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Clackamas public safety tax has a slim lead

Sheriff is 'cautiously optimistic' of passage

By an ever-increasing margin, the Clackamas County five-year Public Safety Operating Local Option Tax apparently has passed.

'We are cautiously optimistic,' said Sheriff Craig Roberts as he monitored the unofficial results from Carpenter's Local 1388 in Oregon City. Election results were slowly trickling out of the Clackamas County Elections office Tuesday evening.Results were slowed because ballots from Sandy, Estacada and Hoodland arrived fairly late at the elections office

As of Friday morning, the tax was ahead 70136 votes (53.13 percent) to 61,861 (46.87 percent).

'We are far ahead from where we have been in the past,' said Roberts, noting recent sheriff's tax measures have failed in Clackamas County.

Clackamas County Ballot Measure 3-246 will provide funds to re-open jail beds, restore and supplement the number of sheriff's patrol deputies and fund a key program to combat methamphetamine abuse and related criminal activity.

Currently, Clackamas County has among the fewest jail beds in the state for housing inmates. Per 1,000 population, the national average is 2.5 inmate beds. The Oregon average is 2.3. Currently, Clackamas sits at .9. With the measure's passage, the average will only go up to 1.2.

Since 2002, 84 existing jail beds in the Clackamas County Jail have sat unused for lack of funding while crowding has caused early release of many prisoners. Inadequate space at the jail resulted in the release of more than 3,900 prisoners in 2005. Passage of the measure allows Roberts to reopen those 84 existing jail beds.

Late Tuesday Roberts was reluctant to say the measure had passed, noting that a number of votes remained to be counted.

Still, he was hopeful.

'This is definitely going in the right direction,' he said.

'We are far ahead from where we have been in the past,' said Roberts, noting recent sheriff's tax measures have failed in Clackamas County.