A controversy that came up in late March was yet another reminder of why I decided to run for Clackamas County Commissioner, Position 5. It demonstrated, again, why the current incumbent is out of touch and supports values that are wrong for the county and its residents.
An organization called Reimagine Oregon was formed a couple of years ago and has made defunding law enforcement one of its top priorities. Its main webpage lists various jurisdictions in the Portland metropolitan area that are “participating” in their efforts.
The City of Wilsonville, where I’ve served as a city councilor for the past few years, is not included in that list of participating jurisdictions. However, Clackamas County is. In particular, the webpage names Commissioner Sonya Fischer.
Also featured prominently on the group’s website is its list of what it calls “policy demands.” They include defunding $50 million from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. A step in that direction was taken in June 2020, when that office had its budget decreased by $1.8 million by the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. That board is, of course, listed as one of Reimagine Oregon’s participating jurisdictions. Four of its five commissioners are listed on the Reimagine Oregon webpage by name.
Another “success” touted by Reimagine Oregon is the defunding of the East Multnomah Juvenile Gang Enforcement Team, as the Legislature removed its funding in the summer of 2020. So how’s that working for everyone? Because even the most casual observer can tell that Portland and its home county have become plagued by gang violence in the nearly two years since that was done.
Other policy demands include defunding the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and cutting $2 million from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. Fortunately, those jurisdictions haven’t been as quick to give in to Reimagine Oregon’s demands.
Reimagine Oregon also wants to eliminate school resource officers and stop all sweeps of homeless camps, regardless of their impact on public health and safety. The group wants to tie the hands of educators who have to deal with disruptive students who disturb the classroom environment by demanding the end of zero tolerance discipline policies in schools.
The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners had a discussion about Reimagine Oregon at its March 29 policy session. Fischer admitted that she has been meeting with Reimagine Oregon regularly for years.
Commissioners ended up voting 3-1 to disassociate Clackamas County from Reimagine Oregon. The sole dissenting vote came from Fischer. She became flustered and continued defending the group, claiming that she works with them on issues like maternal and behavioral health. If she’s really that concerned about those issues, there are multiple other organizations that work on them that don’t also advocate defunding law enforcement.
As a fifth-generation Oregonian, I don’t think this state needs to be “reimagined.” I think what it does need is new leadership.
Commissioner Fischer is showing us exactly why that new leadership is necessary. On one hand, she’s claiming to support law enforcement. But on the other, she is proud to stand with Reimagine Oregon and work with that organization to advance its agenda…which happens to include defunding law enforcement agencies like the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.
By contrast, I’m proud to be endorsed by the Clackamas County Peace Officers Association.
When it comes to law enforcement and its funding, there is no middle ground. There is no gray area. Either you support it or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways, though Commissioner Fischer certainly is trying to.
*If you’d like to find out more about or support the Ben West for Clackamas County Commission campaign, please check out our website at https://benwest22.com/