Commissioners to tackle issues with Measure 110

Oregon’s Ballot Measure 110, which reduced some drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors and offered counseling as an alternative to jail time, also created unintended consequences when it came to dealing with juveniles, Linn County Juvenile Director Tori Lynn told commissioners Roger Nyquist and Will Tucker Tuesday morning, Nov. 22.

According to Lynn, the law did not differentiate between adults and juveniles, making it difficult if not impossible to get services to young people when their drug offenses are in their early stages.

During the recent gubernatorial campaign, all three candidates said Measure 110 was not working, and two – Republican Christine Drazan and independent Betsy Johnson – wanted it repealed. Incoming Gov. Tina Kotek said she wanted to keep it in place, but with fixes.

The measure provides funding for such things as subsidizing housing for drug offenders or needle exchanges, but those measures are directed at people who are well into their addictions, not early on like teenagers, Lynn said.

Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 110 by 58% to 42% in November 2020. It decriminalized possession of consumption amounts of cocaine and heroin among other hard drugs. The new law went into effect in February 2021.

Lynn pointed out that teenagers can face minor in possession charges if found with alcohol, but not if they have cocaine or heroin.

Both Nyquist and Tucker – who was participating by telephone – voiced strong concerns about the new law, seeing it as flawed and unsuccessful in decreasing drug use statewide. Commissioner Sherrie Sprenger did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

The commissioners plan to engage members of the state Legislature on several key issues, especially on how the new law affects juvenile offenders and the county’s ability to help them early.

“We will go full-court press on this if we have to,” Nyquist said. “At the very least, they need to address the MIP discrepancy issue, a kid getting an MIP for alcohol but not hard drugs. It should include federal Class I drugs that the state just legalized.”

Tucker said he was “adamantly” against Measure 110, adding, “There is no stick and no carrot.”

He said Oregon voters had only one choice to deal with a “horrible problem” when the measure was on the ballot.

Nyquist said he supported the will of the voters, but emphasized that the measure was filled with gaping holes.

In other business, the commissioners:

♦ Approved renewal of a contract for phone services with Avaya phone and Xima software vendors for three years totaling $93,634.

♦ Approved amending a contract with Summit Food Services which provides meals at the Linn County jail, due to inflation increases. The current cost is about $1.73 per meal. That will increase to about $2.08 (fluctuates with the number of inmates.)

♦ Accepted a $60,110 Homeland Security grant to help pay for a new generator and solar panels for equipment at the Cougar Rock Communications site.

♦ Accepted an Emergency Management Performance Grant of about $94,000, which subsidizes the staffing costs for the county’s Emergency Management Program.

♦ Amended an intergovernmental agreement between Linn County’s Juvenile Work Crew and the U.S. Forest Service, increasing from $12,850 to $22,850.

♦ Amended an intergovernmental agreement between the Oregon Youth Authority and Linn County Juvenile Services from $8,750 to $17,500.

♦ Accepted an easement along Dever-Conner and Hoefer drives for $200 with GWM Trucking.

♦ Approved an additional $8,427 for the Mill City Downtown Revitalization Project, to install a new storm sewer pipe that was in conflict with an existing waterline.

♦ Approved the purchase of a new Chevrolet service truck from Power Auto for the Road Department for $63,712.

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer