Do you have a personal operating philosophy? I do. Mine is “Do good, have fun, make money, because we have to pay the bills.” Let me explain a little. Doing good is what motivates me. I’m an elected public official, a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), and church lady in order to do good in the world. It floats my boat.
Having fun matters because doing good should feel good, provide satisfaction and joy. Working together in teams that do the greatest good for the greatest number is something that warms and nourishes my heart. It also means using compassion whenever possible.
Making money is an essential element, because we also operate in the material world and a capitalist economy. Good thoughts and good feelings matter a lot, but almost always there’s a financial component involved in taking actions in the world.
The job of county commissioner involves considering costs and benefits. We take in money all day long every day, in the form of various taxes and fees. We provide services all day long every day, in the form of programs and services. That’s our job. That’s why government exists, and we elected officials are your representatives to do that.
When Clatsop County Commissioners are sworn into office, we take a vow to obey the laws of the State of Oregon and of Clatsop County. We vow to act legally as your representatives.
We are also bound by Ethics Commission laws to behave ethically as your representatives.
We are well-advised to behave in a fiscally prudent manner, considering efficient and effective use of public monies to provide public services as your representatives.
I am committed to behaving in ways that are legal, ethical, and fiscally prudent to provide public services to you and for you. You are my boss, and you make the money to pay the bills.
I am committed to providing you the opportunity to be seen and heard in the public process. Just last month representatives came to testify to the Board of County Commissioners at our meetings in Astoria. Both Falcon Cove Beach Water District and Elsie Vinemaple held up their needs in the public venue. That’s good for them and good for everyone, that they had opportunity to be visible.
What other measures of good government matter? To me, accountability and transparency matter. Accountability means that we consider whose costs and whose benefits. We consider the most efficient and effective ways to achieve the outcomes and goals we have thoughtfully articulated in an open and welcoming public process.
Nigel Jaquiss said, “Corruption in Oregon doesn’t look like envelopes full of hundred-dollar bills being passed. Corruption in Oregon looks like croneyism without accountability.” That makes sense to me. We’re all accountable to someone. Who is our boss? Is it the voters, or is it political operatives who put us into office to deliver our voice and our vote to them, when they have an issue or a cause?
I learned some hard lessons early into my career as a County Commission. I received a telephone call from a lobbyist who said, “Lianne, here’s how I want you to vote on this issue.” I was told by the Board Chair, “I gave you a contribution. You owe me your vote.” Someone I had considered a friend
sat at my kitchen table and said, “The environmental community got you elected. You have to dance with the ones that brung you. If you don’t vote the way we want you to do on this issue, we won’t support you. And there’s talk of a recall.”
Oh. So that’s how it works here, I thought. Here’s a deeper value, a more significant voice in my mind and memory: my father’s. He said, “Let your conscience be your guide.” Better advice than those trying to control and command my voice and vote.
You elected me to serve you, using my moral compass and the best thinking I could bring to every issue. I listen to all sides of every issue, to the best of my ability. Then I use my best judgment, which is what I think you elected me to do, even if we don’t agree completely every time on every issue.
Here’s a significant challenge: District 5 is sharply and deeply divided on a variety of issues. There are people who think it’s morally wrong to cut a single tree and that people who cut trees are evil. There are people who have for generations made their living cutting trees to provide support for their families and their communities.
How do we wage peace together rather than making war on one another when we have widely divergent points of view?
We need good listening, committing to welcoming divergent points of view in a respectful way. We need to do it in public, in a way that is transparent and open to public view.
What I’m seeing in the newly elected chair and the newly constituted board makes me wonder about our collective commitment to transparency and accountability. Things are still developing, but I’m preparing to raise more concerns and raise them more openly if we continue down a path that lessens transparency and accountability.
One more thing about accountability. It’s best used as a tool, not as a weapon. It’s important to allow for learning curves, growing by doing and making mistakes. Whenever possible, I look for the “no harm, no foul” evaluation if a mistake is recognized and owned and helps us learn and grow.
Most of all, we have to be willing to share our truths, not silence or exclude those who raise questions or concerns. I’ve seen too much of that. “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt,” as the saying goes, and it doesn’t help us address what needs to be seen, heard, and resolved.
And I’m still working on housing, ecologically sustainable economic development, and resilience. Those are the bigger picture, longer-term solutions we need, going forward together.
Lianne Thompson is Clatsop County commissioner for District 5.