For most voters in Deschutes County, the County Commissioner position is not something to spend a lot of time worrying about. However, it's one of the most powerful elected positions in the region. Commissioners play an oversight role for public health—which has never been more meaningful than during the pandemic. They also oversee the sheriff's department, community justice, solid waste, fairgrounds and roads. We consider this vote the most important one in Deschutes County. We hope you'll vote for change.
It's become exhausting to watch the incumbent, Phil Henderson, continue to lob costly and misguided appeals at the state because he has a "vision" for Central Oregon that spreads out, rather than up. In his attempt to turn nonprime farmlands into developable land he has made our county a laughingstock at the state level. His vision is simply another word for sprawl, and for anyone with the misfortune to sit in the ever-slowing tide of traffic moving up and down Hwy. 97, Henderson's vision is a nightmare.
Henderson's inability to focus his energies on the possible has resulted in a laundry list of missed opportunities. He continues to spend countless county hours fighting marijuana businesses, regardless of the sea change in public opinion on the matter. He voted against the Bend Area Core special taxing district which gives a much-needed boost to redevelopment and had the temerity to reject a proposal from Bend-LaPine Schools to put a trained public health professional specialist in the high schools to prevent suicide and addiction.
Phil Chang is a strong contrast, with a vision for the County grounded in current realities. His background in natural resources and as a renewable energy specialist will be a strong addition to the makeup of the commission. Foremost, he is a proponent of infill, which could drastically reduce the cost of growth and should allow the County to get back to the possible rather than tilting at development windmills. Chang has proposed donating parcels of land in the county to build affordable housing—a refreshing sign, because that's possible under existing land use law.
Perhaps more importantly, Chang speaks to the mental health crisis the County faces. When the County lost Tammy Baney as a commissioner, it lost its greatest champion of mental health services. As we look to recover from the pandemic and the enormous fallout from sequestration for our community's weakest members, we'll need someone like Chang who recognizes that funding will need to shift to those struggling to recover. Vote Phil Chang for Deschutes County Commissioner.