Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bergin best bet for sheriff

Guest column
The Daily Astorian
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tom Bergin, Clatsop County Sheriff
There are almost half a dozen candidates running for the office of Clatsop County Sheriff.
There are only two countywide elected offices (other than judges).
They are the sheriff and district attorneys. I’ve had the privilege of serving almost 19 years as the district attorney and Sheriff Tom Bergin is the second sheriff with whom I have served.
Being the sheriff is much more than being another cop with more stars on your shoulder. Some of Bergin’s opponents have distinguished themselves as street cops, a worthy and much-needed skill. But that skill is very different from the leadership and management necessary for the county’s chief law enforcement officer. It is for that reason that I give my unqualified endorsement to Tom Bergin and urge Clatsop County voters to keep him in office another four years.
Most striking in the platforms of some of Bergin’s challengers are those who say they are opposed to the jail measure that is appearing on the same ballot May 15. I find it almost impossible to believe that anyone familiar with how dysfunctional our jail is would not at least encourage voters to take the first opportunity in a decade to remedy a situation that has been deteriorating since I took office. I invite them - or any citizen - to come any weekday to the 1:15 p.m. custody arraignments and watch who I recommend be released almost daily.
There have been a handful of studies, costing tens of thousands of dollars, all of which concluded we needed at least 90 to 100 more beds than we currently have. You don’t want all the beds filled. The system works best when there are at least some empty beds and people on probation (and 75 percent of convicted felons do not go to prison - they are supervised locally by probation officers) will know that. In most cases the judges we elect have given them a probationary sentence and are trying to wean them off drug and/or alcohol and get them into programs for employment, anger management and substance abuse. Right now it is not uncommon for someone to test dirty several times before there is any consequence. And I’m not talking about sending someone who keeps using meth to prison for three years. That doesn’t happen. I’m talking about a “micro-sanction” of maybe five to 10 days.
Research has shown that the swiftness and certainty of consequences is more important than its severity.
Jail is very different than prison. Most of the inmates are there because they are awaiting trial either on very serious charges or they have demonstrated no ability or willingness to show up for court dates. Jails are claustrophobic, tense and potentially dangerous places ... for both inmates and staff.
I know, I worked in the Eugene Jail when I was at the University of Oregon. Bergin’s proposal, adopted by all the County Commissioners and endorsed by all the current elected county officials, is a budget-minded remodel of existing facilities. It will cost less than half of what was proposed 10 years ago when we sought to build and entirely new facility in Warrenton.
Instead it takes the current jail, moves all the sheriff’s administrative functions and patrol offices to the existing community corrections division (formerly Transition Center) and in over two years remodels and extends the jail built in the late 1970s across the current parking lot, almost doubling the bed size.
This will allow several good things. Truth in sentencing - when a judge gives a third-time DUII driver (within four to five years) 90 days, they will actually serve the time (that is the presumptive felony sentence for someone’s third DUII plus a DUII diversion within 10 years). It will mean that the programs the probation officers try to make the inmates comply with will have negative consequences if they fail to follow through.
 No one wants to see our neighbors with problems fail. NInety-eight percent of them will be  our neighbors soon enough, and hopefully not using meth three times a day any longer.
Bergin has shown true leadership by first merging what were literally competing programs - the jail and Community Corrections and then spearheading - often quietly over the last four years - a sensible cost-efficient remodel that is affordable. Most of us who pay property taxes will see an increase roughly equivalent of what we pay for the bus system or about 1 percent of your overall property tax bill.
Sheriff Bergin has the respect and admiration of not just the people here in Clatsop County but in Salem and his fellow sheriffs across Oregon who named him Sheriff of the Year last year.
When we have had disasters, Bergin is out there in his 4-wheel drive, winching cars out of snowbanks and delivering water to small remote communities.
Bergin is no grandstander and it would be a real shame not to continue to benefit from his straight-talking and solid common sense.
Bergin and I disagree on some political issues, but a better sheriff we could not find.
Joshua Marquis has been Clatsop County DA since 1994 and was last re-elected in 2010.


  1. What, exactly, has Bergin done in Clatsop County that warrants his reelection? Please include only those things Bergin has done himself in the last six years, not the things done by Sheriff Raichl or the Chiefs of the cities in Clatsop County. And, please don't include things done by the OSAA, since everyone know the Sheriffs are all political and anyone who raises his hand in their organization is selected.
    Just so you know, I cannot think of anything Bergin has done as sheriff to benefit his constituants. He has not been visible in the area, he does not attend public meetings, he does not promote beneficial programs, he is not even articulate or intelligent. In fact, he is rude and inconsiderate. His jokes are profane and inconsiderate and his management ability is non existant.
    I realize, Josh, that he allied himself with you and you agreed to promote him.
    But, when it comes down to it, what has he done to earn his $100,000 a year?

  2. Bergin has brought professionalism to the office.
    He has actually cut positions, saved significant county money by consolidating positions and clearing out dead wood.
    He has kept the drug team afloat and viable despite the pull-out of Astoria.
    He made the gutsy but eminently sensible step of having community corrections and the jail under the same boss. Before they were literally fighting for who would get certain inmates.
    All due respect to John Raichl but the voters did not buy the $25 million deluxe new jail and sheriff's office so Bergin has developed a cost effective plan to use EXISTING facilities to handle twice the number of inmates, something every single study paid for over the last 15 years has said is essential.
    He sets a personal example by helping out during storms (not just the '07 Gale)
    You do NOT become OSAA President "by raising your hand" and that is reflected by the fact that some sheriffs are taken seriously by state leaders - like the Governor and Attorney General - and others less so. Bergin is in the first group. He got practical legislation passed (ever tried to get a bill through the legislature ANON?)such as getting trees that are likely to block emergency vehicles and cut off the county in a storm cut back from the right of way.
    I disagree with Tom on a lot of political issues. So what?
    He doesn't have a bunch of degrees. I do. Again, so what?
    He's honest, straight-talking, and he owes nobody but the citizens any allegiance.
    Just bringing the jail issue forward at the same time as his re-election is extremely gutsy in my opinion. I urged him not to, but he thinks it's important and that politics be damned.
    And finally, yes, Tom has backed me when the former County Commission tried to make my life miserable. The voters took care of them and Tom stood by me when I tried to get the City to do the right thing and let me handle DUIIs like I do for the other 6 police agencies in Clatsop County.
    He's a good, decent, hard-working man and the county would be less without him for Sheriff.

  3. Josh, I am surprised. For a guy that usually provides tons of details to back up his position, your comments on Bergin are big on grand sounding words but light on supporting facts. For example, what does "has brought professionalism to the office" actually mean? Bergin lacks professional credentials, so I can't imagine he uses himself as a model. What, then, exactly has he done.
    "Cut out the dead wood"? All those deputies hired by John Raichl are "dead wood". Who specifically has he eliminated, or at least how many of his personnel has he eliminated?
    Consolidate the jail and transition center under one head? Isn't is actually the fact that Bergin hated the head of the transition center as well as the concept of that center, so he used his political friends to destroy it? In reality, the function of the transition center is gone. Then we get to keeping the drug team afloat. Astoria did not pull out, it was never in it. News reports indicate that the drug team makes about two busts a year. Doing the math, that means we spend around $300,000 a bust. That is cost cutting?
    As far as the Oregon Sheriff's are concerned, it is a strictly political organization and it does strictly political things.
    Your argument sounds like it was copied from Bergin's press book. Or maybe, you actually wrote those statements for him, after all, he not only doesn't have a "bunch of degrees" like you, he has no degrees.
    It would be good if you could followup your generalities with some facts we can all see. Obviously, Bergin is not telling the news paper or radio about all these great things you say he has done.

  4. Josh,
    On Patrick McGee's website, Deputy Nelson states that the merger you say Bergin created between the jail and transition center did not occur. Instead, according to Nelson, Bergin created a new position at an additional cost of $83,000 to run a new division.
    What is the truth of this situation please?

  5. No, dead wood means that there were a FEW people who were allowed to remain after their usefulness had ended. Raichl was/is a very nice man, but "professionalism" does NOT mean degrees. (I have two - that doesn't guarantee my 'professionalism')

    The Transition Center as it was being run was a disaster. Not just Bergin but many people felt that way. Remember the indictment and conviction of an employee running a booze party after hours AT the TC?
    Or the fact that the TC went three times OVER budget or that the original plan was for the TC to make money by letting people who were willing to pay to stay there rather than go to jail simply did not work. And it was costing the county literally hundreds of thousands a year above and beyond their budget - something no other department (and I know because I have to run my department by county budget rules as well) would ever be allowed to do.

    Sorry, but Astoria PD WAS in the Drug Task Force back in the 90s and they were enormously helpful.
    They get major credit for - along with the Drug Team - changing the face of downtown Astoria from the Recreation Tavern and Eli's to something much much better.
    Finally, Mike Nelson's a nice guy too, without any management experience. The Sheriff's Office brought a separate county department - Community Corrections - and brought it in as a LESS expensive division of the Sheriff's Office (like about half of Oregon's counties). What we had before (and I watched it weekly) were literally fights over who got which inmates. Not productive.
    I can't be much more specific than this for someone who wanted even identify themselves (which I don't require for posting here.