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What I learned in my first seven months

by: SUBMITTED - John LudlowAfter seven months in office as chairman of the Clackamas County Commission, I have identified several issues for Clackamas County and the region.

During my campaign for this office I was a staunch advocate for letting county voters weigh in on multimillion dollar expenditures and obligations considered by the jurisdictions that service them. In the past several years, thanks to a citizen referendum (Sellwood Bridge) and two voter initiatives (urban renewal and light rail), my beliefs were confirmed that voters want a voice in these financial matters.

Clackamas County Commissioners, and others, learned important lessons from these votes, but there are still more threats to taxpayers’ wallets out there.

The Columbia River Crossing is a failure that just won’t seem to go away. Perhaps it’s time for voters to have the opportunity to weigh in on that project. As former Clackamas County Commission Chairwoman Lynn Peterson said on behalf of the commission in a letter dated May 10, 2010, “These mega-projects do not reflect the priorities of the communities we are elected to serve.” Nothing has changed. I couldn’t agree more with her statement.

Metro is the planning authority for the Portland metropolitan area. This includes a great deal of Clackamas County. Metro is squandering its federal transportation dollars by chasing light rail instead of funding the expansion and enhancement of our important roadways. They’ve already burned through $10 million studying the Southwest Corridor. How about a public vote on that transit project too? And this time let’s vote before we spend millions more on a plan voters may not support.

I have learned to trust Clackamas County voters. I am very confident in Clackamas County voters’ ability to make wise financial decisions on these major projects. After all, it’s their money.

I’ve learned a great deal about TriMet. This public entity is more than $1.2 billion in debt, has drastically cut bus services and tells everyone that they’re going to be just fine. Really? Who but the public will pay this debt?

Wilsonville was the first city to withdraw from TriMet and subsequently build a cheaper, better and faster model transit system. Other transit models have been initiated by cities like Canby and Sandy. Why should Clackamas County businesses continue to send their transit taxes to downtown Portland when we could develop an award-winning transit program on our own?

The three counties that comprise Metro are all very different. Clackamas County will continue to partner with those who recognize that all three Portland metropolitan counties have different needs and our voters have different opinions and desires. The metro area can and should accommodate these diverse opinions and lifestyle preferences.

My plan is to keep listening and learning, and to keep trusting Clackamas County voters to make smart choices about their future. Stay tuned and watch Clackamas County to see how we hold ourselves accountable to the public we serve.

John Ludlow, Wilsonville, is chairman of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.



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