When Deschutes County’s new $5.5 million digital radio system was hit by complaint after complaint from law enforcement last year that it didn’t work right, Commissioner Tony DeBone was surprised.

He didn’t know that the system he voted to purchase was below the quality of performance considered suitable for public safety. Should that earn him re-election in November? It does not.

DeBone failed to provide adequate oversight for a multimillion dollar county project that ended up putting the lives of law enforcement and the public at risk. It wasn’t all his fault. There is plenty of blame to spread around in county government. The system is also apparently salvageable.

But it is DeBone’s job to ask questions. It is his job to guard taxpayer money and to ensure county programs do not flounder. He failed to do his job on the radio system.

There should be consequences for poor leadership and oversight. Vote for Democrat Amy Lowes to replace Republican DeBone in the November election for Deschutes County Commission, Position 1.

Lowes, 46, a nurse by training, has worked for hospice and was involved in business partnerships involving restaurants, yoga, a medical marijuana grow and more. She has never run for office before, though she had done her homework on a wide variety of county issues we asked her about.

Lowes, who lives in Bend, told us she became interested in politics more recently when she sat in on meetings regarding the regulation of pot. She believes the county should continue to keep the current rules in place to give more time to evaluate how well they work.

Because of her health care background, Lowes could offer some valuable insight into the county’s work in mental health issues. For instance, she said she would have liked to see the county push to make its new sobering crisis center open for 24 hours. People who are dealing with addiction issues don’t just show up conveniently during an 8-hour workday. She’s right, of course, but she would need to identify a way to pay for it.

Commissioners also deal with land use decisions. Lowes said she supported the idea of county planners looking at land designated in the county for farm use and whether or not that designation made sense. But she said she wanted to ensure she understood the impacts, including economic and environmental, before taking any county action to change those designations.

DeBone, 51, has operated a computer repair and networking business in La Pine. He brought up a significant criticism of Lowes. He claimed she has only voted about a third of the time in the last 20 years. We checked it out. According to county records, she has tended to vote in general elections and skip special elections or primaries. Since 1997, she has voted in 15 elections out of 49 possible. That’s disappointing.

“Like many people, I allowed the circumstances of my life, as a nursing student, nurse, single mom, and business owner working crazy hours, to deter me from participating as much as I should have,” Lowes explained, in part.

Lowes is not perfect. But DeBone failed the county he was elected to serve in a way that put lives at risk. Give Lowes a chance to be the commissioner the county deserves. Vote for Lowes.

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