, what would it be?
Sue Lamb (Democrat).
Occupation: Analyst/supervisor for Marion County Courts.
Elected office experience: None.
Answer 1: I would bring hands-on democracy to Polk County. I am committed to making local government inclusive, approachable and trustworthy. Citizens must have access to the process of deliberation, they must have the opportunity to view their government at work and have input in its deliberations.
Inclusive government will happen when Oregon's Open meeting laws are followed. As Polk County Commissioner I would conduct meetings at times and locations convenient to the citizens. The fine citizens who serve countless hours on the various commissions, boards and committees need to know that I will value and respect their input in the decision-making process.
My ability to build partnerships will provide balance, accountability and trust.
Answer 2: I would enhance public safety and government efficiency with the purchase of digital cam recorders for the Sheriff's Office patrol vehicles. Digital cam recorders would provide records for arrests, high-speed pursuits, routine traffic stops and will provide for officer safety and accountability.
The cost-benefit analysis would show a multi-agency benefit from arrest to prosecution to conviction. We would recognize a cost-saving for the Sheriff's Office, District Attorney's office and the Court system.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office has 14 patrol vehicles with each device costing approximately $7,000. The total purchase would be $98,000. This purchase strengthens law enforcement. The multi-agency ongoing cost-benefit savings makes for efficient government.
Tom Ritchey (Republican).
Occupation: County commissioner, corporate pilot and flight instructor.
Elected office experience: Polk County Commission, 1998-2006, Independence mayor 1994-1998.
Answers: I think both questions can be answered together with this thought: If the county was given a gift of $100,000 I would argue that the money be put in the general fund and a deputy position be created in the Sheriff's Office to augment the department's effort to combat the meth epidemic and related crimes associated with meth -- identity theft, property crimes, assaults.
Our Sheriffs Office was given a detective position in the last budget cycle to help relieve the increasing caseload. That position has already reached capacity. The new position would be an additional detective.
The Board of Commissioners has always considered public safety a top priority in Polk County. The Sheriff's Office has reinstated the POINT (Polk Interagency Narcotics Team) team. This position would certainly help their effort.
One of the major concerns in creating the 07-08 budget will be whether the O&C Timber Safety Net revenues will be reauthorized and funded by the federal government. Not having this revenue would mean about a $2.4 million deficit to the county general fund.
In the meantime it would seem prudent to augment the Sheriff's Office if only for one year. Another deputy would cost about $60,000, possibly less if the employee was on contract. I would suggest the remainder of the money be spent on staffing for the District Attorney's Office in the form of an additional prosecutor. I believe we need to make a strong effort now to be proactive in fighting these crimes while we continue searching for additional revenue sources.
A good start would be harvesting timber from our County Forest Trust Lands on a sustained yield basis as intended when the state took over management of these resources many years ago. That would be a tremendous boost for improvement of life in Polk County.
Ron Dodge (Democrat).
Occupation: County commissioner.
Elected office experience: Polk County Commission, Dallas City Councul 1977-1991.
Answer 1: To get the road bond passed Nov. 7. We need to invest in our $250,000,000 paved road system by spending $20 million to keep it in excellent shape for the next 30 years. If this bond passes, we will be overlaying about 150 miles. This overlay will definitely have a positive effect regarding the quality of life for all county citizens.
Answer 2: The legislature has cut funding to the Commission for Children and Families. I would turn the $100,000 over to the commission so it could spend money on programs as they see fit.
Don Homuth (Independent).
Home: West Salem.
Elected office experience: Former state senator in North Dakota.
Answer 1: Two concepts, but within the same overall issue:
* Having all communities in Polk County - from West Salem to Falls City and from Buena Vista to Grand Ronde -- come together cooperatively at the same table to work on county-wide issues.
* Putting all the voters -- Republicans, Democrats, Independents and others -- into all portions of the political process of local government by nominating county commissioners on a No Party ballot. That's how we do it for every other local government elected official, and it works just fine. No reason not to do it, other than the Ds and Rs don't want to lose their influence.
All of us are more capable than a few of us. With all the voters and all the communities participating and working cooperatively, the contribution of county government to life in Polk County can't help but improve.
Answer 2: Assuming I'm spending my own money (and not Other People's Money), I would support the Polk County Commission on Children and Families by:
* Placing $85,000 into a permanent endowment for the Polk County Commission on Children and Families.
* Providing $5,000 for a publicity campaign to encourage other Polk County residents to contribute to the endowment through contributions, legacies, bequests and memorials, to make the endowment grow larger.
* Providing $10,000 to support current PCCF programs through matching funds for the next two years.
The endowment would draw interest which, over time, would be used as local matching funds to support PCCCF activities throughout the county. It would grow larger with more community involvement. It would immediately be able to increase its program outreach efforts to locally-based programs throughout the county on many different fronts.
Question 1: What is the biggest challenge your department will deal with over the next two years?
Question 2: Are the citizens of Polk County involved enough with law enforcement.
Bob Wolfe (unoposed).
Occupation: County sheriff.
Previous elected experience: Polk County sheriff, 1999-2006.
Answer 1: Funding continues to be the biggest challenge facing the Sheriff's Office. Potential loss of O&C Timber revenues would reduce staffing levels significantly. Of course, reductions to what level is difficult until we know for sure what funding reductions will take place.
Alternative funding sources for personnel are attached with too many strings and I believe our taxpayers expect us to live within our budget. Despite the potential funding loss we will still face challenges with the growing meth problem which is the driving force for other crimes, such as identity theft and burglaries.
Because of the increase in these crimes, additional funding was provided by the budget committee to add one additional deputy. We now have two deputies working with local agencies to focus more effort on drugs in Polk County.
Answer 2: Generally, we have great involvement from citizens. Whether they are volunteering for programs, or just becoming interested in how to solve problems in their neighborhood, citizens have been great about contacting the Sheriff's Office for input or advice.
The Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT) program continues to provide support and cost savings to our operations. We also have several other programs for citizens to become involved, such as our Reserve Deputy program, Search and Rescue, mounted posse, Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES), and Cadet Program. We have been working with Neighborhood Watch Programs, and there has been discussion about having a Citizens Academy for citizens to participate in basic information training classes each year.
Overall, we continue to work closely with the public in responding to specific problems in neighborhoods, such as traffic problems, barking dogs or property easement complaints.