Rotary Club of Greater Bend: Candidates Forum

Below is my introductory statement to the Rotary Club of Greater Bend’s April 25th Candidates Forum. It was a pleasure participating and I appreciate that all the candidates were invited.

I’m James Cook, Democratic candidate for the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners. I’d like to thank the Rotary for this opportunity to introduce myself.

I’ve been developing web sites for more than 20 years, working with clients ranging from the Pope to the Central Oregon Visitors’ Association, from Vince Gill to G5. I’m proud of the work I’ve done and the clients I’ve worked with.

I’ve alsoraised two kids to become strong, independent adults. And, I’ve pursued my own passions, including travel, participating in my grandkids’ lives, supporting local artists, and — most relevant today — becoming involved in local government. I currently serve as chair of Redmond’s Planning Commission and as a member of our Budget Committee.

Over the years, I’ve kept my own books, made cash flow projections, and written quarterly tax checks, so I promise I’ll spend your tax dollars wisely, because they’re my tax dollars, too.

In practical terms, that means necessities first. Everyone here is going to say, “Public Safety comes first,” and, of course it does. But public safety is more than police and first responders. It’s a smoothly functioning 911 system. It includes our courts and our mental health system. It includes preventing crimes and crises rather than just responding to them. And it includes the health and safety of our most vulnerable populations.

Secondly, we have to invest for the future — that means physical infrastructure to support growth; but it also means our workforce. We have to support the efforts of our school districts, community college and OSU-Cascades, along with EDCO, our extension services, and others working to ensure a workforce ready to step into the new jobs being created in our region.

Finally, we must invest in the things that make Deschutes County the place we are proud to call “home”:  our natural resources and rural lands; our rich history and our vibrant culture. And, by our culture, I mean everything from the County Rodeo to the local arts scene. From the history of logging to the history of our brewing industry.

Some may consider that a luxury, but it’s the core of what makes Deschutes County special. Only by preserving and strengthening our culture, values, and heritage can we maintain our specialness in the face of a rapidly growing population. It’s what allows us to welcome newcomers and invite them to share our values. It’s what will allow us to build a better future together.

Thank you. I look forward to earning your vote over the next six months and to having the honor of serving you for the next four years.

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