As some of you may be aware, our county charter, adopted in 1981, is growing old. After 42 years, it contains provisions that have been declared unlawful or unenforceable by the courts. It’s time that we update the charter to best address the issues currently facing Josephine County.
For those interested in this cause or those who have questions, Brady Keister, Lynda Spangler, and Rick Flora will be at the west end of the Growers Market (on 4th Street between the railroad tracks and the west entrance) this Saturday, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, collecting signatures for the green petition.
There are competing petitions aiming to add initiatives to the November ballot, with these initiatives proposing to replace our current county charter with two very different new charters.
The green petition proposes replacing our current charter, which requires 3 full-time commissioners elected at large, with a model involving 5 part-time commissioners and a county manager. This system would divide the county into four districts, each electing a commissioner to represent its citizens on the board, with a fifth commissioner elected at large.
This proposal comes in response to the fact that, for the past 40+ years, our commissioners have predominantly come from Grants Pass. By creating districts, people from areas like the Illinois Valley, the Applegate Valley, Wolf Creek, Sunny Valley, and other non-Grants Pass regions of Josephine County would have the chance to select the candidate they believe will represent them best.
By replacing three full-time commissioners with high annual salaries, plus benefits and retirement packages, with five part-time commissioners receiving approximately $25,000 annual stipends, we would save enough money to hire a professional county manager. This could lead to considerable long-term savings.
The green petition also proposes removing the unlawful or unenforceable provisions in our current charter and converting the county attorney and surveyor positions from elected offices to county employee roles. Importantly, all remaining elected county offices would continue to be non-partisan. The proposed charter was put together by a non-partisan task force, Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG). Their website is jocoCRG.org.
In contrast, the pink petition proposes a different revised charter, one that turns all elected county offices partisan and maintains three commissioners elected at large. However, this switch to partisan elections for county officials could disenfranchise non-affiliated voters in Josephine County, effectively locking them out of the primary round of voting.
The proposed county charter represented by the pink petition is sponsored by Jonathan Knapp and the group identified as WeThePeople. However, we support the charter revision represented by the green petition that proposes replacing 3 full-time commissioners with 5 part-time commissioners and a county manager.
We need a lot of signatures by August 9th to get this initiative on the November ballot. While good progress has been made, a concerted effort is still needed to get this done.
Please come down to the Growers Market, sign the petition, or even just to ask questions and discuss this further. Let’s change our county for the better.