Below is my interview with county commissioner candidate Ron Smith, as it appeared in the Illinois Valley News in July. Stay tuned for my Doug Fowler interview. Anita R. Savio
What is your vision for the future of JoCo law enforcement and how do you anticipate funding that vision?
Smith stated that full funding for law enforcement is his goal, including 24/7 patrols and all substations reopened full time. “But,” he said, “there have been many ideas and suggestion for funding law enforcement since O & C and Secure Rural Schools funding dried up, but none have worked except increasing taxes, which I do not support.”
He noted that 68 percent of the land in Josephine County is controlled by the Federal government, and that, while that land funded all of county government since the beginning in 1856, that is not the case today.
“I do support the lawsuit regarding the 1937 O&C law that requires sustainable timber harvest of these lands. This will help once again fully fund law enforcement. Either that or give the land back to the county so we can put it back on the tax rolls to help fund county services,” he said.
Asked what he proposes should the lawsuit fail, Smith stated “the people will have to make the choice — between less law enforcement or higher taxes — but that would not be a choice I would make for the people.”
Smith clarified that if a group of county residents wants to raise taxes, they would need to organize an initiative petition to do so. But he would neither propose nor vote for such a petition.
What are your specific proposals for encouraging economic growth and job creation in the rural areas of the county?
Smith would streamline the permit process, reduce burdensome over regulations wherever possible and help job-creating business start-ups with economic development money when possible.
As an example of a burdensome permitting process, Smith cited the nursery supply company that bought the Rough and Ready property.
“He’s been now six or eight months trying to get the permits processed to put 120 people to work.”
Smith added that he did not know specifically what the holdup is, but attributes it to the county dragging its feet.
Another example he cites is the proposed gravel mine in Sunny Valley. “[The developer] has spent six years and three million dollars trying to get a gravel mine going.”
The proposed mine has been controversial among nearby residents, and run into a great deal of opposition.
“But think about the message that those two business startups send to other entrepreneurs who want to come into Josephine County,” Smith said.
Asked to pinpoint the specific parts of the permitting process that could be streamlined, Smith stated he did not know, but plans to find out, once he is on the inside.
What role do you see the marijuana industry playing in rural economic development and job creation?
While Smith acknowledged that the industry has created some jobs and brought cash flow to our county, he sees the future as very uncertain with the huge drop in price caused by overproduction.
“I see the future of the industry going into corporate hands and the small producers going out of business,” he said. “If this does happen, the jobs created by the industry will most likely be a small amount of farm labor jobs. It could still a part of our economic future, just not the whole answer. ”
Smith said that as a county we need a little tourism, a little agriculture, a little timber harvest, a little mining, a little cottage industry and our medical industry.
What is your position on the zoning issue with respect to both medical and recreational marijuana
Smith wants to go after the “bad actors” but does not support any new zoning restrictions on marijuana grows, including any restrictions in Rural Residential zones.
“I will not vote in favor of regulating private property anymore than it already is. We must be able to have economic benefit from our private property. Josephine county has always had a large amount of cottage mom and pop businesses, and these should be encouraged, not regulated out of existence.”
In what specific ways, such as regulatory, public infrastructure and finance, do you see the county supporting the development of affordable housing, especially multi-family housing?
“State law requires that any large development have a water system and a sewer system, and this in itself tells you that any substantial amount of multi-family housing development will be in Grants Pass or Cave Junction,” Smith said. “A commissioner can lobby for, advocate for, and talk about these kinds of developments, but it really is up to city government.”
But what are some tools the county is either making use of now or can make use of in the future to ameliorate the homelessness problem?
Smith stated he does not know what or if the county is doing much about the homeless. However he sees this as a nationwide problem, which more and better jobs, more affordable housing, better mental health services and reducing drug addiction would help.
“Seeking positive solutions and answers with compassion and understanding is a big step in the right direction,” he said.
Same question as above, but with respect to the meth and opioid addiction problem?
“This is another nationwide problem,” he said, “and a very big part of our crime and homeless problem locally.”
Smith added that addiction treatments are only one part of the solution to this epidemic, and it is necessary to go after the suppliers, manufacturers and dealers of the drugs in our county. He specified the help of the state and federal government is needed.
What is your position on the lawsuit Josephine County has joined with respect to logging on O&C lands?
In addition to his support for the lawsuit, as stated above, Smith argued the federal government has not coordinated in good faith with the county on its forest management plans, in accordance with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976.
“Don’t you think it awful odd that we can burn tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of forest land a year, but we can’t cut a tree to fund our law enforcement?”
“I really don’t think we can be a county, if we neglect 69 [sic] percent of our land and throw it away,” he added.
Smith urged the need to manage the forest land for a healthy forest and a healthy local economy, to reduce wildfires, dangerous smoke-filled summers, create forestry jobs, family wage jobs and fund local government services like law enforcement.
On your website you promise to defend our Constitution and Bill of Rights against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Which specific issues do you anticipate facing, as county commissioner, that may require you stand by that promise?
Smith asserted, as one example, the county’s zoning laws. He said he does not believe in zoning, period.
“Private property is the cornerstone to our freedom and liberty,” he said. “If you don’t have the right to own property, and control property, you are property.”
He added that when he refers to property, he doesn’t mean just land, but also such things as personal property and intellectual property.
On the question of nuisance properties, Smith asserted the county does have the right to remediate those situations.
He also clarified that the unalienable right to own and control property does not justify slavery.