If the citizens want change, David Itzen says he’s got the team and the track record to do it.
That’s what he hopes sets him apart in the primary election May 20 — although he stands apart from his three opponents on almost every issue the county faces anyway.
“Part of my goal when I ran for election in 2011, I indicated I would attempt to form a team that would be effective in a variety of ways,” he said. “I think we’ve done that. I think we have a good team here; it works together without partisanship. It’s coalescing into a very effective one.”
He cites his experience at the Brookings-Harbor school board and that as county commissioner as ways he has built teams — collaboratives — that have led the agencies to success.
Through collaborations of stakeholders, he helped establish the Healthy Forest Collaborative that is working to jumpstart the timber industry.
He also helped create ReHome Oregon, which with NeighborWorks Umpqua is starting to replace manufactured home and repair other houses; and the Kitchen Table, a state-funded study to examine how Curry County residents feel about county services and taxes that pay for them.
Additionally, he is working with Commissioner David Brock Smith to determine the feasibility of wind-generated energy facilities in the north end of the county; and has brought to the county both a pyrolysis plant whose work fits into the forestry group’s goals and a gravity-fed pellet stove manufacturer.
Itzen said he and his board have listened to citizen complaints about county efficiencies, and to that effect have spun off many county departments to nonprofits, thus reducing county full-time-equivalent personnel by half.
“We have counties from many states call us to ask how we’ve done that,” he said. “To reduce personnel by 50 percent and yet not lose any jobs and maintain critical services — that’s innovation.”
He says that’s a central theme of his work as a commissioner.
And he discounts the idea that county management doesn’t work.
“People say that because we argue, therefore it’s dysfunctional,” he said. “It’s exactly the opposite. To disagree passionately is a strength of the public meetings. Warts and all, you see the way we think: Our disagreements, our attempts at compromise — there is vibrancy in the system when people feel passionate about it. To me, it’s a mark of health of the Oregon public meeting system.
“What you see in a commissioners’ meeting is like the last act in a play,” he added. “We may disagree on some issues, but we’re in agreement 95 percent of the time. In the beginning, I had some concerns, but I think it’s a good board. We’re all working together.”
On one contentious issue, the board is in agreement, and that is the Home Rule Charter, which the three commissioners vehemently oppose.
“I think they have hidden motives. … I don’t know what they are, but there’s a strong role being played by the leadership of Brookings,” he said. “You don’t find that very often that one government unit would attack another. I wonder about that.”
Regardless, he maintains that the proposed charter would not solve the county’s primary problem, which all involved agree means government finances.
“That’s the real problem: a lack of revenue,” Itzen said. “This (Measure 8-76) does nothing to address the problem. It’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic — why? Because it looks good? It has no relevance to the current problem — even the proponents say that.”
He supports Sheriff John Bishop’s idea of a property tax increase of 68 cents per $1,000 valuation that raises money solely for the jail.
“When you have an organization that has failed, as this organization — the county — is failing, it’s because it hasn’t kept up with the economy,” he added. “If you don’t keep raising prices when costs go up, then when you do, it’s a substantial increase. Here, we haven’t kept up over the years.”
He believes the entire document is flawed — “And I mean from one end to the other.”
He cites the belief that the county would be paralyzed if it is forced to operate with a board of four for a year and that the document was crafted “in secret in someone’s living room,” rather than in a public setting by people appointed by elected officials as is the county’s group examining the feasibility of such governance.
He said hiring an administrator will cost the county more than what it pays now for three commissioners, and that appointing department heads rather than electing them entails giving up the right to vote.
“It’s tremendously flawed,” he said. “It’s a poor way of making a change. I am not against a charter — I moved to appoint the (county) charter committee. But this 8-76 is a mess; just a mess. At best, it’ll make a difficult situation much more difficult.”
For more information, visit www.electdaviditzen.com.