I have highlighted the most important aspects of my “themes” in bold. Many have said… during a campaign, “you need to come up with three ideas and stick to it!” But, this is really hard to do! It’s not that simple, frankly. There are so many important subjects that a commissioner needs to focus on. Here are some important themes.
For years, my website has been a living public diary. Now that I have filed for commissioner I am reorganizing this site so you can find out more about my intentions as County Commissioner. For now, I am featuring the issues I am most passionate about as “Core Themes”. (*After the election this site will continue to exist as a website about Casey Miller.)
Who are the customers? If you are reading this… you likely live and work in Lincoln County. Property tax payer (or not), if you are registered voter (or not), you are likely a customer of County Government. We are interconnected. The fabric of community and our interdependence on one another is profound. May we have the highest expectation of professionalism with all government services.
When our community interacts with County Government they should experience the “p”s: patience, professionalism, and a “people-first” attitude. My commitment as a commissioner is to to build, foster and emphasize excellent customer service to our community. Excellent customer service should also be shared between our organization’s staff; a commissioner is responsible for ensuring our many departments are running smoothly – internally and externally.
I draw heavily from personal experience in this category. When we say the Commissioners have an open door at the office and over the phone – I am living proof of this reality. Chances are – of the 100s of phone calls that come into the County Commissioners office – I have answered your calls, met you at the front counter or responded to your emails.
I have a general process for each interaction. As follows…
(1) We listen. What is your goal for calling or stopping by the office? Identify the problem or opportunity.
I call this good problem solving. In my experience, folks are VERY grateful that another human being will take the time to hear them out. (I get the feeling that listening to each other is not something we are doing very well these days.) When a community member discovers there are other human beings who are genuinely willing to listen – it is transformative.
This can take time… Often, when a person comes to the Commissioner’s Office – they are frustrated. They may have tried to resolve their problem (or opportunity) elsewhere and have reached a dead end.
(2) Restate the situation until both parties reach consensus.
(3) Determine if the situation is in the County’s Menu of Services.
If so, do we circle back to the County department that can resolve the problem? Does a commissioner need to reach out to a department head to advocate for the constituent? Does the situation exist outside the County’s governance? What can or can’t the Commissioners do?
(4) Identify the next steps for resolution. Both agree about how to proceed, if possible.
I take customer service very seriously. What concerns me is that my attitude and approach to focused customer service was not fostered by my management. To be fair, I am not entirely sure we teach it elsewhere in our organization. My concern is that we are not providing the specific training needed to build excellent customer service mindset. Let’s do this in the future. I will investigate and encourage this process as your next Commissioner.
I believe increased transparency and agile information sharing will provide a return on investment. More communications and engagement will increase trust and improve customer service. We need to tap the power of our collective wisdom. A community empowered with facts and necessary information to make educated decisions creates the democracy will all aspire to be apart of. I will push to modernize the communications landscape of County Government.
Here is our current process for communicating and engaging the community:
- An open door policy – access to the Commissioners by phone, email, or in person
- Send out media releases and/or post to our website the important information
- Accept “public input” through email and/or provide “in person public input” for (up to) three minutes at our weekly commissioners meetings broadcast live on the internet (10am)
- A weekly radio show that is also archived online
Additionally, and RARELY we have had listening sessions with the community. Each year we meet with local jurisdictions (in their City) to discuss shared issues – for one hour – we do not allow public input during those meetings.
So, here’s the challenge with our current process.
People are busy… perhaps, more than ever. How much time do each of us have to stay current with local policy and issues and then… provide feedback?
Government does provide opportunities… Do we use them? I am guilty of watching Netflix when I should be listening to a public meeting. I should also pay more attention and make more effort to read the good journalism in our local papers and news websites. I have not taken the initiative that I should have many times.
We need to meet people “where they are at”.
I propose we do several things:
- Create and adopt a comprehensive Communications Policy for Lincoln County Government.
- Invest in software that provides easier ways to receive county information. This will include notifications, texts, website information, video and more…. We do it more frequently: factual summaries of evolving policies and services as they are happening and needed. Additionally, we need to provide a menu of choices so that the community can receive notifications that contain the information they care about most.
- Have more (how about any) work sessions and public town halls on subjects that matter to the community. Our cities do it… we should do it to. This is also a matter of transparency. I believe our organization generally does good work, but people just don’t get an opportunity to see it and to hear it. Let’s demonstrate how county leadership works on issues concerning all of us.
- Conduct more (or any) surveys and micro surveys. Today’s modern digital survey tools include public facing dashboards to display the real time results of those surveys.
- Get on social media. The County Commission has delayed this reality for far too long. Although we have activated the architecture and process (both legal and functional) to empower our various departments – we have not “as the County Commissioners” embraced social media and that has simply been… a mistake in my option.
- Identify the best ways to engage our underserved populations and get working on this. We need to be more agile at translating and serving our Latino community. We also need to recognize and serve our senior populations who DO NOT use all of the above-mentioned digital technology. This might simply include physical outreach at community events and functions where county representatives can “interact” with the community.
In summary, we need to better. We need to engage our community more. The reality is some of the aforementioned technology will cost money. State of the art digital services are not free. More communications and engagement will increase trust and create better customer service.
Why does communication create better customer service? To put it simply… we can’t fix things if we don’t know they are broken. We need a constant feedback loop to know if and how the policies we implement are serving the community.
As County Commissioner my desire is to continue to “build our bench” internally. This means more internal organizational buy-in from county staff and departments to serve as participants in our emergency operations center and generalized training to support our emergency management functions. We need to improve the emergency preparedness of our community. I propose we need increased outreach and collaboration with both the general community and our jurisdictional partners to be prepared and work together. Knowledge is power.
Good news… We are doing well in this domain. But it is a never-ending process… and there is always room for improvement. Always.
This Saturday, I was awakened by a phone call from our Emergency Manager at 5:30AM. When Jenny Demaris calls you at 5:30AM?! – heart begins to pound.
At 6AM I was on a coordinated virtual meeting with over 50 interjurisdictional partners to further prepare and respond to our distant tsunami advisory. It was reassuring and gratifying. We were focused and on task. By 7AM we were prepping our call center and continuing outreach to our community.
If this was a “local” tsunami – we would not have had the luxury of three hours to get our community off our beaches and ports. We all need to prepare for the worst-case scenario. It is often said… “It is not if a disaster will strike. It is when.”
Last night, I had dinner with a local resident and long-term family friend. He lives in the distant tsunami zone. He does not have an evacuation plan. Nor does he have a “go bag” at the ready. This is a person who has lived on the coast for over 20 years and is simply not ready as he should be. How many others are the same?
The moral of the story is that EVERY citizen in this county should “have a plan” and at least a “go bag” with three days of supplies – at the bare minimum.
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Additionally, we need to continue additional projects:
- Continued support of the Echo Mountain Fire Recovery
- Hazard mitigation preparation for residences and businesses
- Continued development and realization of a new emergency operations center (EOC)
- Further development and support of our LTRG (Long Term Recovery Group) with COAD/VOAD integration
- Inter jurisdictional training, support and communication
There is MUCH to be done. And, that will remain. It is the nature of the game. People will come and go from our community and continually need to learn the unique hazards of Lincoln County.
As a county commissioner I will remain steadfast to support all aspects of a whole community approach to emergency preparedness.
As a County Commissioner my mission is to create more wellbeing for all our citizens. I will support our community’s ability to thrive.
What does it mean to have a “thriving community”? A thriving community is community that is spiritually and physically healthy as opposed to sick or hurting. A thriving community means that people have shelter, a warm place to sleep and accessible homes for its residents can live in. A thriving community has employment so its people can support their families and build a future together. A thriving community is free from racial injustice and is inclusive. A thriving community recognizes that the health of our ecosystems and biosphere are indeed correlated to human activity; the lack of sustainable practices in our households, businesses and industry ultimately creates further harm in the cycle of life.
I can’t imagine anyone opposing the above statements. Don’t we all want these things? As a County Commissioner I will strive to create a thriving community.
How is it that the richest country in the world – has so much suffering and such a huge wealth gap? It’s a big question, an important question and not one a county commissioner can solve alone. Thriving communities are going to take a coordinated effort. I am willing to do my part and be sure that County Government is accountable where possible.
County Government fundamentally facilitates Economic Development. READ THE ENTIRE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PAGE HERE
A County Commissioner has great responsibility to the community for Economic Development. Defined as: the creation, growth and retention of Lincoln County businesses by our Economic Development Alliance – economic development (while meaning different things to different people) is arguably more than a jobs program, it’s an investment in growing our economy and enhancing the prosperity and quality of life for all residents. How can a commissioner create, support and retain policy that supports economic development as defined? I argue that it is a mosaic, a community tapestry of organizations functioning together. Our organization provides many fundamental services that are the backbone to economic development occurring all over our county. County government is fundamentally an economic development facilitator. As a County Commissioner (if elected) my responsibility is to deliver a balanced budget and maintain the continuity of essential county services into the future. Additionally, it is my responsibility to echo the needs of our community into the many governing bodies that simulate and support workforce development, transportation and various programs that impact the maintenance and growth of society.
Not surprisingly, housing is a big concern for me and you. I cannot think of any organization from County Government, the School District, Samaritan Pacific, the Hospitality Industry, the local Mill, etc. that has said they are not impacted by lack of available and affordable housing.
In my years now working in the Commissioner Office I have seen the problem and am aware of the efforts made to analyze it. But, have we made any real progress toward the solution? Can we find consensus about the action steps needed? We need to be honest and recognize where our values do not match out actions: “Not in my neighborhood” is a problem of the housing dilemma. Hypocrisy is Fueling American Inequality (video)
The County and it’s many partners created a (housing) Policy Advisory Committee. This included members of participating jurisdictions’ City Councils, Planning Commissions, and other boards and commissions, as well as several City Managers or Administrators to create a Housing Strategy Plan.
The Housing Strategy Plan is intended to assist Lincoln County and its cities in identifying and addressing issues related to housing. It will help the County and its cities move forward on a number of housing policy initiatives to respond to current and future housing needs.
But where are we on this housing mission? I will find out and keep us on track where I can. To my knowledge we have not had a major update on our Housing Strategy Plan that provides a clear progress report of this work. There is more that needs to be done. Our community needs clarity about the barriers and opportunities that restrain the housing dilemma.
I am especially excited about Senate Bill 391 and the potential expanding accessory dwelling units in Lincoln County.
Senate Bill 391 allows counties to authorize owners of a lot or parcel in a rural residential zone to construct one Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on the lot or parcel, subject to certain conditions and locally adopted land use regulations. It clarifies the ADU may not be used for a vacation occupancy. The measure also requires counties to establish regulations regarding setback requirements when a property is adjacent to land zoned for resource use, to address water access and use, and to work with local fire protection service providers to ensure the ADU is accessible in any wildfire mitigation efforts.
I looked at the preliminary analysis of Deschutes County Planning Commission and they estimated: “Using the basic criteria only—rural residential zones, parcels larger than 2 acres, containing a single-family dwelling. Using those criteria, there appears to be initial eligibility for approximately 7,950 properties. This does not take into account numerous other provisions, including wastewater/sanitation, site design, wildfire constraints, and others.”
What could be the potential be for Lincoln County!? I am very excited, but I need the support of our Planning Department and my fellow Commissioners to peruse this line of inquiry.
The County offers an array of physical and metal health services. I will continue to support our programs and their expansion where possible. Lincoln Community Health Center (LCHC) is a community-based, patient-directed organization providing a full array of quality health care services to Lincoln County community members of all ages.
But… before I continue. Let’s discuss COVID…. Get vaccinated please! Make it a priority to be fully vaccinated. We will all be safer and healthier! Some disagree and are suspicious. Yet, the unvaccinated are creating are more stress to our health care system than necessary. To me the benefits outweigh the risks. Like other preventive health care measures… Choosing not to be proactive about our health has consequences. As a result, health care costs increase for everyone. We need to take care of ourselves.
To improve community health and reduce health care costs we need a society with less comorbidities. Good news! We continue to work on this! “The Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) is a 5-year plan that is developed and implemented by the community, through a process supported by Lincoln County Public Health. A well-developed CHIP can align our county’s many organizations and advocates into a coordinated collaborative network to improve our collective impacts on community health.”
The County offers an array of metal health services. Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Problem Gambling and more – I will continue to support our programs. Lincoln County Behavioral Health offers counseling and case management to adults, adolescents, children and families. Group, family and/or individual counseling for problems addressing:
- Appropriate expression of feelings, and healthy boundaries.
- Coping skills.
- Children with behaviors and/or emotional problems and parenting.
- Medication evaluation and management.
- Support and peer-building relation.
- Panic and anxiety issues
During this time of uncertainty, we continue to provide Mental Health Services. Many folks who haven’t found mental health services necessary in the past are struggling now. Stress levels in the community are skyrocketing; this is uncharted territory for everyone, and coping skills that may have been sufficient in the past may not be working now. For crisis help, call us at 866-266-0288.
The “environment” is not a separate thing. It is not something happening “outside” of us. We are interconnected to our natural systems. Humans affect the climate. Humans create hazardous waste. Humans leave behind things that outlast their bodies. I suppose spaceship earth ultimately reclaims all of the stuff we create from it. But, how long does that take and what are the risks from our attempts at “mastery over nature”? The plants, the animals, the rivers and the generations to come. How are they impacted by the decisions we make and what we leave behind?
Where does the County overlap the broader environmental discussion?
A division of our HHS Department includes EH. Environmental Health protects and promotes the health of the community by providing inspection and licensing services to public facilities. We provide education in the areas of food safety, public pools, travelers accommodations, and safe drinking water.
However, there is more to consider. The County has been mostly absent to the larger discussions of climate change. The County not created a climate action plan. We have essentially put our heads into the sand. We need to take our heads out of the sand and begin having the honest and hard discussions. Climate Partnership Change – here.
Several years ago, we passed Resolution 18-28-11A which stated, “Lincoln County will participate in providing information sharing opportunities, support forums for discussion of alternatives and innovations, review legislation and policy choices by decision makers on local, state and national levels, and invite the residents, businesses, private and public service providers, including the Siletz Tribal, and all interested parties to participate in a public-private partnership to weigh in on this serious and profound crisis.”
We need to fulfill that commitment. As a county commissioner I will support this objective.
To be continued…
If you have read this far… Thank you.
Coming soon this page are my further thoughts on topics such as environmental health perspectives, economic development, vacation rentals and more…