There are good reasons many people will want to vote for Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Henderson’s reelection.
We endorsed him four years ago. We believed he would fill what we thought was missing in county government: a challenge to the way county business was done. He did that. And he has the benefit of having served four years in the job.
But we believe challenger Phil Chang can do what Henderson has done and also provide leadership where Henderson faltered. We recommend a vote for Phil Chang.
Henderson, 65, questioned county staff when the county’s multimillion-dollar digital radio system floundered. He worked with other commissioners to establish a place for law enforcement to bring people who need treatment more than jail — the Deschutes County Stabilization Center. And he also worked to reduce property tax rates. Solid accomplishments.
But Henderson also failed to be a good model for behavior. He went maskless at a rally in Redmond and told us he regretted it. Then he defended himself by saying he wanted people to see him. That doesn’t make sense. He should also call the novel coronavirus by it’s name. It’s not the China virus.
Chang, 50, worked for 9 years at the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council getting conservationists, loggers and government working together to protect the community from wildfire, create jobs and restore our forests. More recently he helped do that at the state level, making state investments to restore federal forestland. Oregon has just had a grim reminder of how important that work is. Chang will push to see the treatment work gets done to protect residents.
Chang brought up an issue we had pointed out in an editorial in June. Henderson and other commissioners were quick to abandon a pilot proposal from the Bend-La Pine Schools to put a trained public health prevention specialist in each high school. Deschutes County has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the state. Substance abuse and tobacco use are serious problems in our schools. If we want to do something about those issues and improve Oregon’s graduation rates, we need to try new ideas and solutions. This was a serious missed opportunity for the commissioners. Henderson prides himself on being a fiscally responsible commissioner. He was not smart with county money in this case.
Chang believes county regulations should treat marijuana as though it is a legal crop. He wants development to stay concentrated within urban growth boundaries and wants the county to partner with cities to aid UGB expansions. Chang also wanted better leadership from Henderson and other commissioners on the pandemic. He called it pointless when Henderson initially backed a plan — drafted without input from the county’s health director — to defy Gov. Kate Brown’s rules for limitations on religious gatherings of more than 25 people.
We recommend a vote for Chang.