County Commissioners February 16 & 17

Josephine County Commissioners’ Weekly Business Session Feb. 16 came to life on Zoom with Commissioner Dan DeYoung calling someone “sweetheart” and asking her to bring him coffee. Commissioner Darin Fowler was busy putting on lip balm. When Chair Herman Baertschiger officially opened the meeting there wasn’t much more on the agenda then public comments and the consent agenda.  During public comments Mike Jones used his three-minute time allotment to once again plead with Commissioners to put fire standards on the agenda, preferably before fire season. He had to follow three people who thought these three county commissioners could help them realize their big, bazaar dreams.

Becky Lemler, the first speaker, who thinks Josephine County voters are just itching to live in Idaho, wants that confirmed by an advisory question on the May ballot asking if they’d like to see Idaho borders moved to incorporate the county into our next-door state.

Lemler: Hello Commissioners. Thank you for the meeting. I would like to speak today about the Greater Idaho movement and encourage you to put an advisory question on the May 2022 ballot. This is my hometown. My husband and I recently moved back to Grants Pass after retiring. Yea! When we retired we searched and searched and searched throughout the state for an area that would be like Grants Pass because of the growing seasons and the conservative values of this community. We had been living in a liberal infested area for far too long and wanted desperately to get out. But we love Oregon. When we heard of the possibility of moving Oregon’s border, which includes Josephine County, we were absolutely thrilled and I began helping gather signatures on the petitions when we would be in the county while looking for our new home. Last year I helped with a drive through signature collection event. There were writeups and ads published about it in The Eagle newspaper. Richard Emmons of The Eagle attended this event. Mike McCarter, who’s the president of the Greater Idaho movement, spoke on the radio about this event with Bill Meyer. Mike can’t be here today because he’s speaking with the Jefferson County Commissioners. The drive-thru was held at Reinhart Volunteer Park. People drove up in their cars. We brought the petitions to them and they signed. They chatted with us and visited. And with others and then they left. People were SO excited about the possibility of really getting out from under the jackboot of this governor who is more than happy to continue signing one size fits all tyrannical mandates and FORCING injections on people in order for those people to keep their jobs, in order to feed their families, pay their mortgages and just live. Some residents even took petitions home with them to have their friends and neighbors sign this. We collected over 300 signatures that day. I was still living in Liberal Land at the time and couldn’t be here as much as needed to help gather more signatures. Mandates closed most events so petition-gathering dwindled but not the enthusiasm of gaining our freedoms back. People want them back. Commissioners. We need your help. Please, put an advisory question on the May 2022 ballot. Time is of the essence here. Deadline for submitting a request for a ballot title is Feb. 25 according to the state’s county referral manual. And that’s next Friday! IF you wait until next week it might be impossible to put an explanatory statement and arguments in the state voter pamphlet….Baertschiger interrupts to tell her her time Is up.

Next up were the Illinois Valley regulars. Guenter Ambron, who informed Commissioner some group is organizing to restore the “original common law that says the sheriff is the chief enforcement officer.” They also want to indict Dr. Anthony Fauci “as stewards of the county’s common law court.” Next, weekly caller Judy Hinkle was pleased to announce to Commissioners that a criminal complaint is being filed with 50 state Attorneys General calling for the arrest and prosecution of Fauci.

Following all that, Jones was brought in. He told Commissioners they hadn’t kept their word after saying they would get fire standards on the agenda after the holidays. “Stop kicking the can down the road,” he said. “By placing standards into effect you are ensuring all residents are getting quality life safety services when they call 911. You’re insuring that the first responders are properly trained and equipped to handle the emergency they are being paid to mitigate. Please amend County Ordinance 2018-004 by adding the chapter Standards for Private Structural Fire Service Providers.”

Since the format for public comments allows just three minutes for people to have their say but unlimited time for Commissioners to rebut without further input from the person they rebut, Jones said he had some misinformation to clear up from the last time he spoke. “A fire department, fire brigade, also known as fire authority, fire rescue, fire district, fire and rescue or fire service is an organization that provides fire fighting services, technical rescue, fire protection, fire investigation, emergency medical service, hazardous materials mitigation and public education just to name a few. You need to understand that the Oregon Department of Forestry and the US Forest Service only deal with wildland fires. They are not a community fire service that provides all-hazard emergency response.”

During Commissioners’ response time, DeYoung started off saying while he’s been following the Greater Idaho movement he still hasn’t had one important question he has answered.

“What does Idaho say about this?

He went on to say he likes Idaho and spent some time there on a summer job when he was in high school, “but I’m not hearing an outcry of Idaho people writing letters to the editor in Josephine County asking us to get this on the ballot.” Calling the movement’s goal of moving the Idaho border to include eastern and southern Oregon “a long way to go,” also DeYoung said he’s anxious to hear what Idaho has to say.

DeYoung, Fowler and Commissioner Herman Baertschiger all thanked Ambron and Hinkle for keeping them informed about their latest developments. DeYoung warned “if you say something against the vaccine people all of a sudden show up with a recall petition in front of the Post Office.”

Fowler leaned favorably toward the idea of moving Idaho’s border to include Josephine County. “Maybe Oregon needs a little bit of a dividing line instead of trying to compromise because one group has refused to compromise for decades. On a lot of things. Not everything. But, um, it just gets frustrating because I do love living here.”

There was some reference to a meeting about the Idaho border Tuesday, Feb. 15 but that meeting was apparently not recorded. For a look at the Greater Idaho plan and proposed ballot language look here https://www.greateridaho.org/ballot-initiative-josephine-county/

Baertschiger, who brought the Idaho boarder matter to the Commission, said he’s in favor of putting an advisory question on the ballot “to give us a sense of what people are thinking.” Regarding fire standards, Baertschiger said “Mike Jones, you have to understand this is a little political. The fire district was voted down. And if the Commissioners come back and come back with some standards and we have not sold off to the people in the proposed district they’re just going to go out and gather signatures and repeal it just like they did the ordinance…and I was looking, it will not take very many signatures to repeal this so we’ve gotta get it right and we have to bring the people, the citizens along. If they don’t like what we’re doing they’re just going to repeal it. We just got a lesson in that here recently,, so this is not as simple and not everybody believes like you do, so this is gonna take some time. It’s gonna involve the companies and it’s also gonna involve the citizens cause if we don’t sell it to the citizens in Josephine County they’ll get the signatures and we’ll be done.”

After approving the consent agenda, discussing the need for a better way to keep a record of Commissioners’ attendance at meetings and complaining about the Grants Pass Daily Courier, the 47 minute meeting ended.

Thursday’s County Administrative Workshop and Legal Counsel meeting was mostly a discussion about what to put on the May ballot, since the deadline for submitting something is Feb. 25.

DeYoung objected to the way the ballot measure asking voters to repeal the board’s recently passed Code Enforcement Ordinance was worded, as submitted by petitioner Holly Morton and Sen. Art Robinson. He said it is confusing to voters because it’s worded in such a way that yes means no and no means yes. He said he’s been trying to talk to Morton or Robinson about changing the wording but hasn’t been able to connect with them yet.

County Counsel Wally Hicks said an option would be to put the Ordinance on the ballot and ask voters if it should be upheld. That would mean there would be two questions regarding Code Enforcement on the ballot.  Commissioners asked what would happen if people voted to reject it on one measure but keep it on the other. They skuttled that idea in favor of trying to get Morton and Robinson to change the wording of their submission. Commissioners could change the wording themselves, but Baertschiger said that would be undermining the oath he took to uphold the Oregon State Constitution and a “Constitutional taking” of Morton and Robinson’s right to put something on the ballot. “I know its an awkward position but sometimes being in government is awkward. But at the end of the day, as I’ve always said, we’ve gotta follow that Constitution.”  (Baertschiger did not comment on whether promoting Josephine County’s secession from Oregon would be undermining the oath he took to uphold the Oregon Constitution)

Commissioners decided to wait until next Wednesday to decide on what goes on the May ballot regarding Code Enforcement so they can convince Morton the question, as it stands, may result in an unintended outcome.

Hicks reminded Commissioners they’ve been asked to put advisory questions on the ballot, including the Idaho border question, a question asking voters if they favor mining over enlarging protected lands in the county, if taxes should be raised to provide the Sheriff with a steady source of income, and if fireworks should be banned.

DeYoung said since they don’t have a map showing exactly where the protected lands would be, that question might be better for the November ballot when they have more time to find out. However, he did say he would take it to the Mining Advisory Committee to get their opinion. He decided an advisory question asking voters if they want to live in Idaho wouldn’t hurt even though he still hadn’t heard anything from Idaho about “whether they want us.” Regarding the question about raising taxes for the Sheriff he said it’s too early to ask that and it might just be confusing at this point.

Fowler said the Idaho question is the only one he’d like to see on the ballot. Baertschiger said “Josephine County Idaho has a ring to it.” He said banning fireworks would be unenforceable so rejected the idea of putting that on the ballot, even as an advisory question.

Commissioners asked Hicks to develop ballot language for the Idaho question and the mining question for them to review next Wednesday before taking a vote on the matters.

Finance Director Sandy Novak came on board Zoom to give Commissioners an update on an independent audit of the county’s financials that gave them a good report with just a few items to adjust. After wading into the depths of governmental financial terms such as ISF rates and Internal Service funds, DeYoung said during his five years as Commissioners he’d never seen that report before. Novak said it usually didn’t appear in this format but there are some decisions Commissioners have to make this year so she was educating them.

Novak discussed the budget and the inflationary pressures they are likely to see this year. The General Fund Revenue is $13.2 million with 38 percent coming from property taxes. Other money is generated from Forestry and Community Development, marijuana taxes, federal O&C money and solid waste fees. The budget grew last year but not because of property taxes, which are flat, she said. The reason the budget grew is because of the influx of COVID money.  Staff turnover, which has hit historic levels, has had an impact on the budget, said Novak. In 2020 79 people left but in 2021 109 left their jobs with the county. That’s over 25 percent of the county workforce, she said, and that hit the payroll hard because of expenses related to employee severance. Inflation is visiting the county in the form of higher COLA costs and higher insurance rates, which could go up as much as 10 percent, but she said west coast fires are impacting that as well.

DeYoung wanted to know if the county divested itself of property did that reduce insurance rates? Novak said she’d have to consult with the county property manager to answer that question.

Baertschiger called a suggestion to compose a letter to send to the BLM manager asking for a map of the property involved in land withdrawals “a good idea.”  Land withdrawals, as proposed in the River Democracy Act, Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act and the Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act, have not been defined to them, he said, and he’d like to have a copy of that letter in time to take it to Rep. Cliff Bentz when he meets with him this weekend.


The Bill and Herman Show

KMED Radio with host Bill Meyer and Josephine County Commissioner Herman Baertschiger

The saga of the Flying Lark, the proposed “racino” in Grants Pass started the discussion Tuesday, Feb. 15. The rest of the show they meandered through their concern about the high number of candidates vying for the Republican nominee for governor and Herman reveled he was “courted” to run for the state’s highest office.  They again speculated on Betsy Johnson’s effect on the gubernatorial race, called Tina Kotek the “modern version of Hillary” and then touched on COVID, giddy with the thought it might harm Democrats in elections.

Bill (on the Flying Lark) – Is this the end of that story?

Herman – It’s really tough for the gaming part of it. Believe it or not it’s in the (Oregon) Constitution. But the legislature does not have the ability to legalize gaming so, um, the only way to change the Constitution is through the initiative process or the Legislature but it takes a two-thirds vote. So that’s not likely going to happen…

Bill – Yeah, yeah. Getting two thirds is going to be tough for much of anything there, OK. Hoping to get Travis on to talk about this. I don’t know what his politics are but and I don’t care but I appreciated what he’s trying to do to get things to improve the economy in Southern Oregon. How is it Portland Downs was able to get away with it?

Herman – Well, you know it’s like anything else details, details and details. One, those were older gaming machines that were not considered by chance and the other bigger thing it was never challenged. I mean something’s never challenged it continues on, so Travis has looked at new gaming machines and he has been challenged, so that’s kinda what has happened.

Bill – Well, I’m hoping we can get him on and talk about it. I’ve been for what he’s been trying to do or at least the attempt and he’s spent a lot a money on that from what I can tell. A lot of money.

Herman – Yes a lot, plus Josephine County has a lot at stake here. I mean our Fairgrounds, the rent, see the county owns the land the rent is $375 thousand a year.

Bill – That’s a pretty good hunk a change isn’t it? Yeah.

Herman – Yeah, for little ol’ Josephine County that’s a lot of money so there’s a lot a interest from the county that he should succeed in this venture. So anyways, yeah, it’s pretty disappointing….

Bill – Not surprising but still disappointing, nonetheless. He was kinda thrown a legal Hail Mary on that I thought. Just my opinion and my legal opinion is worth the price paid.

Herman – Well, you know the tribes are able to have casinos because of a sovereign nation and that memorandum of understanding was done, I want to say in either 2001 by Kulongoski or Kitzhaber so a lot a people say how can the tribes do it and Travis can’t well. Gambling is illegal in Oregon with the exception of the lottery and people say well what about the tribes? Those are sovereign nations.

Bill – Hmmm. So, I think I’ve solved the problem. All Travis has to do is…can he get Jackson and Josephine County to become a member of a tribe? Let’s just go into the Res. Whadda ya say there Herman?

Herman – Well, in the politics, if you look at the politics and the news media it got all wrapped around the axle over this wokism. Lookit. Every article starts out “billionaire Travis Boersma.” So, you know he’s the poster child for white privilege, billionaire, and then if you look at some of the articles from the tribes, well, he’ll be taking food out of the tribes’ mouths and hurt the tribes a lot so he really got tangled up in our modern-day wokism and um, I know I’m gonna catch hell from the tribes for saying that but it’s the honest truth.

Bill – It’s the reality, the reality of how it’s portrayed. I agree with you Herman. Hey Commissioner let’s shift gears. We’ll see if he’s going to appeal the decision or not. OK. I have to tell you, how many Republicans do we have running for governor right now? 60 or 65? Somewhere in there.

Herman – Sixteen.

Bill – Maybe you and I should run, make it 18.

Herman – Hey there you go. Let’s have a party. Well, I had a little time this morning and I went to ORESTAR to see who had money. Bridget Barton, she’s running’ about $400 thousand, Brazen has about a million, Jessica Gomez about $125 thousand, McQuisten of Baker City about $83 thousand…..

Bill interrupts – Yeah I’m gonna talk with her (McQuisten) in about 20 I’m gonna have her on to talk about this. I guess my question is that’s where the money is. The real money though is with Betsy Johnson $3.5 million right now, and she doesn’t have to go through a primary.

Herman – Well, you know, Betsy and I are very close friends. We became friends in the Senate because she was an outcast from her caucus. They literally despised her.

Bill – Well, she’s an apostate to the Democratic Party. She was a DINO, Democrat in name only according to them. Right?

Bill – Exactly. She was a traitor. And so she met with us. She met with us, not my caucus but she met with me and a few other caucus members on a very regular basis. Her dad was a Republican. She was a Republican I believe at one time. And now…you know she’s never been a party hack. OK? And um, she has always been a big fund raiser. In her senate days she’s always done a very good job with that so it’s not surprising me she’s sittin on 3 ½ million dollars.

Bill – And it’s interesting given what…now is Tina Kotek the presumed Democratic nominee? Is that who’s probably gonna end up getting it you think?

Herman – Yeah, yeah, I think. You might be surprised about Tobias givin’ her a good run for the money. He’s gonna come across as more moderate. Tobias…I get along really good with Tobias. I always liked him. Yeah, our politics are different on some things but other things they aren’t so. He’s kinda, I would say he’s center left but ah, he’s a little on the moderate side there I would say.

Bill – The problem is though is that she may have all those endorsements. I’m talking about Tina Kotek. She may have all those endorsements from the public employee unions. Thing is though, Tina Kotek is dislikable…..is, is totally disliked I think by a lotta people even within the Democratic Party structure. Kinda like their, their modern version of Hillary, I think. Maybe I’m wrong in my evaluation of that. Whadda you think?

Herman – Well, the movers and shakers in the Oregon Capitol are, and I’ll put em right in order, is one, the unions, especially the teacher’s union, two is the trial attorneys. Trial attorneys are big supporters of the Democrats and three is the environmental community. So, um, I think that they’re probably all gonna throw their chips in to Tina Kotek. Unless Tobias, can you know, we’ll see. I didn’t look to see how much money he has right now, but um, he could, it just depends on you know.

Bill – How important is the money? Because I’ve talked about this you know, money is the mother’s milk of politics, and some people get really angry when I say that but is what concerned me is a lot of people seem to be running for governor this time around that act as though they’re running for student counsel. And…I shouldn’t say that. Maybe it’s a little harsh Herman, but well, “I think I’d be a good governor so I’m gonna run. Have you done anything before? Nope. But I think I’ve got great ideas. You know that kind of thing. That’s really nice. That’s really nice. But I remember Dennis Richardson as seasoned as he was, in those battles in the end there against a wounded Kitzhaber a number of years ago and he could’ve made it with about another half million in funding that had not materialized for him. You remember that race. Don’tcha? Right there in the end?

Herman – I remember it very much and I’ll be honest you know, I was courted to run for governor this past year by multiple people and my standard line was show me 12 million dollars and I’ll show you a candidate. You know, they just threw up their hands and say you’re crazy and everything but you know the reality is, you watch, this gubernatorial race is gonna be a 20 million dollar race.

Bill – 20 million? Now is that for all of the major candidates. I mean Betsy, whoever’s in the Democrat and Republican race. It’s gonna be a 20 million dollar race. Really.

Herman – Yep. Yep Yep…Mark my words. And so I’m not gonna take a year off of my life to campaign and then run out of money cause that’s exactly what happened to Dennis Richardson.

Bill – That’s so sad too because he would’ve been so far, so far the superior guy. But he told me after that, he says, you know it’s a half million dollars. He was ready, he was pouncing there near the end but he completely ran out of cash in the very end of it. It was so sad.

Herman – Yep, yep…there’s only so many dollars out there and that’s why I’m always lookin at whose raising money cause there’s just only so much of it and I’m pretty, you know, Betsy Johnson is, for somebody that’s not getting any union or trial attorney or environmental money she’s doin’ a pretty good job of it you know.

Bill – Yeah but she did, you and I were talking about this off air, she did step in yesterday on Lars by talking about going for state funding for abortion. That might kick out some of the more conservative support for her. For her candidacy.

Herman – Yeah it’s gonna be interesting but we gotta let that, I call it soak in for a while and see what happens.

Bill – But we have Republicans running for governor that are pro-choice also. I mean, they really are. I’m sorry, yeah, pro-choice. They’re…I don’t know if they’re ok with funding abortion with tax money but I don’t know if anything’s going to be changing the funding for abortions at this point in time given the make-up of the legislature. What would you say?

Herman – Well you know, Right to Life has a pretty good machine, ahh, I think they’d probably more relevant in the primary than the general election. But you know they are a formidable, uh, you know, industry…ah, not industry, a formidable….Bill interrupts…influencer, lobbyist, Herman, Yeah, and so that’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. This summer’s gonna be long, and to be quite honest with you it’s gonna be about who can raise money and who can stay outta trouble.

Bill – Heh heh, and you can understand how that kinda feeds the cynicism for some people. They’re thinkin’ well it shouldn’t matter about the money. But if you can’t get your message out you’re not gonna get the votes. That’s the bottom line isn’t it?

Herman – Yes. And I had a conversation with some political folks yesterday and everybody was looking in their crystal ball and I said Hey stop. Wait a second folks. I said let’s talk about this primary with 16 people. I said the average voter out there knows none of these people. NONE. And I said do you really think they’re gonna pick up that voter’s pamphlet and read all sixteen of these people? No. They’re not. the average voter’s not gonna do that Bill. They’re just not. I mean it’s gonna take you two or three hours to read all of that so um, it’s gonna be interesting to see who can get their name out there and you know what else is gonna be interesting is who are the top four on the ballot. You know that’s all kinda pull a name out of a hat but you know, the average voter is not gonna go down more than four or maybe five people.

Bill – You could literally have a winner of the GOP primary who wins with 8 or 9 or 10 percent couldn’t you? Given how many are there.

Herman – Yeah, this is gonna be crazy. And the Democrats. I’m gonna tell you the Democrats love it because their gonna hope that somebody rises to the top that isn’t really a strong candidate. So, there you have it.

Bill – And that of course would be a concern of mine also and when it comes to name recognition of the 16 that are there, 16 or 17 or 18 depending on who’s applied this morning. Bud Pierce would probably the one with the most name recognition having run before. Having been in there as the main candidate, wouldn’t ya think?

Herman – Yeah, but what happens if he’s 16th in the voter’s pamphlet?

Bill – Oh…OK, Alright.

Herman – So, I think when you have that many candidates it really starts to make a difference unfortunately, but the reality is it starts making a difference on where you are in the lineup.

Bill – OK I appreciate the take on that Herman. Anything else we should discuss here? Oh, I know what I wanted to ask you. The mandates end of March. This is strictly politics, right? This only happened because of the election coming. I just want to make sure I’m not misinterpreting what’s going on. I think Kate would’ve kept this going if it wasn’t an election year.

Herman – You know we have a horrible disease that was politicized. And I said it back in March of 2020 you know it’s the plague the panic and the politics. And sure enough. But I will tell you something I’m lookin at polls and everything. I think this whole covid effect, event, um, is not going well now and I think the Democrats are going to get the majority of the blame. I really do. I mean Biden came in there and he says I’m not gonna shut down the country, I’m not gonna shut down the schools. I’m gonna shut down covid. Well, he has not done that. And um, people are seein’ it. When you look at the polling what people are really scratchin’ their head are how many people are in the hospital who’ve been fully vaccinated, in the hospital with COVID. See, that doesn’t make sense. And I talked to one Democrat and she, that individual told me well, the reason they’re in the hospital, or the reason that getting vaccinated is so important is you won’t get it as bad and I said if you won’t get it as bad then why do we have fully vaccinated people in the hospital. And then the reply was because of the people who didn’t get vaccinated so I don’t even know what all that means anymore.

Bill – laughing…You know I have to say that is the river of denial as it were here. OK?

Herman – Well, look what happened Sunday. And I heard you on the radio a little bit yesterday. I sent you an email last week about the Superbowl. And I was spot-on again. I mean, you know. Did you see NBC, or CNN or any of em talk about what happened at the Superbowl yesterday? About social distancing and

Bill interrupting – Awwww no. All the Democrat luminaries are out there, maskless, in the sunshine there but I did find it interesting that all the little poopies, all the little deplorables that were servicing the celebrities, you know all the hired help was in masks though. I found that interesting. An interesting juxtaposition.

Herman – Look how the Oregonian and other progressives went after me, um, all these church events I went to and spoke at and other events. He’s a superspreader. They’re superspreader events. None of that ever happened. Uhh, Commissioners. We let the fair take place. And we were just pounced on by the paper that that’s a superspreader and none of that happened. But do they say anything? ANYTHING about what happened on Sunday at the Super Bowl?

Bill – I don’t think so I think the memo got out loud and clear. COVID is over! There’s an election year! Yeah, that’s it.