Sunday, August 5, 2007

Thank You For The Support

There is a lot of controversy going on after what I consider some cheap shots at me and my office. I try to be a straight-talker and here I’ll try to be a straight-writer.
I've now served as Clatsop County's DA for going on 14 years. I was just re-elected to a fourth term and I have never had the kind of response that I have experienced in the last couple months. No matter where I am -- in the market, the dry cleaners, the post office, a restaurant or just on the street -- a citizen, often one who has never met me, will touch me on the shoulder and say, "Hang in there, Josh. We're with you." I am humbled by this incredible support.
I deal in a business that is conflict-rich and I get all the conflict I need in the courtroom. It benefits neither me, my staff, nor county government to be embroiled in constant dispute. But some things are worth fighting for. The independence of the office of District Attorney is worth it.
Amending the Charter was not my idea. I’m not sure who first thought of it but the idea caught fire with a lot of people. I’m not a member of the committee that is working to get the proposed amendment onto the November ballot, although various of its members have sought my counsel about exactly how the county budget process works and how I have been involved in it.
As you might expect, I enthusiastically support the efforts of the Committee. I won’t be DA forever, but I will be for the at least the next three-and-a-half years. I’ve worked the legislature trying to get more state funding for fair pay for elected DAs and to help the counties fund prosecutors’ offices. We’ve had some success, but not much. Maybe this grass-roots movement will help convince the legislature that ensuring their county is represented by an independent District Atttorney, one who is not subject to personal and political pressure, is an important issue, and one to which it should respond.
Many people have asked me how they can help. The Committee will have only two-and-a-half days to collect at least 1200 signatures, starting about noon on Monday. Several of them have taken days off from work. They need your help. Here is some contact information. Call or write now:
  • IndependentDA@gmail.com
  • Larry Taylor, President -- 971-235-7164 -- lawrence_d_taylor@yahoo.com
  • Sky Olsen, Treasurer -- 791-4973 -- sky_olsen@charter.net
Additional local contacts are given on the Committee’s website at http://www.independentda.com/waystohelp.html.
Their site also includes a comprehensive archive of news articles and editorials, and answers a long list of Frequently Asked Questions.
The issue is simple -- Should the DA's salary be free from local political whims? -- and I hope that the last-minute, vexatious attempts to delay a November vote will not prevail.
I’ve run a fiscally-sound county department for more than a dozen years. This year, as before, I came in under budget (about $55,000 this year). Every year I meet all the requirements and deadlines embedded in a long and elaborate County budget process. I’m an elected official accountable really only to the voters of Clatsop County, but I’m dependent on the County Commission to fund virtually all the DA’s office. This sets up a natural tension that results, among other things, in my budget discussions with and presentations to the County generally being more detailed than any other office.
Some claim that I don’t cooperate with the process or that I don’t supply performance measures. The record speaks for itself.
I submitted performance measures to the County Manager in late January and never heard any complaint from his office or any of the County Commissioners. The only issue on the table was whether the County would provide stable, long-term funding for the two additional personnel -- one lawyer and one trial assistant -- the County had allowed me to hire beginning in December 2006, to help service the workload that would come with the new, full-time, third judge who would be starting in January 2007. It’s not so easy to hire people, particularly lawyers, when you have to tell them that the position may be good only for the next six months. And it’s tough on everyone -- the office staff, the judges, the victims of crimes -- when you can barely get a new lawyer trained before she or he is out the door.
I invited both Jeff Hazen and Ann Samuelson, as new commissioners, to my office four days before the Budget Hearing to discuss that issue in particular and to see whether they had any other concerns about my budget. They made no promises about funding the positions and expressed no additional concerns.
I was therefore completely speechless -- rare for me -- when Jeff Hazen made his surprise, philosophically-based proposal to remove the County’s supplement to my own income -- a 16 percent pay cut -- and when it was seconded and approved.
It seems this fundamental unfairness is what has motivated the Committee and its many volunteers.
I thank them, I thank you, for your support and kind words. (See also editorials in the Oregonian and the Register-Guard.)
You can be sure I will continue to passionately advocate for I believe is true and just.


1 comment:

  1. Another question a person should ask? What do we as people in a democracy feel what justice is worth? Is justice or democracy for someone that wears a fancy two piece over a pair of lee logging pants? What I saw today at the Clatsop County Court house was elected county commissoners that were dressed as people but left me with a taste of a three ring circus with The court jester missing! Thank you all for having the courage to fight for something that is worth fighting for! And not backing down. I am moving to another State but at least I am happy and proud to have known the best District Attorney around with morals and high respect.. Luke A. Rummell

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