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Election: GOP candidates concentrate on jobs, park, records


April 30, 2014

John Lindsey

Linn County Commissioner John Lindsey of Lebanon faces Chanz Keeney of Holley in the May 20 Republican primary election.

The winner will face no general election challenger because no Democrat is running.

While they may share similar opinions in many areas, Lindsey said that he is involved in a number of ongoing projects and efforts that he wants to see through to the end.

“I think we’ve got a lot on the burner, the VA home, reopening those 48 (jail) beds, continuing our fight to end the O&C timber payments problem once and for all.”

Linn County also faces difficulties in Gov. Kitzhaber’s forest trust program, the latest policy that would lock up the rest of the state’s forests, Lindsey said.

“What I feel is we are kind of alike in a lot of ways,” Keeney said, but they have differences.

Keeney, who has served for seven years on the District 55 School Board and on the Linn-Benton Community College Budget Committee, said the unemployment rate in Linn County, at 8.6 percent in March, is higher than the counties bordering Linn County. (Jefferson County is actually at 9.7 percent, while Marion, Deschutes, Lane and Benton counties all have lower rates.)

“A vote for John is you want to continue with the same as you’ve been getting,” Keeney said. “You don’t want to change. If you want a change, give me a shot.”

Although there are no term limits on county commissioners, voters can set them by voting out the incumbents, he said. With a politician in office for so long, “do you know you’re not missing something?”


Among Lindsey’s concerns are the federal timber safety net payments that supported the counties and schools following the creation of the Clinton Northwest Forest Plan. He supports a bipartisan federal House bill that would take the county timber payments off the table forever by setting up a trust fund managed by 40 states and counties that receive the payments.

“The problem is it’s been sitting in the Senate, and no one wants to fight for it,” Lindsey said. Oregon’s senators have called the plan unacceptable.

In more local issues, Lindsey was the the only commissioner, out of three, who did not vote to sign the Santiam Forest Corridor agreement.

“The only people who have any authority to sign an agreement is an elected government official,” Lindsey said. The secretary of the interior never signed it. It was signed by agency officials.

“We’ve worked with the Forest Service, the Corps of Engineers and BLM for years,” Lindsey said. “Why do we want a piece of paper?”

That agreement will restrict Linn County, Lindsey said, and meanwhile, “we will continue to work with the Corps and solve problems with the BLM. We have a working relationship. I just don’t know why I need to get permission from someone out of Eugene.”

A couple of signatories have long been impediments for Linn County, Lindsey said. “My other criticism of community solutions (the governor’s program behind the Community Forest project), is they run around the state all day trying to be a solution to a problem that potentially exists. I can tell them right now what our biggest problem is – Jobs.”

He never sees anything that addresses manufacturing or extraction of natural resources, he said. “It’s always this ‘Kumbaya.’”

Instead, the governor could unlock natural gas and reinstitute the nickel mines he shut down in his first term, Lindsey said.

The land swaps that are part of the proposal are interesting, he said, but he’s most interested in harvest.

“We’ve had a great relationship with these people (the partners) and it will continue,” Lindsey said.

In Sweet Home, the county and Knife River are nearly finished dealing with environmental issues on property foreclosed by the county for nonpayment of taxes. County officials continue to work with the Oregon Jamboree on plans for a park and festival grounds there.

County officials are also continuing to work on environmental issues on former Willamette Industries and Weyerhaeuser mill property foreclosed by the county at the same time. It was owned last by Western States Land Reliance Trust.

That property will be sold off for economic development, Lindsey said. The county has been putting it “kind of quietly on the table as something to bring in industry,” and it will serve the interests of the citizens of Linn County and especially Sweet Home.

Countywide, Lindsey voted for a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, which will allow the county to look for realistic laws to handle what the state handed to cities and counties.

Every year, when he drives up the freeway to Washington to visit his son, he stops in Battle Ground, Wash., and buys his allergy medication instead of paying more than $200 at a doctor’s office to get a prescription.

“We don’t even have that restriction on pot,” Lindsey said. “If an individual’s caught on a high school campus and they don’t have documentation to have Tylenol, the kid could get suspended from school.”

At the same time, teenagers can say school stresses them out, he said, and then get a prescription for marijuana.

“There’s nothing to regulate that kid from buying it at the local pot store and selling it at high school,” Lindsey said. He recalled a 17-year-old testifying to the commissioners in favor of medical marijuana dispensaries.

“This is not a very well thought-out policy,” Lindsey said. At the same time, if he had terminal cancer, he thinks there should be an option for medical marijuana.

The state has attempted to reduce the prison population, Lindsey said, and reductions are part of the reason the county had to close 48 beds.

With the law enforcement levy coming up, the county will add back the 48 beds “to get the bad guys in jail and send a message that bad guys are not going to be catch and release in the county,” Lindsey said.


“I’ve always been interested in politics,” Keeney said. He saw an advertisement about the commissioner seat on craigslist, and “it got stuck in the back of my mind.”

It’s a paid political position, he said, underscoring one of his frustrations as a member of the Sweet Home School Board. He has to work a full-time job, which keeps him from getting as involved as he would like to be.

“Unemployment is on my mind,” Keeney said. “I’d like to see that go down.”

Finding good paying jobs for families who live in Linn County is one of his top goals, he said. He also would like to see the political process made easier to navigate.

The Willamette Country Music Festival is an example, he said. That whole process could move faster and be finished 2 or 3 months earlier to allow everyone to gear up for the event. Festival officials have been going through this process for a long time, and the citizens of Brownsville say the event helps them.

Keeney said he just read that the county has postponed a decision on a permit allowing Knife River to open 67 acres of rock mining near the border of Linn and Benton counties.

“It sounds like Knife River has the permits to do it, but adjacent landowners have complaints,” Keeney said, then he has read a decision will be postponed until June.

He thinks the county could be “a little more personable with the people that are in your county,” he said. Obviously, the county has signed off on the Willamette Country Music Festival before, and during the recession it has helped.

“It just kind of baffles me why it was such a big deal,” Keeney said.

Keeney is supportive of the Community Forest effort.

“If it benefits Linn County I’m for it,” Keeney said. “The Community Forest, there’s a lot of people trying to get together and make this happen. It is a good thing. Will it solve all of Linn County’s problems? No. But any time you get all these agencies together to benefit Linn County, it’s a good thing.”

Keeney believes the county should sell the Knife River and Weyerhaeuser properties on the north edge of Sweet Home.

“It’s a very valuable piece of land,” he said. “It’s kind of funny the county ended up with it. I’ve talked a lot with the older generation. I guess I’m with them. Maybe the county shouldn’t be owning property.”

While the county owns it “we’ll never see any taxes off that,” Keeney said. True Republicans don’t support government owning property, and he would like to see it back in private hands, although he is supportive of using some of it to help improve parks and benefit Linn County.

At the end of the day, if jobs are the goal, the property needs to be private, he said. “That will be a close-to-home project that I will be very involved in.”

Keeney is concerned about taxes too.

“I hate taxing people,” he said. He realizes that’s how government is funded, but he opposes raising taxes.

He doesn’t know much about the property tax limitations and the “compression” effect among the various taxing districts, but he is glad the property tax limit exists, he said. “Otherwise our taxes would be going through the roof.”

An increase in the sheriff’s law levy will compress the Sweet Home Police Department and library service, for example. He did not share a specific opinion about these levies but was more concerned about the potential impact of taxes. Lindsey also said he generally opposed increasing taxes.

When citizens are not getting raises or are taking pay cuts, they have to cope with it, and he believes that government agencies should have to live within their means too, he said.

In Sweet Home, the School District cut pool funding and has replaced it with a local option levy, he said. Next school year, the district has $1 million more in funding, but the levy remains in place, while the district is putting together an all-day kindergarten for next school year at a price of $250,000. It doesn’t have to start all-day kindergarten till the following year when it will receive funding from the state to support it.

It’s “bait and switch,” Keeney said. The information isn’t entirely correct, and “that frustrates me. I want both sides coming at me giving me facts.

“I will definitely be boisterous as a county commissioner. I will request complete information on something.”

He’ll put himself out there, he said. “I believe a political person needs to be outspoken. I really feel I’ve got a record of really hard decisions.”

Keeney noted that many races are uncontested this election, and he wished five or six were running for this office. Elections are a check on incumbents and how they’ve done.

Chanz Keeney

It’s how elected officials are held accountable, Keeney said. He wants to make sure Lindsey isn’t coasting after 16 years in office.

“Like I say, we’re definitely alike, but I hope people want change,” Keeney said. “Let John go find something else to do. He’s got other interests.”

As a blue collar worker, primarily in timber, he believes he would help round representation on the Board of Commissioners.

If elected, Keeney would like to continue serving on the School Board.


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