Multnomah County Commission
DEBORAH KAFOURY (Nonpartisan)The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners faces a far different challenge than its counterparts on the Portland City Council. For starters, unlike at City Hall, county commissioners don’t get bureau assignments. And rather than being elected by voters at large, each county commissioner has a district to represent. That requires a good deal of teamwork on the commission, and for each commissioner to exert a good deal of enterprise to get things done.
Deborah Kafoury has proven her ability since voters first elected her in 2008. She deserves credit for leading on perhaps the single biggest symbol of the commission’s past ineffectiveness: replacing the Sellwood Bridge. She led the effort to land federal funding for the new bridge, which, to the unbelieving eyes of many, is now actually under construction. Her commitment to other basic responsibilities for the county—social services and especially homelessness—makes her a vital advocate for the underserved in our area.
Her opponent is perennial candidate Wes Soderback, who offered few ideas and little understanding of what the county actually does.
Worst thing Kafoury has done for money: Having to dance at a recent “Dancing with the Stars” fundraiser for Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives.
JUDY SHIPRACK (Nonpartisan)
We would have liked to see a serious candidate give Judy Shiprack a real race for re-election. In our endorsement interview, Shiprack—a former legislator elected to the commission in 2008—proved articulate on issues of health care, mental-health services, housing and other key services the county helps deliver. She’s led the effort to transform a former Carnegie Library, known as the Wikman Building, into a community center near the intersection of Southeast Foster Road and Holgate Boulevard.
We remain concerned about the public’s need to mop up after a failed condo project she oversaw defaulted on a Portland Development Commission loan. We would like to have seen a serious candidate quiz her about her accountability in that project and her management at the county. Instead, voters got Patty Burkett, who during our endorsement interview struggled to explain her reasons for running and her plans if elected.
Worst thing Shiprack has ever done for money: Worked as a ship-repair apprentice at Swan Island.
Multnomah County Measure 26-125
(Library Levy Rollover)
Every day, about 35,000 people use Multnomah County’s 19 library branches in person or online. That’s about twice as many people that attend the average Timbers game. And library users are less prone to off-key, profane caterwauling.
Although they are a basic county service like jails and mental-health services, libraries have their own special revenue stream. About two-thirds of the library’s budget comes from a special levy, which expires June 30. This measure would continue the current rate of 89 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation ($222.50 annually on a home with $250,000 assessed value).
We’ve never liked the idea of giving the county’s most popular service its own revenue stream, but to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go with the tax structure you have, not the one you’d like to have.
County commissioners may soon ask voters to raise the tax to $1.19 and create a permanent library taxing district—we’re not sure that’s a good idea. But for this rollover of the existing tax, we vote “yes.”