The county is on the job

My View • Public safety measures support sheriff and DA

I was both surprised and pleased to read your June 2 editorial titled 'Safety's the key to quality of life.' Surprised because I wonder where you've been while Multnomah County has been making progress on public safety, and pleased to see so much of what I and others at the county have been working on affirmed by the Portland Tribune.

You say: 'Multnomah County commissioners should take immediate action É' on public safety, and 'Multnomah County has failed to deal with this matter over the past five years.'

With all due respect, rubbish. Let me share just some of our many public safety accomplishments.

• Because of the investment in research-based best practices in alternatives to incarceration, Multnomah County now enjoys the lowest re-arrest ('recidivism') rates of parolees, sex offenders and juvenile gang offenses in the state. Our re-arrest rates are also lower than the national average.

• In May last year, I proposed adding 114 jail beds to our system that had been shuttered for lack of funds. Along with Commissioner Lonnie Roberts, I beat that drum until the beds were finally opened in December. Those beds resulted in an immediate and sustained reduction in early release of offenders ('matrixing'), and increased our capacity to process thousands of additional offenders in a year.

• Last year, for the first time in the history of either jurisdiction, the county proposed and entered into a joint budgeting process on public safety with the city of Portland. We are now well on our way in exploring possible efficiencies, enhanced coordination and even possible consolidation within our respective public safety systems as we continue that process today.

• Along with District Attorney Mike Schrunk, the Citizens Crime Commission, Sheriff Bernie Giusto and others, I have called for opening 150 beds at Wapato Jail during fiscal year 2007, and have developed a plan to do just that in my executive budget for less than $3 million. Opening Wapato is the next logical step in further reducing early release of offenders and ensuring that every crime carries a consequence.

• In a year that Multnomah County will lose $32 million in general funds from the end of the temporary income tax ($16 million of which funded public safety), my executive budget keeps the district attorney's budget virtually whole and provides the sheriff's office with $9 million (10 percent) more in resources.

• Finally, because we know that prevention is far more cost-effective than intervention, the county has grown one of the nation's premier prevention models for youth and families. Our nationally lauded SUN Schools program is reaching thousands of at-risk or low-income children and families every year with programming that's been demonstrated to help prevent problems before they start.

Is there still more to do? Of course there is. But this partial list of recent accomplishments isn't talk about public safety Ñ it's action. And it's action that I and others at the county have been pleased to have been taking for years now.

Diane Linn is chairwoman of the Multnomah County Commission.