With Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read, Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, Oregon State Economist Mark McMullen, Business Oregon Executive Director Chris Harder
Covid 19 Response
My Washington Post Op-Ed "A Plea From Rural America: Urban Covid 19 Refugees,Please Stay Home". Recently, I was asked by the Washington Post to comment on the resolution by the Board of Commissioners (Resolution #R-20-006) to send our tourists home to protect the health of our citizens. This occurred the first weekend of spring break when our beaches were packed with tourists, here for a good time, even though NW Governors asked people to stay safe/stay home. Here is a link to my Op-Ed:
Over the past 20+ years as our timber harvests have suffered, with the Sheriff's Office being the largest general fund expenditure, our patrol division had been devastated. When I became Commissioner, my first mission was to start to rebuild them. When asked what they would do if I were able to provide an additional couple of deputies, the answer was immediate...they would reinstitute the TNT (Tillamook Narcotics Team) which had been discontinued years earlier due to budget cuts.
Although the State Legislature had reduced drug possession, any drug, to a simple misdemeanor, it was explained to me that the majority of crime in Tillamook County was linked to drugs. At the same time I noticed that the County replacement employee policy was outdated. Whenever any employee position was vacant, for any reason, the department head simply went to our HR department and simply requested a replacement. I instituted a policy requiring the department head to justify the position to their Commissioner liaison before rehiring.
Over the years, this policy allowed the addition of additional deputies in the Sheriff's Office. If you have watched the local press over the last year, there have been several major drug busts in the County as our TNT works with local police departments and OSP. At the same time, there is now a move to reinstitute 24 hour patrols in the County which have been missing for many years.
It came as somewhat of a shock when BOEM (Bureau Of Ocean Energy Management) started advertising the availability of large swaths of the outer continental shelf to ocean windmill companies for development. As the Governor appointed N Coast Commissioner to Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) while also serving on the executive board of Oregon Coast Zone Management Association (OCZMA), we immediately contacted our Federal delegation to compel BOEM to slow the process and force public meetings on the Oregon coast, rather than the single public meeting held in Portland. It was then that I was appointed to the BOEM Oregon Outer Continental Shelf Renewable Energy Task Force.
While these vast arrays of floating windmills will be over 10 miles offshore, these devices are up to 3 times larger than the terrestrial windmills that we see in Eastern Oregon. The ocean off the Oregon Coast drops off rapidly and the only way to utilize this wind energy is to utilize floating oil rig technology. Each floating derrick must be attached to the sea floor by at least 3 cable anchoring systems. With vast arrays of these floating wind turbines, many square miles of our ocean will be unavailable for our commercial fishing fleets.
While these arrays will be many miles offshore, because of their size, the possibility of our magnificent ocean views to be degraded by these spinning behemoths is very real. While this new technology is beginning to be tested around the world, the cost of the electricity produced remains many times more expensive than the power we currently receive from Bonneville Power.
We have been promised public meetings on the coast and it will be up to us to attend and express our views of this concept. I am not opposed to renewable energy, I simply feel this must be done with the input and consent of those affected by and paying for it.
As a member of the Tillamook County Citizen Corps Council (TC4), and a Board member of the South Tillamook County Emergency Volunteer Corp (STCEVC), we are preparing for the inevitable emergencies and disasters which plague Tillamook County. This takes education, training, and advocacy from all of our residents. While we may become used to the flooding, wind storms, and landslides that afflict us on a regular basis, a more recent discovery called the Cascadia Subduction Zone should give us all pause. This newly discovered fault, only a few miles off our coast and stretching from Calif. to British Columbia, will unleash widespread chaos to Oregon and especially our coastal areas. Think in terms of the recent Indonesian and Japanese earthquake and tsunami scenarios. We should not be panic-stricken, but at the same time we need to be prepared...for any emergency. Having a well thought out plan for your family, and neighbors (especially the elderly and disabled) is key. We must think in terms of the possibility of being isolated and without outside help for some weeks. We must plan for the lack of drinking water, food, shelter, medications, sanitation, first aid...the list for planning goes on and on. Take the first step and talk with your family, then your neighbors, then initiate a community conversation. Remember, help is already available to assist with your planning.
High Speed Fiber Internet to the Home
As the Governor appointed County Commissioner to Oregon Broadband Advisory Council (OBAC), we advocate that broadband is essential infrastructure for Oregon, its businesses, government, schools, libraries, utilities, healthcare providers, first responders and families. Over 15 years ago when Tillamook County advertised for companies to develop a fiber internet backbone here, we got no response. It was then that a Intergovernmental Agreement between Tillamook County, Tillamook PUD, and Port of Tillamook Bay came together and formed Tillamook Lightwave. Over these past years, we have developed a fiber backbone connecting county offices, schools, ports, cities, libraries, medical, and businesses with true high speed fiber internet.
It is now time to go the last mile and connect family homes throughout Tillamook County. Over the past several months, I have developed a plan to do a pilot project here as proof of concept, then expand the concept to connect the entire county. In February 2020, after giving a tour and providing information about our fiber backbone, it became apparent we could indeed make this work affordably throughout the County. Unfortunately, the Covid 19 pandemic changed the world and we have had to put the plans on hold for the moment.
We now have a worse scenario where our schools are providing distance learning to students at home and we are faced with many students without high speed internet, or even no internet access in their homes. Given the short timeline before the end of this school year, it is difficult to make sure all students have internet services. My greatest fear is that we have to start the next school year in September with students still using distance learning without high speed internet access. I have been pleading with our State and Federal legislators to provide infrastructure dollars so we can get this situation resolved in Tillamook County. We have just a few months to make this happen and we must provide this needed service to our students.
Carbon Cap & Trade
The idea of carbon cap and trade is one that Oregon does not need to address. On a global scale, Oregon's entire output of carbon is 0.12%...imperceptible on a global scale even if we were to totally become carbon neutral. Yet the impacts on rural counties would be huge and disproportionate. This continuing conversation is doing irreparable harm in terms of exacerbating the urban-rural divide in Oregon. You can read an op-ed piece I wrote for the Headlight Herald during the 2019 Legislative session here: https://www.tillamookheadlightherald.com/opinion/hb-boon-or-boondoggle/article_ffd60c44-9864-11e9-830f-1b9ae4a42fc7.html
An issue often overlooked is the issue of carbon sequestration already happening in Tillamook County. Our forests and the finished wood products they produce are sequestering vast sums of carbon every year. A recent study requested by the Board of Forestry shows a net 31 million metric tons of carbon sequestered each year as our forests grow, and this study takes into account the carbon released by harvest, manufacturing and transportation. A similar study requested by the Board of Forestry is due soon which will provide the amount of carbon sequestered in finished wood products. Here is a link to testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources on May 21, 2019 where Coos County Commissioner and Vice-Chair of the Council of Forest Trust Land Counties John Sweet and I discuss issues of carbon cap and trade, our testimony starts at 14min 40 seconds: https://oregon.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=51&clip_id=26956
Something else to consider is what effect on carbon emissions would occur if we were to replace renewable, carbon sequestering wood products with steel, concrete, or plastic composites to build our homes. How would this be good for the environment.
Among the biggest issues facing Tillamook County in the next few years is the National Marine Fisheries Service Biological Opinion (NMFS BiOp) against the Federal Emergency Management Agency National Flood Insurance Program (FEMA NFIP). Don't be frightened off by all of the big titles, this has the potential to be devastating for Tillamook County. This is something we all need to pay attention to before it is too late!
I was interviewed on Tillamook Today by Lisa Greiner. Our conversation was centered around the NMFS BiOp. You can listen here: https://youtu.be/9Ym8O1BQkhA
Just over a year ago, with the help of our Federal Legislators, we were allowed a 3 year reprieve from implementation of of the RPA (Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives) which was developed by FEMA. This was to allow Tillamook County 3 years to work with NMFS and FEMA to develop alternative rules to account for the tremendous work already implemented here. When it comes to clean water, habitat restoration and fish recovery, no Oregon County does this better than Tillamook County.
Just a few weeks ago, we were told that FEMA was now working on rules to implement their RPA by the end of this year. Since I was in Washington DC recently for the NACO Legislative Conference, I met with many members of our Oregon Delegation and this issue was at the top of my list of priorities. I am now hopeful that we will see Congressional action to allow further work on this potentially devastating issue.
Linn County Class Action Lawsuit
Tillamook County has the largest holdings of State Forestland in Oregon (Tillamook State Forest). In the 1930's and 1940's, after the Great Depression and Tillamook Big Burn, private land owners walked away from replanting and paying property taxes on these lands leaving the County in a bad position.
At the same time, the State of Oregon was looking to develop a State Forest program and made offers to Counties to take possession of county forest lands and in return manage them for "greatest permanent value" to provide timber revenue to fund schools, sheriff's patrols, infrastructure, and other essential county services.
In 1998, the Board of Forestry changed the definition of greatest permanent value in ways that lessened the importance of timber harvest and revenue and for the past 20 years, the trust counties have had to reduce or eliminate many essential county services. Please read my recent op-ed for more detailed information here: https://www.tillamookheadlightherald.com/opinion/guest-column-what-the-linn-county-lawsuit-really-means/article_e2063474-2788-11ea-af8c-bf7da0109213.html
Starting in October 2019, a Linn County jury trial commenced which lasted a full month. After hearing over 100 hours of testimony and viewing thousands of documents, some dating back over 100 years, the jury deliberated for only a few short hours before returning with a verdict stating the State of Oregon had indeed, breached its contract with the trust counties while at the same time awarding us full damages of $1.065 billion.
My most recent testimony before the Board of Forestry was mostly directed towards the Linn County Class Action Lawsuit and how the Council of Forest Trust Land Counties views this victory. You can watch my testimony here (my testimony starts at minute 33 on this you tube video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiD5BZ2C4tI&feature=youtu.be
As Chair of the Council of Forest Trust Land Counties, I am on the Linn County lawsuit advisory committee. On March 6, 2020, Judge Thomas McHill entered a general judgement and and money award in this case. The state has a mandatory rate of 9% interest on all unpaid damages awards and as of March 6, interest accrues at the rate of over $260,000.00 per day. While we remain hopeful that the state will approach us and attempt to settle, they have stated they will appeal this verdict to the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court.
From the time Tillamook County was established, logging and timber were mainstays of our natural resource based economy. Logging practices from the turn of the 20th century, 50 years ago, or even 15 years ago, are not the sustainable forestry practices being practiced today. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program is a comprehensive set of principles, objectives, and performance measures designed to assure that those who adhere to the program manage their forests in a socially acceptable, environmentally responsible, and economically prudent manner. In short, the SFI program is about ensuring that our management and utilization of the forests today will not negatively impact the resources and values associated with the forest (air, water, soil, fish and wildlife, etc) nor will these activities jeopardize the enjoyment or use of these same forests by future generations. The program defines how the forest and related resources shall be protected, sustained, and even enhanced. So, can we step back and say we are now doing everything we need to do to protect the greatest renewable resource we have in Tillamook County? No...this is an ongoing process that will continue to improve and strengthen our connection to the land.
You cannot think of Tillamook County and not think dairy. Dairy farms in Tillamook County are family owned and operated businesses with most of these families having farmed here for multiple generations. It is truly a family affair where each member of the family is involved in some way or another with the daily chores. And these farmers wear multiple hats during the course of the day. One minute they are accountants, the next a mechanic, then an engineer, or veterinarian, or scientist, or animal nutritionist, and the list goes on and on. This goes on day after day, all day every day. Dairy farming is more than just a job, it's a way of life. With a fast growing global population with an ever increasing appetite for dairy products, efficiency and sustainability are foremost in the minds of our farmers. The challenges facing our dairy farmers are immense and include loss of productive farm land to the ever growing encroachment of development or wetland conversion. Increasing pressure from land use and water quality regulations, tidegate and levy program restrictions, as well as a myriad of environmental mandates make it more and more difficult to continue the family business. Technologies and marketing strategies are available to help coastal farmers and ranchers extend the growing season and develop distribution channels, but they are more expensive than for producers in less isolated areas. All this is occurring as dairy is listed as the top agricultural product on the Oregon Coast according to a recent study by OSU. It is amazing how interrelated Tillamook County's natural resource based economies of dairy, timber, and fishing truly are. These industries have now shown that by collaborating with each other, better outcomes can be had by all. I am committed to sustaining the farming way of life in Tillamook County. You can watch my testimony before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee here:
When you talk to long-time fishermen in Oregon, they will tell you their industry is dying a slow death by a thousand small cuts. A new regulation here, a closure there, and new restrictions everywhere. I believe many of the "cuts" come from a misunderstanding of the sustainable nature of Oregon's fisheries. A few years ago, Onno Husing, then Director of Oregon Coast Zone Management Association (OCZMA), produced a documentary entitled "Oregon Ocean Fisheries, A Conservation Story". This film, broken down into 13 segments can be found here (https://vimeo.com/27353736). This hour long film provides dramatic images of the steps undertaken by Oregon fishermen to make sure that their children and grandchildren will have natural, viable fishing grounds that will help feed the world. It started back in 1996 when Congress passed the Sustainable Fisheries Act. It stated that the marine environment and long-term productivity of fishing stocks come first. Following almost a decade of the families of fishermen losing their boats, homes, and livelihoods, Oregon fishermen started thinking, and fishing, in new ways. This new thinking has produced a remarkable turnaround in Oregon fisheries...but the story was not getting out. This film documents what was being done and the remarkable turnaround in sustainable Oregon fisheries.
First and foremost, the county is spending our tax dollars and they must be managed responsibly. Fiscal responsibility is more than just a catch phrase that everyone is in favor of. When you look at the upcoming budget constraints facing Tillamook County, it is time to have the conversation about what is necessary for us to fund and what is not essential and what is not. These discussions may not be pleasant, but critical to the future outlook for Tillamook County.
In 2009, I became aware of a program offered by the State of Oregon called the Healthy Kids Program. This program allowed all children under the age of 19 to receive free or reduced cost health insurance, including prescription drugs, dental, optometric, and mental health. I noticed very few people in Tillamook County were aware of this new program and when I approached Commissioner Labhart with my concerns, he immediately convened a meeting including county-wide health care professionals. Upon the conclusion of this meeting, we had the beginnings of a framework to roll out the Healthy Kids Program across Tillamook County.
Let's Talk With Van Moe
Jane Scott Video Productions has released my interviews with Van Moe. Many thanks to Van and Jane for making this an easy and truly enjoyable experience.
You can access the videos here: https://tctv.viebit.com/#4T5oRgHOU94R
Tillamook County has always been natural resource dependent when it comes to its traditional industries. These include fishing, forestry, and dairy. We must not allow our traditional, family wage job industries die a slow death by a thousand cuts. When you take a close look at each of these areas, it is not business as usual for any of them. Great strides have been made in each area to overcome practices which were not in sync with today's realities. We must not view our traditional natural resource based industries in terms of business practices of the last century, but rather in terms of where they are today and what they will look like in the very near future. Let's look at each individually and explore the challenges and potential of each, while we also explore added dimensions possible for Tillamook County.