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Clackamas board candidates clash on style, substance

Incumbent Smith faces challenger Humberston in runoff for Position 4.

HUMBERSTONStyle and substance clash in the runoff between incumbent Tootie Smith and challenger Ken Humberston for Position 4 Clackamas County commissioner.

Humberston says Smith and Chairman John Ludlow, both elected in 2012, have confronted the Metro regional government and others repeatedly over land use and transportation policies.

“I think that demonizing Metro and blaming all of our problems on it is counterproductive, which I see my opponent and Mr. Ludlow tend to do,” Humberston said.

“Governments need to work together on behalf of the community. We could do more if we partner more. By having a confrontational relationship, too much time is wasted on those disagreements, rather than on finding common ground and solving the problem.”

Smith makes no apologies, even as she notes her efforts of working cooperatively with Metro and other agencies on different projects.

“If they want a doormat for other governments and special interests to run over Clackamas County citizens, they should vote for him,” Smith said.

“If they want somebody who stands up for the people of this county — who have been treated badly for many years by Metro — they should support me. If they want a leader who makes them warm and fuzzy, they should get a lap dog.”

Among other issues, they disagree about whether the region's urban growth boundary should extend south of Wilsonville across the Willamette River and into farmland that under a rural reserve designation is closed to development for 50 years.

Smith supported a study of additional land there and at two other sites for potential industrial development. Humberston said the county should work with cities to develop the 1,600 acres already designated for such use within the boundary.

They also clashed on a failed effort to block county contributions to construction of the Portland-Milwaukie light-rail line, which ultimately opened in 2015. A judge in 2013 ruled in favor of TriMet, the regional transit provider that sued the county, and Humberston called the county position "politically irresponsible."

As of mid-October, Smith had raised $77,000 for her campaign this year, Humberston $63,000, but Humberston had twice as much cash remaining as Smith, $29,409 to $13,904.

More contrasts

Smith, 59, is a fourth-generation Oregonian who owns a farm outside Molalla, where she raises hazelnuts. She was elected to an open seat on the county board on her second try in 2012, after a loss in 2004. She was in the Oregon House from 2001 to 2005 as a Republican from a district covering parts of Clackamas and Marion counties.

Humberston, 70, is a retired probation officer living in Beavercreek who has held a variety of jobs — “some people say I cannot keep a job, but I don’t do boredom well” — and has extensive local government involvement, including a stint as mayor of Dunsmuir, Calif.

Smith won 47 percent in the May 17 primary — just shy of the majority required to win outright — and Humberston 28 percent for the nonpartisan position. Sandy Mayor Bill King finished third.

“I feel I am more suited for this job than a California transplant who is coming up and trying to lie about my record,” Smith said.

“He has no accomplishments and no idea of what the county does. He was picked by (Commissioner) Jim Bernard to run against me, and they have teamed up to try to knock out John (Ludlow) and me.”

Bernard is running against Ludlow for board chairman Nov. 8, and Humberston said he and Bernard have endorsed each other.

Humberston said that unlike Smith, who lost a bid for the 5th District congressional seat in 2014 while in mid-term, he has no other aspirations.

“Everything I have done in my life has been oriented toward service at the local level,” he said. “This is the job I want, and the job I am most prepared for. I bring a skill set that includes cooperation, communication and common sense.”

What they have done

Smith said she is working for traditional farming and forestry, but also is one of the lead players in efforts to build a riverwalk and reopen the locks at Willamette Falls in Oregon City. The riverwalk project is a four-party agreement including the county and Metro, and Smith hopes it will lead to economic revitalization of an area hurt by the closure of the Blue Heron Paper Co. mill in 2011.

“I have seen the changes in the county, some of them good, some bad,” she said. “I want to make it a better and more prosperous place for the next generation.”

She also advocated county waivers amounting to $9.4 million in transportation development fees and property value to revive Eagle Landing, a mixed residential and commercial development near Clackamas Town Center on the western edge of Happy Valley.

“It has taken a long time because it is complicated,” she said.

She also helped arrange funding for a heritage coordinator, supported by county funds and state lottery proceeds, to encourage efforts to capitalize on the county’s pioneer heritage. Oregon City was the territorial capital before statehood.

Humberston said he stayed out of local politics until his 2011 appointment by county commissioners to the Clackamas River Water District board. It was described back then as Oregon’s most dysfunctional local government, largely because disputes among some board members led to a tangle of lawsuits that left the board without a quorum to do business.

The new board not only got the district back on track, Humberston said, it helped negotiate a settlement with Oregon City, which had gone to the state Land Use Board of Appeals to block a proposed compact between the district and the Sunrise Water Authority.

The district is now proceeding with an eight-year, $40 million project funded by a bond at a lower interest rate.

“We worked as a team, so you don’t see us in the newspapers anymore,” Humberston said.

“To me, that is what being a responsible politician is all about, sitting down with others and solving problems that your staffs cannot.”

Trading comments

Humberston criticized Smith for insufficient support of A Safe Place, which offers help for survivors of domestic violence and sexual and elder abuse, and information mailers about Measure 3-502 that renews a five-year tax levy for sheriff’s operations.

Smith said she voted for county budgets with money for the family justice center, which opened in 2013, and supports the levy on the Nov. 8 ballot. By law, elected officials can take stands on ballot measures, but public resources cannot be used for advocacy or opposition.

He also criticized Smith for a no-new-taxes stance unless put to a popular vote, saying that it has compounded the county’s problems in maintaining its 1,400 miles of paved roads.

“Nothing has been done until this year to address the revenue shortfall,” now approaching $17 million annually, he said.

While Smith is unapologetic about seeking voter referrals of tax increases, she supports the 6-cent fuel tax proposed Nov. 8 in Measure 3-509, as does Humberston, who said it is “a step in the right direction.”

Smith said people want a voice and a vote.

“There is a lot of anger in the electorate because they feel they do not have access to their government," she said. "We have had people who have testified before us and think we should adopt a certain position, and we have changed it or have sat back to see how it filtered out. But we take all opinions and we weigh them carefully. That is the best thing I can do as a leader.”

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