|Candidate profile: Tom Huxley|
|Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer|
|April 29, 2014 08:48 pm|
Tom Huxley of Harbor has attached his platform to the proposed Home Rule Charter, also on the May 20 ballot.
He said he preferred to submit his comments by email, noting that his concerns are not prioritized.
“This list was vitally important more than two years ago when they were originally submitted to county officials, and it remains very important,” Huxley wrote of the Citizens Committee’s 19 recommendations to solve the county’s fiscal problems. “It’s appalling to me the questions were never answered. If commissioners had really wanted citizen input when they asked for volunteers to participate, they would have jumped at the opportunity to respond.”
Huxley’s main concerns include elected officials and transparency in their work, employee benefits, consolidation of the 911 systems in the county, and reorganizing departments.
He also and the proposed home rule charter, which he strongly supports.
As commissioner, Huxley proposes to create an “understandable, workable county organizational chart” and consolidate departments he believes are top-heavy.
For example, he said there are 115 county employees, of whom 60 work under the sheriff or road department that Huxley feels is currently run well. That leaves 55 — of which 25 are elected officials, or managers, supervisors, directors and department heads — overseeing about 30 rank and file employees.
Another issue Huxley has with the county is the cost of benefits. He said that prior to June 2001, employees all paid 6 percent of their Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), but commissioners changed that to put that obligation — including their own contribution — in the hands of taxpayers. If it were reversed, he said, it would save the county $300,000.
Health insurance benefits are also too expensive, he said.
“My recommendation is to increase the deductible of the current ‘Cadillac or Rolls Royce’ plans and cap the taxpayer contribution at $6,000 per year per employee,” Huxley said. “Savings would be approximately $625,000 per year.”
Commissioner transparency with public meeting law and obtaining documents is another issue Huxley outlined in his email.
He said state law bans meetings such as the one Commissioners David Itzen and David Brock Smith had during which they discussed the political action committee opposing the Home Rule Charter.
“Itzen’s response to the question was, ‘We can meet for lunch,’” Huxley wrote. “‘We can go to these (debate) occasions. Susan’s back there (in the audience). It’s not a problem. The problem would be if you discussed business that you know is coming up. That would be a violation of the law.
“Commissioner Itzen apparently is of the belief that being a co-founder of a committee opposing measure 8-76 and being active in discussions and deliberations on that subject with Commissioner Smith and others out of the public view is OK because that subject will not come before county commissioners for discussion and possible decisions by them in the future,” he wrote. “The Oregon Attorney General’s Public Records and Meetings manual is quite clear in what constitutes a public meeting and what is subject to proper notice.”
And the Home Rule Charter, he believes, will make or break his candidacy, he said.
“I support the Home Rule Charter Measure 8-76,” he said. “But my position is that any form of government, be it general law or home rule, is only as good or bad as those individuals who are in the elected or appointed positions.”
He’s angered by the misinformation he alleges the opponents are spreading about the charter.
“For weeks there has been unfounded accusations that a home rule charter is very difficult and expensive to change,” he wrote. “Many citizens have said after reviewing the procedure required to amend a charter, it appears very clear-cut.”
In his email, Huxley did not provide any ideas regarding the county’s fiscal status and the means by which to solve those problems, but believes the restructuring of the county’s government is a foundation on which to begin those discussions. He also said the voters have spoken, and taxes are not the solution to the county’s woes.
“Solutions come with answers that come with the foundation (of government),” he said. “The question asked over and over is ‘Why hasn’t this been done years ago?’ And the short response is, ‘It could not be accomplished under the current tax situation.’”
And while he seems to some to be little more than an irate citizen spewing complaints, Huxley says he’s passionate.
“I’m honest, I have integrity, I say what I believe,” he said last month. “I’m not politically correct; that’s a disaster. That’s not being transparent.”
More information can be found on Facebook at Tom Huxley for Curry County Commissioner.