The nugget. (Sisters, Or.) 1994-current, October 17, 2018, Page 19, Image 19

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    Wednesday, October 17, 2018 The Nugget Newspaper, Sisters, Oregon
Cook seeks Position 1 on county commission
By Jim Cornelius
Editor in Chief
When James Cook settled
in Redmond in 2010, he took
an immediate interest in his
community. Living near Dry
Canyon, he became involved
with the Dry Canyon Master
Plan Update Committee,
which led to his most recent
public service role as chair
of the Redmond Urban Area
Planning Commission.
The Democrat candi-
date for Position 3 on the
Deschutes County Board of
Commissioners is seeking
to expand his service to a
county-wide role.
Cook sees housing and
transportation as key issues
as the county copes with an
influx of people who want
to share in the region’s natu-
ral beauty and lifestyle. He
acknowledges that “Oregon
land-use laws somewhat limit
that ability of the county to
address (the housing) issue.”
However, he favors pro-
viding county-held lands
for pilot projects to create
more workforce housing in
the region. He notes that the
county has virtually no hold-
ings in the Sisters area for
such projects.
And, he says, “urban
growth boundaries are going
to have to expand” to account
for growth, and he sees a big
role in the county for helping
to guide how such expan-
sions shape up.
“I think transportation
is going to be a huge issue
going forward,” he said,
including public transporta-
tion options between Bend,
Redmond and Sisters.
He’s willing to see the
county make some invest-
ment in that direction.
“I think if we can contrib-
ute financially in a way that
makes sense to increase rid-
ership, I think that’s a good
thing,” he said.
Cook notes that the county
will have to work with other
entities to make public trans-
portation truly an effective
means of getting people to
work and other activities in
the region.
“We need to figure out
that last mile to get people
to their jobs, to get people to
their homes, to make public
transportation really work,”
he said.
Cook sees fiscal respon-
sibility as a matter of “when
you spend money, you get
value for that money.”
Regarding the compen-
sation packages for county
staff, Cook believes using
western Oregon counties
for salary comparison was
“The obvious logic is,
that’s who we compete with
for employees,” he said. “I
don’t think our salaries are
out of line. I think that’s
required to get and keep good
Cook told The Nugget
that he does not see an area
of the county’s budget that
he would cut. He notes that
reserves are always an easy
target, but prudence dictates
healthy reserves be set aside
when things are good so that
they can be tapped when
things go bad, as they did
during the Great Recession
that started in 2008.
“Those reserves are going
to help us get through that
without cutting services,” he
Cook believes that ask-
ing questions is a key ele-
ment of the commissioners’
Habitat seeks new
Thrift Store home
Sisters Habitat for
Humanity may end up with a
new home for its thrift store
operation, which is currently
located on Main Avenue in
Habitat for Humanity
Executive Director Sharlene
Weed acknowledged that the
organization has been in dis-
cussions regarding the for-
mer site of Sisters Drug and
Gift on the corner of Cascade
Avenue and Fir Street.
However, she notes that
the acquisition of the property,
which would house the Thrift
Store but not Habitat Restore
is not “a done deal.”
In response to a Facebook
post on the matter, Weed said,
“Not quite a done deal but an
exciting opportunity that we
are pursuing. We are still in
negotiations but very hope-
ful. The owners are doing all
they can to help us. If it does
go through it will be for the
Thrift Store only. We will look
toward a permanent home for
the ReStore next year.”
The Sisters Habitat Thrift
Store deals in clothing and the
like, while ReStore handles
appliances and furniture and
other large items. Both opera-
tions are key fundraising pro-
grams for Sisters Habitat for
Humanity’s home-building
job. Widely reported dif-
ficulties in standing up the
countywide 911 system are
an example.
“What looked to be a big
financial savings is not turn-
ing out to work the way we
wanted it to or expected it
to,” he said.
He is concerned that the
county did not — and still
does not — have the tech-
nical expertise in-house to
evaluate such complex proj-
ects. He says commission-
ers have to be diligent about
asking questions in such
“We should have known
what we were buying,
and you do that by read-
ing and going to the law-
yers and saying, ‘What does
this mean?’” he said. “I’ve
been a squeaky wheel in
Redmond quite a bit and I
don’t have a problem doing
that at the county level.”
He also doesn’t believe
in being a squeaky wheel for
its own sake. Now, he said,
the focus has to be on fixing
dead spots and making the
system work effectively.
“Then we have to go back
and ask two things: How did
James Cook is contending for a
seat on the Deschutes County
Board of Commissioners.
this happen? And how do we
make sure it never happens