Opinion » Editorial

If time is money, Deschutes County Commissioners may care less about yours than they say they do

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Most people have heard the phrase, "time is money." If that is true, it might follow that people who profess to be "fiscally responsible" would take the time—and the time of others—into consideration when attempting to be fiscally responsible.

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In the case of the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners, it appears that the phrase only applies when they want it to. Two recent events demonstrate that at least some Commissioners feel justified spending all the time in the world on items that butt up against their ideology. One pertains to the Commission's slow and inconsistent handling of committee appointments. The other pertains to the Commission's recent attempt to adopt new, stricter regulations on recreational marijuana grows in the County.

As far back as December 2017, Eileen Kiely submitted her first application for a seat on the County's Audit Committee. Following an interview process, the Audit Committee recommended her for the position in February 2018. It's a position that seems well-suited for Kiely, a former executive for Daimler-Chrysler, who's also the Democrat who ran against Jack Zika in the House District 53 race this past November. Meeting notes from February 2018 indicate Commissioners had some questions about whether, should Kiely have won the House 53 race, the Audit Committee position would stand in conflict with the House position. In any case, she didn't win the House race, and the Commission appointed another person for the Committee spot in June 2018.

This November—after the election was completed and Kiely had lost—another spot opened on the Audit Committee. Kiely applied again, and in December, the Audit Committee once again recommended appointing her. Despite the fact that committee members had twice recommended Kiely, Commissioner Phil Henderson stated, according to meeting notes, "he'd prefer a bigger pool" of candidates, and that the appointments should wait until the new commissioner, Patti Adair, came on board in January. Three people were in the running for the Audit Committee spot at that time.

In January, with Adair now on board, the Commission once again addressed committee appointments, approving two people to serve on the Fair Board during that meeting. A total of three positions were open, with nine candidates in the running—or a ratio of one spot to three candidates. On the Audit Committee appointment, however, Henderson recommended opening up the candidate pool once again, saying he felt there were not enough candidates to choose from. There were three candidates, including Kiely. Meeting notes indicate that Commissioner Tony DeBone reminded the Commission that the Audit Committee had already made a recommendation—of Kiely—yet Adair and Henderson both voted in favor of opening up the pool once again. DeBone voted against.

The Audit Committee serves a pivotal role of oversight in internal as well as external audits for the County, and it appears the Committee itself has seen value in appointing Kiely. Yet the two more ideological members of the all-Republican Commission would rather waste valuable time—and hence, money—in seeking a wider pool. This smacks of partisan politicking. As of now, the Audit Committee is still down a member.

Meanwhile, on Feb. 28, these same County Commissioners moved to revise their recently revised regulations surrounding recreational marijuana grows in the county. Legal experts cried foul on this one long ago: The County's new regulations, adopted in November, were too strict and would run afoul of Oregon's Right to Farm Act, they said.

"The Commissioners spent an outrageous amount of time and County resources in adopting the new regulations that they knew, from advice of County counsel and others, were not reasonable," said Jennifer Clifton of Clifton Cannabis Law, who, on Feb. 13, filed a Petition for Review with the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals on behalf of the Cascade Cannabis Association and the Deschutes County Farm Bureau, along with 10 other petitioners.

Now, Commissioners are going back to the drawing board with their cannabis regulations—costing Deschutes County more valuable time, and money.

This, from Commissioners who have promised to be responsible fiscal stewards for Deschutes County.

Narrow-minded parochial politics at the any level of government is a waste of both time and money, but at the County level it is a particularly unpleasant sight. Unfortunately, it appears that Deschutes County residents will be getting an eyeful as this current County Commission indulges itself increasingly in meaningless and costly partisan gestures

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