You can’t affect the plans of politicians in Washington DC – but you can decide who will take Lisa Naito’s Position #3 on the Board of Multnomah County Commissioners. Get to know the candidates better before you vote …
To get the meeting going, the Gateway Area Business Association’s “Rubber Chicken Award” is presented to Javier Gutierrez; manager of Midland Regional Library – the new home of the organization’s monthly meetings by the group’s president, Alan Sanchez.
Story by Watford Reed; photos by David F. Ashton
With the closure of JJ North’s Buffet, the site of their monthly meetings for years, the Gateway Area Business Association (GABA) has moved to Midland Regional Library for its October meeting.
The central topic of this month’s meeting was the race for Multnomah County Commissioner, Position #3, now held by Lisa Naito.
About 50 business people and neighbors came to hear the Candidate’s Forum presenting Mike Delman and Judy Shiprack
“This race is important,” observed moderator David F. Ashton, “Because the successful candidate will have a direct voice in administrating a $1.2 Billion dollar budget – derived from your tax dollars. And, with this responsibility, him or her will be paid $82,000 per year, plus benefits, for their services.”
With that, Ashton invited Mike Delman and Judy Shiprack to the front of the room, and asked each to say why they were running for the office.
Note: Rather than characterize the candidates’ responses, we present truncated full-text quotes so you may get to know them — in their own words.
Multnomah County Commissioner, Position #3 candidate Mike Delman.
Introducing Mike Delman
“Our county government is struggling to pay its bills, deliver services, and connect with the private sector and citizens,” Delman began. “The policies and programs undertaken by the county make a difference in all of our lives. I am running for Multnomah County Commissioner because my heart and soul is in this County, and I have the experience to make a difference.”
Delman outlined his service in the public sector as chief of staff to former Commissioner Gary Hansen, the executive assistant to the Multnomah County Sheriff, work with the Multnomah County Department of Aging and Disability services. He currently serves as the public affairs director for Portland Habilitation Center, a non-profit that trains and employs the disabled.
“I have seen first-hand how the county operates, and how it can run efficiently and effectively.”
Multnomah County Commissioner, Position #3 candidate Judy Shiprack.
Introducing Judy Shiprack
“I’m the candidate with real experience,” challenged Shiprack, as she outlined her vocational background as a teacher, deputy district attorney, and member of the Oregon State House of Representatives for three terms.
“I’ve been in charge of housing development for over 200 families and low income people. I have real experience, and have obtained real results. I understand problem-solving,” Shiprack said.
As a state representative, Shiprack said, “I created real programs; this is different from being a staff person. This is having a vote, and being in charge of advocating for programs that need to get support in order to pass.”
If elected to the County Commission, she said her priority is “investing in children; being smart about public safety, and getting our fair share of the taxes which we pay to Salem returned, to take care of services here in our community.”
Questions and Answers
Four questions were put to the two candidates; each had the opportunity to respond.
Q Many feel the board of Multnomah County Commissioners still carries the stigma of being back-room dealing, back-biting politicians; especially because some of these meetings appear to have broken “open-meeting” laws and these illegal meeting activities were never prosecuted. What will you do to make sure that the business of the County is conducted in the sunshine of openness and transparency?
“Was that a two-minute question?” Shiprack quipped. “The public meetings law is there for an important reason. They’re important to me as a voter and a taxpayer. They will be important to me as a member of the Board of County commissioners.”
Shiprack paused giving her answer to make the aside that, in a six-candidate primary, she garnered 37% of the votes.
“The voters respect the fact that I am open; that I have conducted my businesses with high ethical standard, and I have been responsive to voters. That is my record of achievement. I stand on that record. The conduct of public business in the full light of public scrutiny is very important to me. I will be an advocate for the continuation of that practice. And of course, as an officer of the court, they’ll be responsible and continue to be responsible to make sure that the light shines in our process.
Candidate Mike Delman.
“I’ve talked about independent verification for contracts and financial projects since I entered this race. I believe in further transparency. I will strongly work to enforce the existing statues to prevent decisions from being made behind closed doors; not before a public body.”
Turning to Shiprack, Delman added, “During this campaign, I have yet to hear my opponent comment on the actions of two of the [Multnomah County] commissioners considered responsible for allegedly breaking those public meeting laws.”
Q Politicians tell us of their lofty ideals. Instead, tell us the most important issues — ones that are actually under the control of the county — on which you’ll focus your efforts.
“I’ll focus my efforts on reopening a health clinic in the southeast quadrant of Multnomah County. There was a clinic at SE 33rd and Powell until three years ago. I’ve put forward a tangible plan inviting the Portland Adventist or Province Medical Center to partner with the county to open a health clinic to serve up to 2,500 people who are underserved. The incentive for them will be the reduction of uninsured clients coming in for emergency care. Emergency care costs a lot more than primary care.
“I will examine the $57 million in [the County’s] general fund that goes to contracts. Auditors say as many as 58 contracts were turned in without any approval. I look to separate monitoring and evaluation from administering the contracts.
“I’ll look at getting the County out of its motor pool and vehicle maintenance business. The City of Portland has outsourced this for two years, and saved money.
“I will join [Multnomah County Commissioner] Jeff Cogan’s effort to get a voice with the Portland Development Commission to wisely use Urban Renewal dollars and tax increment financing dollars to promote family wage jobs all over District 3 – more than in the Gateway and Lents area alone.
“And, I would also work to open Wapato Jail through a partnership with the State of Oregon, and local government partners. I think it’s likely that one of the ballot measures [providing for mandatory sentences for property crimes] will pass, and that will give us the opening to open those first 150 beds which are the most expensive to the economy of scale.”
Candidate Judy Shiprack.
“I want to go back and say to invest in children; instead of moving public safety expenditures into what I like to call the shallow end of the pool. I know that investing in kids fights crime. We have two programs right now, Early Childhood Head Start and a targeted Visiting Nurse program. These are both evidence-based programs. They’ve been scientifically shown to prevent criminal behavior both in juveniles and in future adults. That’ll be one of my priorities – investing in kids.
“‘Smart public safety’ means that we need to invest more in addiction treatment. Over 80% of the people who are booked into the Multnomah County jails are alcohol or drug affected. We know that addiction treatment works. We know that when we release people from our jails back into our community, and they haven’t had any drug addiction treatment, they’re going to come back [into jail], because their property crimes are driven by their addiction. I want to have programs that divert mentally ill people from expensive jail beds.
“Right now, we know that 13% of the people who are incarcerated have a serious mental illness. Police are not equipped to diagnose mental illness, nor are emergency room treatment or booking room personnel. I will support a triage center so we can divert mentally ill people from our jails.
“I’m also going to support getting fair tax treatment — which means going to Salem — to go in for local option taxes.”
Q On your list of priorities, where falls “protecting citizens by incarcerating criminals, fully funding other Sheriff’s Office programs and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office” – and why?
“I totally agree with [Multnomah County] Chair Wheeler that he did a wonderful job of establishing priorities for the county in light of an $18 million shortfall. Multnomah County, unlike the federal government, doesn’t print its own money. And we’re glad we don’t. What Chair Wheeler did with his budget process was that he drew a protective circle around services that Multnomah County provides to the most vulnerable of our services. By doing that, he defined what I was talking about as the ‘shallow end of the pool’.
“I was a deputy district attorney, and I understand how important is to fund programs in the attorney office. In particular, child support enforcement programs in the district attorney’s office, get very little attention. But as we know, child support, and taking care of children, is one of the ways we invest in children and prevent crime in the future.
“Until the sheriff’s office has made real inroads on the recommendations that were made in the post-factors study, to limit the abuse of overtime – to limit the abusive behavior and abusive standards that were going on with the supervision of people in our jails – we should look with a very skeptical eye at increasing funding. We should ask the sheriff’s office to live within its means.”
“The county has cut budgets for eight straight years. I had three main priorities to maximize use of funding. Those are: Public safety, health care and the School Programs.
“After trying to protect funding for those three areas, I believe we have to look at a new paradigm rather than ‘thinning down the soup’. I am pleased that I have earned the support of Sheriff Bob Skipper, Senior Deputy Norm Frank, and the Multnomah County corrections officers Association for my stance on public safety.
“My opponent and I differ on the use of a Wapato Jail. I have supported [Multnomah County District Attorney] Mike Shrunk’s plan for the use of ‘hard’ beds and treatment beds. I don’t believe treatment is a panacea for everything. Frankly, our economy is not bottomed out. We need to have ‘hard beds’ for those who are found guilty and need to be detained – as well as treatment beds. I think we can open Wapato, but it still needs to be looked at with higher jail beds as well as treatment jail beds.
Q What do you see as the main difference between you and your opponent in this race — and why should we care?
“I have the best experience needed to make a difference on the Board of County commissioners. I’ve assisted in balancing eight county budgets during the 1990s. I have strong relations in the private sector, public sector and in the nonprofit sectors needed to open up our decision-making process.
“You should care because the county has a $1.2 billion budget. No one respects ‘other people’s money’ more than I do. I will be the watchdog to make sure that your tax dollars are put to their highest and best use.
“There’s a clear difference between my opponent and I, when it comes to fiscal responsibility. One, I would never put myself, my family, and my organization, at risk in a speculative project that could lose a lot of money. This is especially if I was not confident of success. If I did, I would spend the rest of my life trying to make up and repay those tax dollars. I wouldn’t go to the newspaper editorial boards and tell them that this makes me a better candidate.
“The difference between my opponent and I is the $1.8 million loss which she has said, ‘is a good use of public funds’ to subsidize 60 units of housing that sold for $140,000-$469,000 in 2001.
“I’d rather spend a $1.8 million on 57 jail beds, five deputy D.A.’s, two health clinics to serve up to 5000 who are uninsured, or 21 School Programs.
“There is a clear choice here. If you want the status quo, support my opponent. If you want someone can make a difference, I welcome your support.”
“I think we just heard part of the reason why I am the better candidate. And, why I will be a better County Commissioner than my opponent: I actually understand how these programs work.
“First, it is a totally appropriate role for the Portland Development Commission, as well as the nonprofit community, to be innovative and be creative. And, had we not participated in building affordable housing in Old Town/Chinatown, there would not be a Pacific Towers development that brought 157 units of rental housing; there would not be a 24-hour presence in the area.
“And, I also want to say that the $1.8 million feels like ‘It’s a wonderful life’. The $1.8 million is in the building, the property that is not sold because of a difficult location, and because of a difficult market. We will see that realized.
“But I think that what we’re hearing is really misconstruction. But that doesn’t surprise me, because we’ve already heard that my opponent confuses aggression and passion. I want to assure you that I don’t confuse either aggression with passion, nor do I confuse assertiveness with aggression.
“I’m going to protect the very important role of government, and especially in hard times, and especially with leaders such as yourselves, to be innovative, to be creative, to be bold and courageous, and to go places, that really, the private sector cannot go on its own. That is truly the role of government. It is more of the role of government in difficult times that it is an ordinary times. And we are in difficult times. I appreciate your support.”
Candidates pitch for your vote
Candidate Mike Delman.
“I’m running to make a difference. I think there is a clear choice in this race. I’m not here in Gateway after the fact, simply as a candidate. I’ve been coming to this organization for 18 months; I’ve been going to six business associations and 14 neighborhood associations; I’ve gone to every festival, Parade and Farmer’s market. I’ve been coming here, not as candidate, but to start a relationship with you.
“My mentor, and my former boss, Gary Hanson, allocated staff throughout his eight years in office to participate in meetings, to bring legislation forward from groups such as yours. If I’m lucky enough to be elected to represent you. I’ll do the same thing. I know the difference between right choices and wrong choices when using your tax money for the highest and best use. I hope I can earn your support.”
Candidate Judy Shiprack.
“First, thank you all of you for caring enough about your local government to be here today. It’s been engaging for me to be at the doorsteps of so many voters, and to have won the approval of so many voters.
“I want to say that in the primary, I had over twice as many votes as my opponent; I think that is going to carry through again. I want to remind you once again, that I have been in the arena. I’m not standing back and throwing stones at other people’s work. I have done the hard work myself. I stand ready to do more of that hard work; and heavy lifting.
“The first ‘hate crimes’ bill was drafted at my desk and passed by a single vote in the House of Representatives with my advocacy. The Oregon Housing Trust Fund was not an easy sell. The Oregon Lenders Housing Tax Credit was not an easy sell. These programs required advocacy, and innovation.
“In terms of Multnomah County’s future, it is the future of our children; it is a future of our communities; it is the future of our lives that is the quality of our allies in this community. I’m very proud of have the support of District 3; I look forward to being back here with you on many occasions.
Meet the GABA Members
GABA meets the second Tuesday of each month – to network, and to learn from community and business leaders. Find out more by visiting their website at www.gabanet.com.
David F. Ashton transcribed candidates’ responses featured in this report.
© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News