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Commissioners — Oct 11 2023

At the Oct. 11 meeting of the Josephine County Commission, a public hearing was held to amend the Land Development code to make it line up with changes made by the Oregon State Legislature. One change was defining agritourism in farm zones, which allows farmers to attract visitors with agricultural operations. Josephine County Commissioners complained that because Oregon has statewide planning they have “very little to say about the planning process,” according to Chair Herman Baertschiger.

To the Commissioners’ tune of grievance, three people spoke during the public hearing, basically to complain about the process and that the new rules cover 71 pages. Why can’t we just ignore it like we ignore the statute to take guns away from people by preventing any funds to be used to enforce it?” asked one speaker. Baertschiger said if we don’t enforce the code the state will appeal it and make the county enforce it. Commissioners Dan DeYoung and John West moaned about things they have to enforce that come down from the state which they say erodes local control. West claimed he read all 71 pages, then grumbled that the state is trying to control people. “And so I could go on and on and then I’ll get out of control,” he said. “So I’m going to leave it there.” No one actually commented on specific code changes that irked them, spending most of their time fussing about how the state has too much control over the planning process.

Judy Ahrens spoke during the public hearing, complimenting the Board’s frustrations with her own and putting in a plug for a local meeting featuring State Sen. Dennis Linthicum. She proudly called him “a right, intelligent, very witty man and a problem solver too. He’s our Senator.” Linthicum, who represents the Klamath Falls area, not Josephine County, was one of the Republicans who walked out of the legislature because they claimed Democrats were making bills too hard to read, citing some forgotten law that said legislation should be written at 8th grade level. Ahrens did not say how that solved a problem.

During public comment time, Mark Jones talked about a study that showed preventing homelessness contributes to the prevention of drug abuse and said opioid settlement funds should be used to create small, efficient affordable housing for people. Then someone calling herself Winnie from Grants Pass complained about mail-in voting and immigrants. Another speaker said he couldn’t find staff members on the county’s website.

When comments returned to the Board they disagreed with Jones about spending money for housing but agreed with all the complaints registered by others who got up to speak. DeYoung wants in-person voting to be brought back. West complained about being on a plane from Texas that was full of  “illegals” he couldn’t understand and said he would look into the website complaint. Baertschiger repeated his disdain for housing for the homeless then profoundly announced, “statewide planning in Oregon is killing Oregon.” He wound up by touching on a conspiracy theory accusing environmentalists of trying to force everyone to live in urban areas.