Wednesday, December 12, 2001/lk
After almost one year in legislative office, Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, likes her new job well enough to run for a second term.
"I've accomplished some important things during my first session, but there are still goals I want to achieve," said Smith, who filed for re-election last week.
She was recently commended by her peers for being the legislator to draft the fewest bills, a move Smith said she made deliberately to save taxpayer dollars. She said many Oregon citizens are unaware that about 4,000 bills were proposed during the 2001 legislative session -- with a pricetag of $1,000 each just to have them written.
"We don't need more laws, we need to fix the ones we've already got," said Smith, who was successful in gaining $25,000 for a Mid-Columbia Veteran's Memorial, simplifying the process for counties to sell surplus property and passing legislation that supported the annexation of Hood River into the Columbia Gorge Community College District.
She is pleased to have been selected for a number of leadership roles, including an appointment as co-chair of a special legislative committee designed to oversee the actions of the Columbia River Gorge Commission.
"I'm optimistic this process will bring fairness and balance to the National Scenic Area Act, something that's been missing in the past," said Smith.
She plans to hold a series of town hall meetings prior to the three public hearings that will be scheduled by the legislative committee in early 2002. Her objective is to create a list of concerns expressed by Gorge citizens and local governments which can be addressed and "hopefully" resolved during the hearings.
"I want to ask our constituents who are paying for this what they think our priorities should be," said Smith.
She said the second purpose of the Scenic Act was to support the economies of Gorge communities, something she believes has not been given enough priority in land-use decision-making.
In order for financially-depressed rural communities to survive, Smith believes it is vital to provide more family-wage job opportunities -- a need that she said has been largely ignored by her urban peers -- until last week's announcement by Fujitsu Microelectronics that it was closing its Gresham plant, which would eliminate 670 jobs.
"The economic crisis that we have faced for more than a decade is now being felt in the metropolitan area and maybe now they will understand that you've got to have economic development to accomplish the other things you want done," she said. "The focus of this state right now needs to be on job creation."
Smith acknowledges that focus will not be easy in light of the state's current projected budget shortfall of about $700 million, a situation she believes highlights the need to stimulate the economy, generate more employment opportunities and make sure Oregon is "business friendly."
"We have the second highest unemployment rate in the nation and yet, as a state, we seem to keep growing a government we can't afford," said Smith. "We're going to have to set some real priorities that consider the impact on the family budget."
She believes that her recent appointment to the House Special Task Force on Jobs and the Economy will enable her to work toward her top priority. Smith also credits her experience this year as the assistant majority leader, vice-chair of the Joint Water and Natural Resource Committee and membership on the Senior and Disabled Services Task Force for teaching her how to successfully navigate through the complex political process.
"These were important experiences and as a freshman legislature I was pleased to be able to do all that," said Smith. "I don't want to go to Salem to spin my wheels, I want to spend my time wisely and get the people's business done."
She had been applauded for her work ethic by House Majority Leader Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village.
"Patti Smith is a hard working legislator who is dedicated to the best interests of her constituents," said Minnis.
Smith currently holds the House District 56 seat, which will become House District 52 in mid-December. Under recent state legislative re-districting, Smith will no longer represent The Dalles in Wasco County, but will retain all of Hood River County as well as a large portion of Clackamas County and a small rural zone in Multnomah County.