ON THE ISSUES...

Keeping Our Landfill & Low Local Rates:

 

One of the biggest controversies impacting Cowlitz County was whether to privatize management of the Headquarters Landfill. Initially, I supported the idea of looking at outside companies to run the system. Our city partners, as well as our industrial customers, though, opposed any change in management. It was quite an education for me.

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On-going Mt. St. Helens Eruption Recovery

The 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens displaced over 3 cubic miles of ash and debris into the atmosphere and the region’s river valleys, including a blockage of the Columbia River. The federal government authorized a $1 billion fifty-year recovery program to protect our county from flooding. By 2014 the Corps’ sediment retention structure (SRS) near Kid Valley was at capacity. With sediment continuing to flow down the Toutle and Cowlitz Rivers, we became concerned that the federal government is falling short in their responsibility to maintain appropriate flood protection.  To make matters worse, the emergency tunnel built as an outlet to Spirit Lake fell in need of serious on-going repairs. Fortunately, temporary repairs to the tunnel and planning to raise the SRS began.

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Road Improvements = More Salmon Habitat

 

I am also proud of our recent decision to increase road construction. For years our Public Works Department had squirreled away from your road taxes a “rainy day fund” equal to 100% of our annual road budget. Under new management at the department we have insisted on expanding road improvements.

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Fish Recovery

 

For at least ten years I have served on the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board. It has secured funding for over 300 salmon habitat projects on Washington tributary rivers and streams from Bonneville Dam to Fort Columbia.

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Tackling Homelessness

 

With around 1,000 folks losing their homes each year, the county is required by the state to develop a plan to address their needs. We have a very active volunteer task force that has crafted such a plan. Several dozen homeless live in encampments that move about the community. Their needs are particularly acute, usually with multiple disabilities, including mental illness and substance abuse.

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Methanol Plant Stalled for now

 

The huge $2 billion methanol development proposed for the Port of Kalama is still awaiting approval from the State of Washington, even though regional clean air permits as well as local county permits have been issued.

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Challenges with Recruitment and Retention

 

The sheer number of Gen X employees is about one-third less than either Baby Boomers or Millennials. Our HR department informed us several years ago that with wages and salaries still depressed from the Great Recession, we were constantly losing employees with considerable job experience to Lewis, Wahkiakum, and Clark Counties, as well as the City of Longview and PeaceHealth.

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Expanding Community Behavioral Health Treatment

As folks with severe mental health and substance abuse problems spiral out of control, the county picks up the tab as jails become defacto mental health institutions. To prevent that from happening, there are state-funded crisis intervention teams who hopefully de-escalate the crisis. Ideally, there should be local providers who are trained professionals in the treatment of mental illness and others who work with addiction treatment to prevent the crisis in the first place. But if that isn’t enough, eventually first responders have to stabilize them and get them into the emergency room or to jail.

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Medicaid Reforms or Rural Service Cuts

Under the Behavioral Health Organization (BHO) system, Gov. Inslee ordered private managed care insurance companies (MCOs) to administer Medicaid dollars from the state. His goal is to eliminate waste and control costs.

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Tourism and Recreation Opportunities

Cowlitz County continues to work toward quality of life improvements that can capitalize on our incomparable natural beauty, flora, and fauna, opportunities for hiking, biking, and water sports, and especially fishing and hunting. At the request of Cougar area businesses, I initiated county efforts to urge Pacificorp to extend hours at the campgrounds and boat launches along the Lewis River beyond the traditional Memorial Day–to-Labor Day schedule.

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Justice Delayed. Justice Denied.

 

Our justice system handles criminal cases from assault and murders to drug crimes and sexual misconduct. It also handles civil cases from divorce and child custody matters to property disputes and traffic cases. Under the “speedy trial” requirement of our federal constitution civil cases are forced to wait until criminal cases are cleared away first. As city police officers and county deputies have risen to the challenge of fighting increasingly complex crimes, civil cases had been put on the back-burner, so to speak. .

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Close Partnership with the Sheriff’s Office

 

I never fully accepted the concept that highly trained deputies had to sit at the Hall of Justice to perform security checks. Airports don’t used commissioned officers, why should we here? Working closely with first-term Sheriff Brad Thurman we successfully negotiated a change that allowed at least four deputies on that security detail to return to the streets to fight crime.

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Long Delayed Building Repairs Completed

 

Most of our criminal justice system is centered at the Hall of Justice  It is home to the county prosecutor, the county sheriff, the county clerk, the District and the Superior Courts (with 8 judges and seven courtrooms).

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CAP – our local War on Poverty

 

Since 1966 our local CAP has received federal and state funds, for a variety of programs to assist those enmeshed in poverty, including the Help Food Warehouse. As a private non-profit organization, it has more flexibility to restructure or eliminate programs that have run-away costs or prove to be ineffective. It also has been an incubator for fledgling social service agencies that spin off on their own (i.e. legal aid, Head-Start, Ethnic Support Council). I serve along with council members from Longview and Kelso, a commissioner from Wahkiakum County and a state legislator.

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Job Training Programs

 

Four years ago I campaigned on one simple theme: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. And up until the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, our employment picture was steadily improving. One key element in the growth of jobs was the work done by a little-known agency called Workforce: Southwest Washington. Another one is the Grounds for Opportunity Café in downtown Kelso, a worker-training program that prepares low-income clients for jobs in the restaurant industry.

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New Dock Export Facility Denied for now

 

Millennium Bulk Terminals still plans to clean up and replace the former Reynolds Metals Reduction Plant with a $1 billion coal exporting facility. There have been numerous public hearings with hundreds of folks testifying on both sides. But the state’s steadfast refusal to permit construction of an additional dock along with a major coal-exporting facility and providing local longshoremen jobs has actually led to more environmental damage to the entire state, not less. 

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County Jail & Behavioral Health Treatment One of the stark realities for county government in America is that when people’s lives spin out of control due to poor behavioral health (mental illness and substance abuse), the county is the last resort for protecting them from harming themselves and others.

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Making Drug Courts Even More Effective

For those with behavioral health issues who have been charged with crimes, our award-winning Drug Courts have pioneered the way for such therapeutic courts in Washington State. Under the supervision of the Superior Court, there are Drug Courts for adults, for juveniles, and for families. The Drug Courts’ graduation days fill the county administration building with joy as families reunite following successful treatment.

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New & Improved 911 System

With a safety grant from the operators of the Trojan Nuclear Plant near Rainier, the city-county dispatch system moved to the basement of the HOJ as insurance from potential nuclear radiation leaks. Then about twelve years ago when I was with the City of Longview, I helped successfully lobby for a huge grant to acquire a new computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system. That grant helped transform dispatch system into a more effective 911 system for the public.

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Core Beliefs:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that the are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.


“That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.


“And whenever any form of government is destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it."

 

Thomas Jefferson

weber4cowlitz.org             Authorized and Paid for by Weber For County Commissioner, PO Box 1042, Longview WA 9862