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Editorial: Driver cards about road safety

Monday, October 28, 2013

Oregonians are about to embark on a difficult yearlong debate on public safety: Would Oregon roads be safer if undocumented immigrants had driver’s licenses and vehicle insurance?…

It is no secret that many undocumented immigrants in Oregon overstayed their visas, or crossed into the country illegally, in search of a better life for their families and themselves. They are driving — to work, to medical appointments, to church and to other activities.

Instead of ignoring that reality, it is good government policy to have them drive legally — with knowledge of Oregon and U.S. driving laws and customs, which differ from those in some countries, and with liability insurance in case of accidents…

The Salem Statesman-Journal

October 20, 2013

Lane Solutions responds & your comments

Drivers’ cards for illegals may or may not be a great idea – that debate’s for another day. Our objection is to the Statesman-Journal’s argument.

A couple hundred years ago poet Samuel Coleridge coined the term “willing suspension of disbelief.” This is why you get tense when the bad guy’s going to ambush Agent 007 in a movie or laugh when Larry pops Moe in the noggin with a pipe wrench. You know that neither is real but you get a kick out of them anyway.

Coleridge would have loved the Statesman-Journal, which asks us to buy their line that people who a) are in the country illegally and b) stole a Social Security number if they got a job are c) going to immerse themselves in our driving laws and d) shell out a pile of money for liability insurance.

If the paper wants to argue for or against driver’s cards for illegals – fine. All we ask is that they don’t treat their readers like idiots who don’t know a moronic argument when they see one.


Public safety and sentencing reform: Why overhaul a justice system that’s working?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

By Michael D. Schrunk and Rod Underhill 

Recently Gov. John Kitzhaber was forced to present a difficult budget proposal. Some members of the current Commission on Public Safety apparently feel this calls for a significant redesign of the criminal justice system, including “comprehensive sentencing reform.” Many members of the law enforcement community, however, are puzzled about the need to redesign one of the most progressive and successful systems in the nation.

Only a quarter of convicted felons in this state go to prison, compared with a national average of 40 percent, producing one of America’s lower incarceration rates. We nonetheless have been a national leader in the reduction of violent crime since the passage of mandatory sentencing for some violent crimes. Oregon was the first state whose laws require evidence-based practices for those on probation and parole. Prisons here have a lower percentage of property and drug offenders than in any other state. We have decided on a policy to reserve prison space for violent offenders while we attempt to help those who commit drug and property offenses turn their lives around. We have dramatically reduced our recidivism rate in the past five years. The list goes on.

Soon the Commission on Public Safety will report on sentencing reform, and the question remains: Why drastically overhaul one of the most successful justice systems in the country? The answer proposed by some is that current sentencing laws will produce “unsustainable” prison growth over the next 10 years — requiring more than 2,000 new prison beds. This is a questionable proposition.

First, prison population forecasting in this state has had an uneven history at best. Every 10-year forecast since 1995 has predicted greater prison growth than actually occurred, with some fully 47 percent high. These past overpredictions are invariably used by critics to advocate for wide-ranging changes in sentencing policy, as is being done now.

Second, none of the currently predicted prison growth is a result of mandatory sentences for violent crimes. Violent crime policy in this state has been so successful that the prison population of offenders serving mandatory sentences is stable.

Third, more than 60 percent of predicted prison growth in the next decade will simply result from state population growth. Additional public services required by population growth are inherently sustainable, because population growth produces proportionally increased tax revenue. Indeed, while the state economist predicts a 16 percent increase in prison beds in the next decade, he also predicts a 48 percent increase in state government revenues in that same period. This should provide a solution in itself.

We understand through experience the need to scrutinize government operations for savings. No one should believe, however, that cutting prison spending, which constitutes only 9 percent of general fund expenditures, can contribute much to other areas.

Indeed, the one negative in the overall bright picture in Oregon’s justice system has come when incarceration has been reduced in several counties. Here in Multnomah County, for example, more than 35 percent of jail beds have been cut since 2001, contributing, we believe, to Portland’s increasing property crime rate. Further, a recent look at county and emergency inmate releases reveals that about 75 percent of released inmates commit new offenses on release. That’s food for thought as we examine what we should do statewide.

That said, we also have ideas about how sentencing policy can be reformed safely to improve current practices. Law enforcement representation on the current commission has proposed comprehensive measures that would save money without sacrificing the integrity and effectiveness of a justice system produced in no small part by voter participation. We hope the commission will take these proposals seriously and not press forward unwisely based on questionable perceptions regarding public safety policy.

Michael D. Schrunk has been Multnomah County district attorney since 1981 and is retiring this month. Rod Underhill is Multnomah County district attorney-elect.

Reprinted with permission from Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance


Leiken: Lane County’s Crumbling Public Safety System

Monday, December 10, 2012

On Thursday, November 29, 2012, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office closed another 35 jail beds resulting in the release of more than 30 inmates from the Lane County Jail.  By Friday afternoon two of the released inmates were already back – one arrested for robbing a bank and one for unlawful entry and theft.

The release of these inmates from the Lane County Jail is directly related to the significant reduction in federal funding and is indicative of the lack of active management of the federal forests that make up half our land base.  I fully support Sheriff Turner and his dedicated staff during this challenging time. They are sworn to protect us, but have been confined by inadequate resources.

Many voices have called for Lane County to move beyond federal timber revenue sharing, yet we cannot ignore the economic potential of the forests amongst which we live.  Lane County Commissioners, even this week, continue to debate the form and function of a property tax measure dedicated to supporting the jail.  But to fully rebuild a functioning public safety system (jail, patrol, prosecution, youth services, and treatment and prevention) would take more than a doubling of Lane County’s existing property tax.  Residents have never supported tax proposals of that size, and there is no reason to expect they will now even in spite of the dismantled state of our public safety system.  A property tax increase at this time throws cold water on our fragile recovery and, under Measure 5, the only options available to voters are temporary solutions.  What’s more, those options could actually impinge on the tax revenue of our community’s fire, school, city, and other taxing districts.

Lane County’s partnership with the federal government goes all the way back to 1906, when the first national forests were created and County Commissioners throughout the West lobbied Congress to create a mechanism that would replace tax revenue lost by creating enormous amounts of publicly owned lands.  Congress has all but completely walked away from this promise.  I thank Congressmen DeFazio, Walden, and Schrader, and Governor Kitzhaber for forcing a dialogue to find a way to ensure both the essential ecosystem and the crucial revenue that provides for the security of Lane County families.

What we’ve seen this week – what we’ve seen as our system has eroded over the last several years – is the result of the reduction of tens of millions of real dollars.  It cannot be blamed on uncontrollable cost, bad management, or waste.  No single, immediate solution will fix our system.  We need a long term solution to a sustainable public safety system that lays out the incremental steps to get there.  We are committed to identifying such a cohesive strategy.

Sid Leiken is Chair of the Lane County Board of Commissioners



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

To uphold the federal governments’ commitment to rural and federally forested communities in western Oregon the O&C TRUST, CONSERVATION, AND JOBS ACT provides:

  • Forested counties in western Oregon with a sustainable and more predictable level of revenues in perpetuity to support basic county government services like law enforcement, education, health, and transportation.
  • Turns around nearly two decades of gridlock on federal forests that will help timber dependent counties in Western Oregon improve their economic and financial outlooks.
  • Estimated to create thousands of new jobs in rural communities throughout Oregon and will reduce unacceptably high unemployment levels in the State.
  • Moves counties away from an uncertain future of federal payments to a long-tern solution that meets the federal government’s obligation to federally forested communities while bringing jobs back to our communities and health back to our federal forests.
  • Ensures legal certainty by establishing a fiduciary trust for the O&C Counties and ensures strong O&C county representation on the Board of Trustees to guarantee the Board’s fiduciary obligation to the 18 O&C Counties.
  • Sets a fair standard for the federal government by requiring the Board of Trustees to provide a return from the O&C Trust lands to the American taxpayer and U.S. Treasury.
  • Establishes a temporary federal loan to aid O&C Counties during transition to payments from the O&C Trust.

Having Jail Space Only Solution to Effective Incarceration and Rehabilitation

Friday, October 21, 2011

Most people don’t differentiate between “prison” and “jail”. As far as most of us are concerned, as long as the “bad guys” are locked up in a small room with bars and a stainless steel toilet, it really doesn’t really matter what we call the facility, but jail and prison are very different animals that house different populations and meet very different community needs. A healthy community needs both local jail capacity and access to prison space for its most serious offenders.

Prisons are state-run facilities that hold felons who have been sentenced to serve more than a year in custody, while jails are local facilities that house those who are awaiting trial, including those awaiting trial on the most serious felony charges, and those who have been sentenced to serve short periods of incarceration for violating probation or committing misdemeanor crimes like DUII, simple assault and theft. Although it’s important for misdemeanor wrongdoers to be punished, local jails play a more critical role in the criminal justice system: they give force to judicial orders. I’m talking about orders to attend trial, order to participate in anger management counseling and orders to follow through with drug treatment.

Judges, like parents of young children, must have the ability to enforce the rules they make. Unfortunately, when it comes to a group of criminal offenders who typically have no tangible assets, the only enforcement power that matters is the ability to incarcerate. The system fails in dozens of tragic and expensive ways once criminals understand that the loss of jail capacity has rendered the judges “toothless”. That’s where Lane County stands today with respect to property criminals, and the consequences are doing great harm to victims, taxpayers and offenders.

Some might think that the inability to incarcerate is a windfall for the criminals. That’s certainly true for some of them, but for many, perhaps even most of them, the lack of local supervision and jail space is depriving them of a real shot at meaningful rehabilitation. Similarly, some in the community believe that failing to fund a jail is saving money that could be better spent elsewhere, but we’re not saving at all. We’re ensuring more victimization, more insurance costs and higher prison populations, all of which ultimately cost us much more. We’re also paying in lost quality of life and lost business opportunities, because we feel less comfortable in our community and few businesses would choose to relocate to an area with property crime rates among the worst in the country. In sum, we’re being “penny wise and pound foolish”. We’ve struck a balance that represents the worst of all possible worlds: we’re forcing a system design which does less, at greater costs, with disastrous results. That’s a shame, particularly when we have the local talent and expertise to deliver an optimized system capable of delivering more of everything for less. We can do better.