A sustainable, strong local economy is the backbone of healthy communities. Tillamook County is home to hundreds of hard-working, dedicated small businesses, each of which is striving to build a respectable business enterprise.
One of the things I like most about Tillamook County is that the local economy does not rely on one industry, but stands on several legs. Farming put the county on the map, and remains a vital driver in the local economy, but also important are the traditional pillars of timber and fishing. In recent years tourism and the service industry have grown to represent a fourth pillar in the local economy.
We need to work hard, both behind the scenes and publicly, to ensure that each of these four pillars of the economy can function not only in harmony with each other, but also in harmony with themselves, in a sustainable fashion. We have to admit that we will never return to the days when thousands of loggers camped in what is now the Tillamook Forest, and sent logs down by rail to a host of sawmills lined up along Hoquarton Slough – but that doesn’t mean we have to turn our back on this industry! A sustainable timber industry translates into long-term jobs, which support future generations, just as sustainable agricultural practices translate into higher yields and better jobs for the next generation of family farmers.
Tourism has and will continue to grow, so we need to make sure we are prepared for it and growing with it. We need housing and restaurants not only for visiting tourists, but for local families as well – and local residents enjoy paddling on a kayak to explore Botts Marsh or Netarts Bay just like visitors from out-of-state.
Additionally, we need to recognize that unions have a valuable role to play in our society, and are responsible for many of the advances in workplace safety that we take for granted today. Employees should not be denied the right to organize. Moreover, it is our job, as leaders, to work together with unions, and create a better working environment for our employees and our community. The union should be an ally, not an opponent.
Climate change is reality, and humans are partially responsible for it. We need to stop debating its existence, and rather work to prepare for the consequences, and reduce emissions so that the results are lesser.
Oregon’s recycling programs were hit hard by the Chinese government’s crackdown on materials in 2017, known as the National Sword. We were able to avoid most of the problems in Tillamook County, and had only to modify the sort for certain plastics. Some plastics are no longer accepted, but continuing to work on solutions for those materials will mean that we may someday again be able to accept them for recycling.
Three years ago I started organizing groups to clean up microplastics from our beaches. Hundreds of volunteers have contributed thousands of hours to removing these harmful bits of plastic from Tillamook County beaches, from Manzanita to Neskowin.
We need to acknowledge the success of expanded producer responsibility (EPR) programs, and require manufacturers to accept responsibility for their products at end-of-life, including the rollout of additional EPR programs for their products. The phonebook is full of companies that have made changes in European markets based on such programs, but refuse to make the same changes in the U.S., even though those changes would reduce the quantities of waste generated, and benefit the environment.
The wetlands and estuaries are an integral part of Tillamook County’s ecosystem, and I will continue to support efforts to keep that ecosystem healthy and diverse.
The inadequacy of affordable workforce housing is a problem communities across the nation are experiencing. We are no exception, except we have acknowledged that we have a problem, while other communities are still in denial, or ignoring the issue.
I supported the Construction Excise Tax in 2017, which would have provided a funding source for critical progress in this area.
The problem hasn’t gone away.
We need to address the issues that came to the surface during the process, and regain the momentum we had going. Partnerships need to be not only forged, but deepened, leading to success stories, and additional housing for hardworking members of our community.
Tillamook County abounds in natural wonders, but also in potential disasters. We must take steps to better prepare ourselves for those disasters.
I have worked closely with the Oregon Department of Forestry in implementing their “Defensible Fire Space” program, and enabling significant quantities of yard debris to be composted, rather than subjected to burn risks.
I have spearheaded the county’s efforts to develop a Disaster Debris Plan, preparing communities throughout Tillamook County with collection locations that can be used following a major earthquake.
Following the Manzanita tornado in 2016, I worked with DEQ to make sure that over 290 tons of woody debris was not simply burned, but collected and composted.
As a city councilor in Bay City, I have worked to organize efforts to prepare citizens and organizations for emergencies, based on the model that has been successful for the Emergency Volunteer Corps of Nehalem Bay (EVC).
One of the obstacles we face is the ability to communicate with each other following a significant disaster. Cell phones have become the norm, but cell phone service is overloaded on busy summer holidays, not to speak of following a disaster. We need to invest in radios and emergency communications throughout the county, so that we can coordinate our activities in times of needs.