Patti Milne, a Republican from the Woodburn area, is running for her fourth term as one of Marion County’s commissioners.
The Keizertimes spoke with Milne recently and got her take on a wide variety of issues affecting county residents.
Q: What accomplishments are you proudest of in your time on the commission, particularly the past four years?
A: “It’s been ongoing to just really bring Marion County into the 21st century and to be more responsive to the citizens and the taxpayers, to bring in accountability, transparency to county government that was so needed. That’s not just something you say, ‘I accomplished it this year, and you move on.’ These are ongoing … We have new department heads, a lot of other new faces at the county, and I think we’ve really raised the level of knowledge and expertise people bring to their jobs. we have wonderful leadership of the county and they’ve been supportive of new ways to do things …
“I implemented a rainy day fund, I have pushed very hard for reserve and contingency funds and that we maintain appropriate levels in those funds so when there’s an emergency, we have the ability to respond to those needs. Department audits is something else I led the charge on, and doing audits, it’s not about looking for criticism, it’s about helping our department heads and supervisors, actually everybody in any given department, again, what do we do well … and how do we find better ways to do things?”
Q: What, if anything, needs to happen to make the Wheatland and Brooklake intersection safer?
A: “That’s what always happens. You have a horrible accident like that, a terrible fatality, and people for years have been saying it’s such a dangerous intersection. We do have a transportation plan at the county. It’s basically, kind of a 20-year plan, it is updated pretty much in tune with the year’s budget, an opportunity to reassess what should be the priorities. This kind of an accident … What I would want to know, however, is more details about this particular accident – speed, were there any substances involved. But it’s just a horrible, horrible accident. My huge priority is the Woodburn interchange. now there’s a multi-car accident waiting to happen. … We really need a better way to determine, and get some of these really important transportation projects, through the system and accomplished much more quickly … It’s time to make that happen.”
Q: What can the county commission do to create jobs?
A: “Government at all levels really, really needs to be working to create the environment that welcomes businesses. our land use laws and regulations really ought to be more supportive of economic growth than they are. Right now, we’ve got a ‘You’re not Welcome’ mat instead of the ‘Welcome’ mat. People talk about a balanced approach. Absolutely protect productive farm ground. We need to give our farmers much more opportunity to diversify their farm operations so they can respond to changing economies, and of course we’re looking at worldwide economies. We have to help everyone, farmers included, to be much more pro-economic vitality.”
Q: What’s your position on a potential Keizer urban boundary expansion?
A: “With Keizer and Salem being next door to each other, it’s which way do we go? Who’s going to get the UGB expansion? It’s a very dicey discussion, and when you look at the map you can see where the two city limits are may not be where one would think. We want to make certain that, and of course you’ve got the farmground, let’s look at what their needs are. And here again, when the cities go through these processes, just like Woodburn, the city needs to be in the driver’s seat.”
Q: Having joined the commission in 1999, when construction was already underway, is there anything you feel you could have done differently as far as oversight of the Courthouse Square project?
A: “I asked questions all along the way, before I was elected and then after I was elected because I wanted details of what was happening, and obviously the effects of decisions that were made. I was repeatedly told to just sit down, be quiet, the decision was made and it was going forward. I was not given information I would have liked to have had, quite frankly. … Something happened somewhere, and that’s what we’re trying to find out now. If somehow, I didn’t give the oversight I should have, that’s nonsense. That’s absolute nonsense. But we are taking the responsibility today to make decisions for the future. … My preference was it wasn’t built in the first place, but it wasn’t my decision.”
Q: What lessons have you learned from watching the Courthouse Square situation unfold? How could the commission improve oversight?
A: “First of all there has to be a reason to build it and it has to be a cost-effective process with tremendous public involvement, that the funds are available to build it … This whole issue of transparency and sharing information, it’s absolute with me. I’m here to serve the public. Everything we do is public knowledge, the good, the bad and the ugly. That’s always been the way I approach things. I think you check and double-check.”