County Commissioner Bill Hall responds to his election challenger Ken Lundie’s “white paper” on running for county commission
I am looking forward to the election process in Lincoln County this year. Since I have a challenger in the Democratic primary, and whoever wins that primary will go on to face the only Republican who filed for the seat in November, we will have an extended opportunity to discuss not only the record of the past but our opportunities in the future.
My primary election opponent recent published a series of position papers on www.newslincolncounty.com I would like to respond to a few of the points he made:
It’s very easy in this era when government and elected officials are a target to throw out labels like “career politician” and “quasi dynasty.” That doesn’t stand up to the evidence in our case. I spent more than 25 years in print and broadcast news media before being elected commissioner; Don Lindly spent two decades in public education; Terry Thompson was a commercial fisherman for decades. Not exactly career politicians. If the voters ever believe we are not effective, they have the power to make a change.
They have kept our board together because we’ve tackled difficult problems head-on, been innovative, and maintained essential services in exceptionally challenging times.
I expect the budget crisis of the last four years, and our response to it, to be a subject of discussion. Mr. Lundie says he believes in “leading by example.” So do I. That’s why I joined my colleagues in early 2008 to publicly announce to our union staff that while we hoped they would accept ten furlough days, the equivalent of a 3.8 percent pay cut, we would be taking a 5 percent cut whether they agreed to the furloughs or not. In addition to the pay cuts and furloughs, we eliminated positions through attrition and cancelled or postponed capital projects and vehicle replacements. All of this was not enough to offset a two-year drop in our general fund revenues of 18 percent, which still required us to lay off many valued employees.
As a result of recent storms, the county entered into several emergency repair contracts. Most of these went to local contractors, however two projects were awarded to firms located outside the county. This decision brought several unhappy local contractors to our meetings, including one former county employee, now running for commissioner for the third time. It’s always been my perception that most of our contracting dollars are spent locally. But rather than rely on emotions or anecdote, we asked our public works department to review all contacts over the previous two year period. The results showed 88 percent of all facilities and maintenance dollars and 81 percent of all road and bridge dollars were spent with in county contractors. (It’s also important to remember that Oregon law does not give local governments the option of providing a local preference—in most cases, contracts must be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.)
The issue of public access to government is one that’s very important to me. That’s why I have been a consistent advocate over my time in office for steps like video-recording of our meetings, making them available on local cable and the internet, a weekly radio program about county government, and other outreach. We also meet in the evening 11 times a year (seven joint meetings with local city councils and four budget meetings), providing ample opportunity for people who can’t get out during the day to interact with us directly.
It has been my privilege to call Lincoln County home for 25 years and to serve you as commissioner for the past seven years. It is indeed “a distinct honor,” to use Mr. Lundie’s words, to hold this trust. I work to be worthy of that honor every day.