Voices From the Crowd: Columbia County at a Crossroads

There was a time in America when partisan politics had limits. Republican President Ronald Reagan lay motionless in his hospital bed after losing half the blood in his body from an assassination attempt that had pierced his lung, leaving the bullet lodged an inch from his heart. The first person the President received was Speaker of the House Tip O’Niell; a Democrat and staunch liberal. Taking the President’s withered hand, O’Neill knelt at the bedside and recited the twenty-third Pslam, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” as the President whispered the words along with him. Once finished, the Speaker kissed the President on his forehead and left the room; tears welling up in the big man’s eyes. It’s sad to admit this, but it’s unlikely such an encounter would happen today.

Columbia County is at the crossroads of an issue swept under the rug for almost a decade; public safety. This is an issue that should unite both sides of our partisan divide. Voters have repeatedly denied the funding necessary to operate a safe and effective sheriff’s office, including the jail. Each time the levy has failed, no one who voted against it has stepped forward to provide solutions. I respect those arguments claiming money is already in the county coffers to pay for the jail; however, you must explain “where” and “how.”

We all knew this preverbal can was being kicked down the road; now it’s reached the dead end. Our jail will close by early summer. What exacerbates the problem are the employees who currently work there, leaving, to seek stable employment. Having to refill those positions by removing patrol officers from the road makes us less safe and creates more issues. 

I believe any reasonable tax payer will agree we need a stable public safety program including a jail. I have created a group called Columbia County Works Together do put this issue directly into the hands of us, the citizens. Conservatives and liberals can leave all their personal issues behind and work together on only one problem: funding for the jail. It’s high-time we take ownership, and solve this.

Get ready, because without a jail, we will be under a media assault that only advertises to every drug dealer and gang-banger that we are ripe for the taking. This will do nothing for our home values, employment/business opportunities, or our image.

Rural communities all over Oregon are re-focusing their efforts after a devastating recession. It’s an exciting time for small tech, internet retail, organic farms, micro brews, wineries and more. Folks like the Carver family in Central Oregon have elevated their little sheep farm into a Ralph Lauren and Team USA wool supplier. Meanwhile in Columbia County — with our vast riverfront property and fertile farmland — we cannot even fund a jail!  Certainly any plans of luring business or seeding our current family businesses are out of the question. Giving free passes out to criminals wanting a place to sell drugs, steal or set up illegal operations is not a place successful entrepreneurs can operate.

I am just one guy, one tax payer, one citizen who has seen enough. The recent 100-mph chase of the alleged Florida gang-related folks through the heart of our community are not the kind of customers I had in mind when I imagine bringing business to Columbia County. I can’t watch this sad story unfold without a fight.

I am extending a hand, to liberals and conservatives alike to find a solution before it’s too late. One issue, one focus point, one goal. Leave issues that divide us at home, just bring your ideas for only this one issue. If you’re a liberal, you certainly don’t want hate crimes going unpunished. If you’re a conservative, you want citizens solving problems, not government; well, here’s where we can work together.


You can contact Randy Sanders at ColumbiaCountyWorksTogether@yahoo.com  or read about the campaign at columbiacountyworkstogether.blog.com