A battle for Curry County Commissioner Position 2.
Brock Smith has a plan to use the renewable and sustainable wind resources in northern Curry County to help solve the county’s economic difficulties.
“In south county if there’s just a little breeze, it’s blowing in north county. Using that, the county could be making money and saving money for the residents,” he said.
His solution is to build a series of wind turbines across northern Curry County, selling the electricity produced to states that must meet federal requirements for renewable energy.
“The entire infrastructure could be paid for using tax credits,” Smith said. “There’s no liability to the county. The county starts making money and would create many jobs during the construction phase and after the turbines are producing.”
Smith, of Port Orford, is one of five candidates for the nonpartisan Commissioner Position 2. The other candidates are incumbent George Rhodes of Brookings, former commissioner Lucie La Bonté of Gold Beach, Randy Dubbs Dowler of Brookings and Leroy Blodgett of Brookings.
“I believe this is the answer rather than ‘Well we don’t have enough money to fund county government,’” he said.
“The current commissioners want to raise taxes. I don’t believe in that. We could harness just one of our natural resources. We could get into an agreement to solve the financials in our county and exceed it. The county could actually be bringing in quite a bit of revenue from this one natural resource.”
He said the turbines would be in north Curry County.
“I, being a third generation resident of Curry County, understand not only north county but Brookings and Gold Beach,” he said.
Smith said he has been working on a similar plan for Port Orford that could be expanded for the whole county.
“I think there’s a big disconnect between our residents and county government. I really believe the commissioners ought to address the people of the county in every way they can – in council meetings to let other elected officials know what’s going on in county government, and other organizational meetings, such as Rotary, Lions, Chambers of Commerce,” Smith said.
“They need to really connect with the citizens of the county because they are the ones who elect us to office and are the ones we serve,” Smith said. “The more information they have and the more informed they are, the better able for me to do my job. I’ve always had an open ear in public service and will continue to do so.”
Smith is president of the Port Orford City Council, a member of the Port Orford-Langlois School Board, and Port Orford & North Curry County Chamber of Commerce board where he was the president for six years. He also serves on a number of other local and county boards and committees. He is manager of a family restaurant.
“I believe transparency in our county government is so important,” Smith said.
“One of the reasons I have been upfront and open with this plan, to harness wind resources, I want people to know up front what’s going on,” he said.
“When I proposed the plan for Port Orford, one of the first people I called was the president of the Audubon Society to see if the place I proposed is avian friendly, with the least avian destruction,” Smith said.
“Coos-Curry Electric has the ability to also get revenue from this project through the movement of the energy on their lines to the grid. By doing so, there would be a new revenue source for our own electric co-op, which would help stabilize the price of electricity for all the residents who rely on the co-op,” he said.
Leroy Blodgett says he believes that Curry County’s immediate effort should be in planning for the future, not how to raise more money to remain the same.
“We must ask ‘Is the financial condition of the county truly a crisis to be fixed with more taxes, or is it an opportunity to redefine and reshape the county government?’” he said. “Status quo should not be an option. If a tax is approved and there is no plan, we can expect only more of the same and we know that doesn’t work. We need to choose another option.”
Blodgett, of Brookings, is one of five candidates for Commissioner Position 2, now held by incumbent George Rhodes of Brookings, in the May 15 primary election. The others in the nonpartisan contest are Rhodes, former commissioner Lucie La Bonté of Gold Beach, David Brock Smith of Port Orford and Randy Dubbs Dowler of Brookings.
“We need to explore and take advantage of the opportunities provided by our natural resources,” Blodgett said.
“This could be everything from eco-tourism to obtaining and/or managing timber property to assisting our fishing industry. This will not only increase revenue, it will provide jobs so people can afford to pay the necessary taxes,” Blodgett said.
“It is through proper management of our natural resources, not higher taxes, that Curry County will prosper and meet the challenges ahead,” he said.
Blodgett said that he believes Curry County should operate with a county manager, a commission which is volunteer (with paid expenses), and fewer elected officials.
“Commissioners should be setting policy, establishing goals, and considering ordinances which all provide the general direction for the county’s future,” Blodgett said. “The county manager is the professional coach who should be responsible for carrying out these policies and goals including building a team of employees.”
He said this would save a small amount of money in the short term, but the increased efficiency would save much more in the long term.
“This is the same way a city operates under the council-manager form of government and it works well,” Blodgett said. “It is also similar to a large corporation with a board of directors and a CEO.”
After graduating from school in Ithaca, New York, Blodgett started his career as a small business owner.
“In 1976, I moved to Texas and began working on large construction projects,” he said. “I eventually became a project manager for Atco Structures.”
He said he was working near Rifle, Colo., in 1982 on an oil shale related project.
“On May 2 of that year, Exxon laid off 10,000 people and an additional 15,000 were laid off from other companies,” Blodgett said. “All of western Colorado was devastated. Buildings were left unfinished, businesses closed, community projects stopped and unemployment rose to an all-time high.”
Blodgett said the small town of Silt, Colo., came to him after their project manager left and asked if he could help them finish their sewer plant.
“I did, and eventually became their town manager. That was the beginning of a 20-plus year career in city management,” he said.
“In 1987 I moved to Oregon and managed the cities of Myrtle Creek, North Bend, and Brookings. I was also the business manager for the Cow Creek Tribe and helped them finance and build the Seven Feathers Casino and Hotel, plus nine other businesses,” Blodgett said.
“I managed local government during the downturn of the timber industry, when we had over 14 percent unemployment and through the Measure 5 implementation, which drastically changed and reduced the property tax system in Oregon,” he said.
Blodgett said that in 2005, he began Eagle Two Development Corporation, which has helped many small and large property owners through the bureaucracy of the land use permitting process.
“I know my many years of experience in private development and local government will help to meet the challenges ahead and realize a successful future,” Blodgett said. “I am asking the voters of Curry County to allow me the opportunity to help change the status quo.”
George Rhodes says he believes government is now expected to do too much, taking over roles that the community once had and raising the costs for its citizens.
“My basic philosophy is I believe in small government,” Rhodes said. “We have become such an entitlement-minded nation, we forget our roots – community support, not government support.”
Rhodes of Brookings, who was elected as a county commissioner four years ago, is seeking a second term. He is one of five candidates in the May 15 Primary Election.
The others are former commissioner Lucie La Bonté of Gold Beach, David Brock Smith of Port Orford, Randy Dubbs Dowler of Brookings and Leroy Blodgett of Brookings.
Unless one of them get a majority of the vote in the primary, the top two finishers will complete in the General Election in November.
“When I grew up, people didn’t look for handouts from the government,” Rhodes said. “When someone was out of work, the churches got together and provided the job.”
He said that dependence on the government is what got the nation where it is with deficit spending. That’s because the government is now supporting a bigger group of people.
“I’m not against government helping people in need of work, but we need to look at programs and see if it’s a better system if it’s out of government,” Rhodes said.
He said the county has been doing that.
“We began by getting Home Health and Hospice out of government, into the public. It has the opportunities for more revenues,” he said.
“I’m not against those served who needed.’
“The same with Health and Human Services. We’ve been looking at that for two years. Likely, in the near future, we will be able to move them to the public sector, which will enable them to pursue more funding,” Rhodes said.
“We need to continue downsizing government, while still providing what government should provide for the people – public service at a reasonable cost,” he said.
“My basic philosophy of government is, it doesn’t matter which administration or elected officials we have. It’s not about the title, it’s the people doing the job,” Rhodes said.
“If you have unqualified people, it doesn’t matter what the structure,” he said.
“The question we should be asking is, ‘Are the folks we are electing to office, are they qualified to meet the requirements of that office?’” he said.
“I think government is going to have to move toward a different model, a private-public partnership, so we don’t have to rely on a large tax base, particularly in a rural area,” Rhodes said. “We can’t keep going to the tax well and not expect it to go dry.”
Randy Dubbs Dowler
Randy Dubbs Dowler of Brookings says the county needs to cut spending and find a less expensive way to provide services.
“I’m against raising taxes – sales or property taxes – because the voters in the last election voted 3-1 against raising taxes,” he said. “It’s highly unlikely they will approve them, especially with the down economy.”
Dowler is one of five candidates in the May 15 primary. The two top finishers will meet in the November General Election unless one gets a clear majority in May.
“In Chicago, Jacksonville, Orlando, all these big cities are facing the same as Curry County. We need to cut spending. As a business owner, we’ve been doing that for the past 40 years. That’s what we do,” Dowler said.
He says he is running for commissioner to restore “a common sense approach to local government by cutting spending to match existing revenue.”
“The primary purpose of government is to protect and to serve the rights of the people that we already have and not the reverse,” Dowler said.
“The purpose for paying property taxes to government is to legally loan our collective rights to government in order to lawfully protect and to serve each and every individual citizen’s life, preserving the right to economic and political liberty, and upholding the pursuit of the quiet enjoyment of real property as citizens of Curry County,” he said.
Dowler calls for the Oregon Legislature to approve Bill 3305, introduced in the Legislature but not approved.
He said that measure would allow the Curry County general fund to collect up to a 10 percent fee for assessing, billing, collecting and distributing property tax revenues to each of the local taxing districts.
“This would prevent the county general fund from sinking into fiscal insolvency,” Dowler said. “Then, each of the local taxing districts would be financially responsible for how to best manage a 10 percent reduction in spending than previously expected.”
Dowler has a chemistry degree from the University of California San Diego and worked for Scripps Institution of Oceanography after college. He built surfboards for 10 years, then started a surfboard wax company. He currently operates Blinds and Draperies Express, building window coverings.
Lucie La Bonté
Lucie La Bonté of Gold Beach, who served as a county commissioner from 2001-2008, says she can help bring fiscal responsibility to Curry County if she is elected to the Board of Commissioners.
“I’m a very fiscally responsible person,” La Bonté said.
“We left with a $6.4 million carry-over,” she said of her last year in office. “Now, it’s down to $1.3 million in three years – from 2009 to 2012. We need to bring some fiscal responsibility back to the county.”
La Bonté is one of five candidates for County Commissioner Position 2. The others are incumbent George Rhodes, David Brock Smith of Port Orford, Randy Dubbs Dowler of Brookings and Leroy Blodgett of Brookings.
“We are in trouble again and need to make cuts and find the money,” La Bonté said. “Leadership starts at the top. Commissioners need to cut their salaries.”
She said the county was $600,000 in the red when she took office in 2001.
“Within six months, the budget was in the black,” she said, due to her leadership.
La Bonté said she introduced the county’s first financial plan and went after funding in the form of grants for county parks and other departments.
She said she worked with the Forestry Coalition to bring mitigation dollars for the loss of economic development and settlements on federal lands that constitute approximately 70 percent of the land base in Curry County.
La Bonté said she appreciated the work of the Citizens’ Committee which Feb. 1 made 19 recommendations to commissioners to help solve the county’s financial crisis, including one to hire a full-time, professional chief administrative officer to manage the day-to-day affairs of the county and allow part-time or volunteer commissioners to focus on policy making and long-term strategies.
“I do think we need to look at, because the government’s been reduced, we need to look if full time commissioners are necessary,” she said.
“I feel the committee was given a big task with a short timeline, with all the information they needed to read up on and learn,” she said.
La Bonté said she believes that leadership should start at the top.
“We ran the county on half the O&C funds in 2007 and put funding away,” she said. “I have great confidence in the employees in their ability to make the government work under extreme conditions. People know my record of persistence to bring home funding. If elected I will use my experience to do all I can for the people of Curry County.”
“One of the things I would like to do is raise the awareness of O&C funding. It’s not going to be easy to replace with property taxes,” she said.
La Bonté said commissioners must work with the Legislature to bring back the use of those timber lands.
“Economic development is very important,” she said, with the county needing to use the lottery funds provided by the state for that purpose.