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Commissioner Candidate Forum — Part 2

Did you attend? Lots of good information. Here is part 2. Will be posting part 3 soon.

Josephine County Democrats held a forum for all eight commissioner candidates April 9.  Here is brief rundown on who they are and where they stand on the issues.

Question: How would you handle OSU Extension?

Barnett – I know the college Oregon state university, they have money. I don’t know why the county is burdened with that, I’m not privy to that information. I’m not a commissioner right now, I’m just a citizen like you. but I would love to see programs stay here in Josephine County. I’m all for trying to see things stay, but the money comes to be an issue if the county commissioners are dealing with that. I don’t know much more other than I would say the University would have to fund that.

Jones – I had a feeling this question was going to come up so I brought the Josephine County Code, Title 13. It states, “It is hereby declared and ordered that the county agriculture education service district is created, to be known thereafter as Josephine County 4H Extension Service District. The boundary of said district should be all of Josephine County, including the incorporated cities of Grants Pass and Cave Junction. The initial tax base for the district shall be $145,100. The purpose of the district is to provide and fund 4H youth, agriculture, home economics, forestry, community development and energy programs for the citizens of Josephine County.” So I believe it should have been left alone because it doesn’t just fund 4H youth.

Mancuso – I was shocked when they took away the money from these programs. And to be honest with you, the reasoning…it doesn’t smell right. So it just seems they made a knee jerk reaction because someone said something or someone did something they didn’t like and that’s not the way you’re supposed to manage your county and your citizens.

Martin – They just did a presentation at Rotary last week or the week before. There’s nothing that can be done at this point. They are going to run out of money in June. They’ll have four staff people that will be laid off and it’s a very unfortunate situation. Would I have done it the same? No. Is there anything we can do about it now. No. None of us can do anything about it at this point. It is what it is. On the positive side, the alternate 4H, they’ve got over 200 kids in that group. It’s not 4H but its (Mancuso tells her it’s “Youth and Ag”)…thank you, Youth and Ag group. They have over 200 kids in that and I’m afraid to say that’s probably what the Master Gardeners are going to have to do, they’re going to go out on their own, create another organization just like these kids did with their parents help and then they would be able to support themselves. (someone in the audience said, “but the voters approved this.”) Coleen throws up her hands.

Fahey – Yeah, the voters voted for 4 cents per thousand, that’s what we’re paying for it. It’s really unfortunate because it’s just a real lack of communication. The commissioners either wouldn’t or couldn’t talk to OSU and I’m not sure if OSU was all that receptive. I’ve heard differing stories about how many employees are employed at Corvalis that you never see here, how many employees are employed here…there’s a lot we do not know. And the worst part about it I think it’s a victim of culture wars. You know a lot of the 4H students are affiliated with the church one way or the other and there was some sort of show where the kids had like a cross on their shirt. And the local 4H person said you have to reverse your shirts and not show it. Well that’s probably inappropriate. Now that might be myth, I think the people I heard it from are pretty factual. I think that’s what started the culture war and unfortunately the county commissioners couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t communicate well enough to share their values with the extension service in Corvalis and so we’re stuck here with this bottleneck. I do think there are solutions though, I was chatting about one where 4H isn’t owned by the OSU Extension. You could have a 4H independent here. But the worst part about it is that you have collateral damage which is like the Master Gardener program and all those other things. Now I’m not sure what the outcome is, I’m going to stay tuned and see what happens and hope calmer heads prevail and some sort of mitigation happens. But I’m not overly confident it will happen.

McAlmond – I think this is one of the reasons you need to have non-partisan county commissioners because in my opinion that decision was a partisan decision. I also believe that the library decision was a partisan decision and I think when you have county commissioners who are going to do what’s best for their party or their partisanship rather than what’s best for everybody in Josephine County you get these kind of decisions. I think it was wrong and shouldn’t have been done.

Gonzales – I’m not privy to all the facts but I can genuinely tell you that I was highly disappointed when that happened because I know how much good those programs have done. So I don’t have enough on that to make a decision because I don’t have all the information they had, and again like Pat was saying a lot of it was hearsay, you heard these crazy stories was it culture war was it this was it that, so I don’t want to take a stand on hearsay but I was very disappointed to hear that happen.

Smith – It’s unfortunate because I think 4H has been a great program for a lot of years. What was happening is kids in Youth and Ag were growing and 4H was shrinking. Part of that was mission creep on the part of 4H getting into areas where they tell them they can’t wear this shirt or they can’t wear that jewelry, that’s really not the mission of 4H. Their mission was to teach kids about agriculture and about husbandry and animals, so the problem is probably a duel problem with the commissioners but also 4H. But Youth and Ag is growing and getting bigger and its private, it’s not funded by the county.

Question: Can you state your position on Measure 17-116?

Mancuso – I’m not 100 percent on board. I don’t oppose it. there’s a couple of things about it. some housecleaning that could have been done. But for the most part I think that having one person who has prior experience as a city or county budget the size of ours, a $200 million budget I think that’s appropriate at this time. There’s a lot of hijinks going on in the county commissioner office. There’s a lot of things I’d love to tell you but I can’t prove it but I know what’s happening based on the questions they don’t ask each other in public meetings.

Jones – Kind of like what Dan was saying so the idea of running the county like a a corporation, right, so you’d have a CEO that answers to a board of directors. So county manager, part time commissioners. So that aspect I like. Some of the other stuff in there I’m on the fence about right now. I’ve got to look into some state statutes to see since there’s some issues brought up by the other side about certain state statutes I haven’t checked into yet. So waiting on that to make a full decision.

Barnett – Alright, the charter. It erases the whole entire constitution of Josephine County. Current charter’s been in place since 1981, they’ve made changes along the way. I’ve looked at it. I think there’s just too many holes in it at this time for Josephine County and it erases everything and starts with a fresh new look. Five commissioners and one full-time county manager’s going to cost the county way too much money and in my opinion it’s bigger government. I’m not for bigger government, I worked for a bigger government. You can’t get the decisions done in time, so I’m against the charter so it’s a vote no for me.

Fahey – I think I’ve probably lived in Josephine County about as long as anybody here. I’ve seen a ton of commissioners come and go, some good, some not. I’m in favor of the charter for one reason, it’s for the manager. The five people, you know, we’ve heard stories about how much it’s going to cost. I think a lot of that’s smoke, personally cause I’ve worked on boards that I don’t have a facility like they talk they’d have. It’s just five independent people that give instructions to the manager and let him do his job professionally. I think the chance of having a better outcome is better than some of the commissioners I’ve seen.

McAlmond – My position on this is neutral. The reason is because as a county commissioner my salary would drop from $100,000 a year down to $25,000 so should I be for or against it. If that’s going to affect my compensation I just don’t think…I came out of an industry where it’s very important to fully disclose any conflict of interest and I think it’s a conflict of interest for a county to say that I’m opposed to this because I’d lose $75,000 a year if I vote for this. So I’m going to be neutral on the position. I think it’s a conflict of interest for me to say anything about it and I will let the people decide what they want to do.

Gonzales – I understand absolutely why people would want to completely erase and rewrite our commission because they’ve been upset with some of the commissioners. I get that. But I think we’re throwing the baby out with the bath water and at some point let’s look at revising what we have. Let’s make some changes to it. The one thing I am not OK with is the county commissioners can increase taxes and fees without voter approval. They’re taking that away from you. (Read the measure, said some in the audience). OK, I’ll read the measure.

Smith – One thing I see in the charter is the districting. You know the county had districts before. There was three districts. It failed and they got rid of it after one term. It creates division. You’re going to have four districts vying for different things and their commissioners are only concerned about their district cause that’s the only ones that elect um. They had that problem before because if the only people you vote for is that district and one guy at large, it creates division in the county. And you already have managers. You have qualified department managers. You don’t need another manager on top of it. It’s just bigger government and I don’t think it will be cheaper I think it’ll be more expensive.

Martin – As for the charter, I honestly simply don’t think we can afford it. I’ve been looking at the budget with the county and I think it may start out small and it’s going to grow and continue to get bigger. If you know, Jackson County’s manager makes $375,000 and on top of that the commissioners and they’re trying to go for five commissioners as well. I think that we’re going to create a budget problem that’s going to be enormous for us and that makes me extremely nervous. Honestly, I’d rather have another law enforcement officer out there and I think that we need three commissioners that are effective and do a good job and that work for the people and for all the people and are not working for self-interest.