Commissioner Candidate Refuses to Disclose Answers to a Questionnaire
Does nondisclosure mean a candidate is deceitful?
Recently, the Coos County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding allowing the Coquille Indian Tribe to add 84.3 miles of county road inventory to the Tribal Transportation Program, obligating the county to more regulation in exchange for federal funding.
In the MOU it states, “Allowing the Tribe to include these roads on the TTP Inventory simply allows the Tribe the opportunity to provide potential funding to future roadway improvement projects.”
The money comes from the Federal Highway Administration, so the taxpayers of Coos County are still paying for the improvements. The only difference is the money is coming from a much larger taxing pool.
Many in the public objected to this covert agreement between the county and the tribe, especially when all three county commissioners had to recuse themselves from the first vote, until upon receiving legal counsel. During the campaign for commissioner, Mellissa Cribbons promised to recuse herself from all votes concerning the Coquille Indian Tribe, since she was one of their former lobbyists. Unfortunately, in the end, all three commissioners voted in favor of the deal showing the real value of political promises.
It would have been beneficial for the voter to know this information about the candidates before casting their ballots.
The lack of disclosure goes against the integrity of the candidate. These answers are very important for the voter, because the questions from the tribe cover several important issues that the BOC will face in the future. The Coquille Indian Tribe functions as a sovereign government and the distinction allows them certain legal abilities that are not granted to other organizations, and certainly not advantageous to the county. It is this point the commissioners should be very carefully to consider, while negotiating with this group or any foreign nation.
The questionnaire from the Coquille Indian Tribe covered a variety of topics with seventeen questions.
Question 4: For many years, Coos County and the Coquille Indian Tribe have worked to develop a cooperative approach (see www.wagonroad.org) to the management of the federal Coos Bay Wagon Road lands. Our Proposal would generate and sustain thousands of jobs and make Coos County self-sufficient from federal timber “safety net” payments. Do you support enactment of this proposal by the U.S. Congress? Please explain the reasons for your answer.
Question 6: What is your position on Indian Gaming and its future in Oregon? Do you support the right of Oregon’s Tribe to offer gaming?
Question 7: What changes, if any, would you make to the Federal Endangered Species Act to make it more effective in recovering species and minimizing its impact to rural economies?
Question 9: Western Oregon tribes were terminated in the 1950’s and lost their land base. To this day, these tribes struggle to regain a fraction of their traditional territory and place it in trust with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This process is laborious and the backlog of trust applications is significant. Trust land is exempt from Oregon property taxes. Would you support changes in law to improve the process for Oregon tribes to have lands placed into trust? Why or why not?
Question 14: What is your position on making the Oregon Reservation Enterprise Zone program a permanent law?
All of these are good questions and everyone deserves to know how the candidates answered. However, the fact Commissioner Sweet refuses to present his answers may not mean he is deceitful, but it does appear to be inappropriate, and some might say, “The appearance of impropriety is impropriety.”
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