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Time to break up the county's troika

Now that we have a faceoff in District 4 between incumbent Washington County Commissioner Bob Terry and former U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Furse, it’s critical for voters to know why the “troika” that has run the county for the last three years must be broken up.

All politics is local, and county governance comes down to simple math. If Furse wins in the May primary and District 2 Commissioner Greg Malinowski retains his seat, then the current 3-2 majority with its “insiders-only” mentality will change to a 3-2 majority for a more citizen-friendly government.

The county commission has declared itself to be guided by “three guiding principles: to provide services in the most efficient and effective manner; to remain accountable and responsive to the citizens; and to maintain Oregon’s sustainable quality of life.”

But to whom are the “troika” of Andy Duyck, Bob Terry and Roy Rogers really “accountable” and “responsive?” Since Duyck became chairman, it has become clear how the “troika” operates, what their priorities are and who they favor.

Here are some examples: the Fair Board has become a tool of Chairman Duyck, while the Washington County Fairground Boosters has been silenced; road expansion, despite protests from residents in Bethany and Cooper Mountain, is the name of the game; Intel dumped excess topsoil from its D1X fabrication plant in the Orenco area onto prime farmland over protests from local farmers; Intel was given building permits that resulted in emissions of potentially toxic industrial gases without full public disclosure; North Plains residents wanting to “stop the stink” were treated like second-class citizens under the pretense of being heard; the development community has been given the go ahead to build on “steep slopes” in North Bethany and South Cooper Mountain; county leadership supported “expedited land use” bills in the 2013 legislative session, curbing citizen involvement and violating the spirit of Senate Bill 100; and the county, through its lobbying in Salem, has given privileges to “big box” businesses over small businesses and family farms.

The board’s “big box” business-friendly bias belies the presumed commitment to efficient, accountable and responsive service to residents of the county.

Like all true believers, the “troika” feel they are serving the best interests of county residents. But their actions, not their words, say otherwise. Their actions to make Washington County a “big box” business-friendly county also marginalize small business, family farms and the working poor.

As believers in unlimited growth, the “troika” are committed to a one-dimensional view of economic development. As time goes by, the economic gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” in the county widens, as it has in the United States over the past 30 years. The old paradigm isn’t working.

Washington County needs a new vision framed by “smart growth” and public/private partnerships to get the corporate community to move beyond being profit centers to tackling the achievement and economic gaps in Oregon’s richest county.

Washington County is the bellwether county in statewide elections as it is the economic engine of Oregon. But there are two Washington counties: the well healed/connected, and the working poor/marginalized. To bridge the gap requires a more progressive majority that respects citizens and will end “good old boy” politics.

This is a critical election in Washington County. That’s why a choice between Bob Terry and Elizabeth Furse is important. The choices are clear: Support the big business status quo or vote for healthy and sustainable communities, social and economic justice, and open and responsive government.

Russ Dondero is professor emeritus for the Department of Politics and Government at Pacific University.

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