Fool Me Once, Shame on You; Fool Me Twice … Uh, No By DJ Guild

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Fool Me Once, Shame on You; Fool Me Twice … Uh, No By DJ Guild

I remember the first day I met Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt. It was a prearranged meeting by a friend of mine. I was at the front door entrance of the building, and someone was just ahead of me. He held the door open with a warm smile. I was wondering, “Is this the person I was going to meet?” As we entered the same office suite together, it became apparent that this was Mike.

We made it back to my friend’s conference room and proper introductions were made. He was affable, easygoing and well-dressed, but not overdone. And, of course, he was understated, a quality that kept his office relatively below the limelight in his early tenure.

This was back in 2019. The homeless crisis was growing but not near what it is now. Fentanyl was not quite in full swing. The Portland riots of the summer of 2020 were yet to come.

We made small talk, and then moved into a discussion of policies. I agreed with him on many issues. I am a registered Libertarian which provides a sense of my outlook. I told Mike that I am not one of those who wants to incarcerate all. On the other hand, I’m not in the far left group who would like minimal legal consequences for offenders. Rather, I am among those who like the idea of rehabilitation for several small crimes with the condition that failure to rehabilitate means incarceration for a short duration. For more serious crimes, incarcerate first, then try to rehabilitate.

Mike and I then discussed the homeless issue. I agreed that processing these people through the system time and time again for trespassing, public intoxication, public urinating and so forth was not the answer either. I explained to him that well before his time in office, Multnomah County had great success with the drug courts. Under this program, the courts simply set specific conditions for offenders to be released, such as drug treatment and check-ins with the judge. Upon successful completion of the program, charges were dropped. If an offender chose not to enter the program, then he must face minimum jail time. Mike agreed with this approach, in terms of drug treatment and mental health care being used as springboards to decent housing and entry-level jobs.

I then explained to Mike that none of this can happen without first giving offenders the opportunity to make that tough decision between jail time or help. That starts with an arrest. At that meeting, Mike nodded agreeably. But I later discovered that he had no intention of putting into practice any of my ideas.

In fact, Mike Schmidt has single-handedly torn down our county’s judicial system. Oregon had the first drug courts in the country. They are gone now, along with 25 years of hard work building them by judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors. Gone is the help they provided to addicts.

Mike Schmidt has quietly fulfilled the goals of a movement funded by organizations tied to George Soros. The Drug Policy Alliance gave $2.5 million to help pass Ballot Measure 110 to legalize drug use. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative gave half a million to the same cause. One must ask, why did organizations from New York and California provide money to help pass an Oregon ballot measure? To add insult to injury, the Oregon Food Bank also gave $10,000. Why on earth is a state-sponsored Oregon nonprofit giving money to pass a ballot measure that would cause so much harm?

Like all politicians, Mike tells people what they want to hear to get elected. I’m now sure he carried a vision of criminal justice reform, underscored by the passage of Ballot Measure 110, which he thought he could successfully implement in our county. Certainly, this would have pleased his sponsors, George Soros and Mark Zuckerberg, as well as the other proponents of the measure. Perhaps Mike saw this as an opportunity to gain a higher and more powerful political office.

Now, looking back on it, I can think of no concrete reason why I supported Mike Schmidt in the first place. Little did I know the consequences that would follow from his election. My mistake in supporting him is particularly painful for me, given my Libertarian philosophy. Mike and other elected officials have given drug users and criminals freedom, but not accountability.

Today, Mike is in a constant state of conflict. His office conflicts with the mayor’s office, the Portland Police Department and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department. His office is in conflict with the public. Moreover, his staff has had numerous resignations and his own deputy district attorney is running against him.

Articles that have appeared in the last three years about our city read like blurbs for a true crime show:

“The 2020 crime rate in Portland Oregon is 1.6 times higher than the U.S. average and higher than in 93.7% of other U.S. cities.”

“Portland business owners say they’re fleeing the crime-ridden city en masse after it turned from the ‘crown jewel of the West Coast’ into a criminal-run city.”

“While Portland Police faced a dichotomy of record-high homicides (101) and record-low police officers on the beat last year (2022), District Attorney Mike Schmidt pursued progressive bail reforms. The Multnomah County district attorney has implemented a program replacing some mandatory prison sentences with supervised probation and behavioral health treatment.”

“What’s the matter with Portland? Shooting, theft and other crime test the city’s progressive strain.”

And headlines read: “Portland’s Curious Case of Urban Discontent” and “Everybody Hates Portland.”

These excerpts speak volumes. This is the same prosecutor who arrested and prosecuted a minimum of those who were involved in vandalizing and fire bombing the federal courthouse during the 2020 riots in Portland – forever making our city the butt of jokes and a perpetual contrast to the treatment of the January 6 rioters. For the record, I far prefer peaceful protests as opposed to violent and destructive riots.

I went to Mike’s office a few months back. He is still very polite and easygoing. But now he has an edge that I did not see before. I could tell that the job was taking a toll on him. He gladly shook my hand, and we sat down. During our first conversation, he dismissed the reasons in the press about why Walmart was leaving Portland. Rhetorically, he asked, did they ever think that it might have been Amazon running them out? This left me uneasy, as I had read about Walmart leaving Portland but not leaving suburbs or adjacent cities. Deflecting is not a great leadership characteristic.

Before I left, he asked me if he could count on my support. I told him I had to see what else was out there. Not long after, I looked up crime cases in Multnomah County and discovered that under Mike there were at least 50% fewer cases filed than under the tenure of his predecessor. Very simply, failure to prosecute contributes to low morale among police and likewise to the low level of arrests. Now, I’m glad that the citizens of Multnomah County have an alternative, Senior Deputy District Attorney Nathan Vasquez, in the race for district attorney.


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