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Commissioner Candidate Forum — Part 3

The last of our write-of the Commissioners Form on April 9th.

Question: Current commissioners have forgotten about or at least aren’t telling us about the use of broadband money and the grant EMS received for defensible space. What can you do about it?

Martin – I don’t know enough about the grant. I feel like in the last few months a personality got into the middle of that and that changed everything and then it just sort of stopped as many things do within our county. Something goes awry and it just stops and that’s what happened and I think that we as the voters we need to ask that question of them. What is their plan? Actually I did ask the question recently of one of the commissioners and they kind of danced around it so I don’t know. That’s a great question that I can’t answer.

Mancuso – So both of those monies go to one person. The county has one person that is the emergency management director as well as the IT director. And that particular person in my opinion was a political appointee and that’s the ….

Jones – So that $100,000 for the emergency fund, I know that $25,000 of it went to a group that was providing some stuff for the homeless….questioner – I’m talking about a $450,000 grant that Emily (former Emergency Services Director) got for people to do defensive space. Jones – Oh that one. That one went to the Firewise program Mike McLaughlin is supposed to be implementing that one but I have not seen the numbers for that. It kinda, like you’re right. It disappeared.

Barnett – I’m gonna plead neutral on this one because I don’t know where that money even came from.

Fahey – I know a little bit about the broadband. The broadband grant is a follow-up to a previous grant the library administered. And the library, they initially contracted with the library to do the broadband education grant and we had John McCafferty, the old IT guy at the county do it. A certain political appointee that is now a county employee decided the contract wasn’t beneficial enough for the county so they said we’re going to change what the contract is so after the changes it got to where it was not beneficial to the library anymore so the library stepped away from it, partially because we didn’t think the county was going to administer it correctly and we have the results now. We still don’t know what’s going to happen. But there’s a lot of money, over a $100,000 waiting for something to happen and there’s a contract person that was supposed to handle it, a former county commissioner, that we’re not sure if he’s hired or not and we can’t see if he’s hired but he does have a county email address. I don’t know what’s happening here but the word boondoggle comes to mind.

McAlmond – Speaking of boondoggle, I think this all comes down to the basic philosophy of governance and basic philosophy of governance I think should be for any county commissioner and certainly would be for myself as I’m going to be as completely transparent as possible. I don’t like these backroom meetings and decisions being made without full disclosure so people can see what’s happening with the money they’re being given to make Josephine County a better county so that would be my position. Complete transparency as much as possible and even the reason why you make a decision.

Gonzales – I agree with that. I think transparency is important and I’m kind of with some of these guys, I don’t have all the information to make that decision but I think transparency is so important. No deals behind closed doors. If it’s the taxpayers it’s the taxpayers we need to be very open about that. You should not be ashamed or hiding the decisions that you make.

Smith – I’ll have an open door policy. It you want to know something just come in and ask. My phone number’s out there. I’d be willing to share that. People, that’s your money. It’s not the commissioners’ money so transparency is very important in government.

Other Issues (Candidates drew questions so not all had the same ones and were asked to give short answers.

Flying Lark

Martin – It’s an asset that’s also a liability to the county. I would’ve like to see it used for a convention center.

Mancuso – We need to get it out of the county and onto the tax roles as soon as possible.

Jones – I agree.

Barnett – It will take someone with big dollars to take that over.

Fahey – It would make a nice community center.

McAlmond – As an MBA I could run the numbers and see what the best option for it would be.

Smith – It’s set up as a casino and not fit for a business. I wouldn’t have approved of it in the first place.

Economic Development: The future of mining, timber and tourism in Josephine County and maintaining public safety programs.

None were in favor of taking the sheriff’s general fund money away even though we now have a sheriff’s taxing district.

Fahey – Believes the timber era has passed and even if more timber access was available the jobs wouldn’t come back because harvesting and milling are so much more efficient now. The “hidden gems” of Josephine County’s economy like Rogue Truck Body should be encouraged to grow and not held back by too many building requirements.

Gonzales – We need to promote recreation and tourism. We live in a paradise. We could promote it better on social media.

Barnett – We need to think out of the box and balance the environment with logging. We need lumber and paper. Tourism could be a huge economic boon. On law enforcement he advocated for volunteer auxiliary programs for the sheriff’s department.

Jones – We need to provide public safety, adequate fire protection and law enforcement or the county will not grow. If people don’t feel safe they won’t come here. If I’m elected I would implement fire standards for the county right away. There is a future in agra-tourism through our wineries. An RV resort among the wineries creates a way to bring people here. That kind of thing needs to be supported and not dragged down by too many regulations.

Mancuso – He agrees with Mark, that public safety is also an economic issue. Without adequate protections there is no tourism or economic development. The county should not stiff the sheriff of his previous level of general fund money because the levy district passed.

Martin – She says we need better commissioners. Her dad was a logger but she doesn’t see that as the future. There is some potential in mining her but extraction is very expensive.

Smith – We need to address the homeless situation. He sees it as a city problem outside county commissioners jurisdiction. In spite of billions of dollars thrown at it, it keeps getting worse. He says it needs to be addressed by law enforcement, drug rehabilitation and housing. Smith criticized the City of Grants Pass for proposing to tax big box stores. He says we’ll lose businesses that way. He’s all for reducing regulations. “Trump cut regulations and that spurred the economy,” he said.

McAlmond – The county needs to be more welcoming to attract tourists. People won’t visit a place known for its bigotry. We have to let the rest of the state know we’re welcoming and humane.

Homelessness

Gonzales – We need more affordable housing. People have to work together from a position of caring about people. We need an executable plan and follow through.

Fahey – What causes homelessness? A housing shortage, drug abuse and mental health issues. We need to increase housing but that isn’t easy as we saw a big decline during the 2009-12 recession and many craftsmen left the profession. At RCC we tried to double down on training in the trades. If I was asked to advise a young person I’d tell them to pick a trade.

Mancuso – Homelessness cannot be solved by county commissioners alone. I did two point-in-time counts of homeless people in Illinois Valley. Eighty to ninety percent live out in the woods. People say the homeless are addicts and the mentally ill but most I saw were 55-plus seniors. I talked to developers and they say it’s hard to recoup an investment in a big apartment project. They need help to make that possible.

Martin – We built Foundry Village with the idea people could go from there to transitional housing but there is none. Affordable housing requires more partnerships with different organizations.