County Commissioners May 22nd 2024

Conspiracy Theory by Bambi Bianchi, Secretary of JoCo Republicans

Democrats are plotting to take over Southern Oregon by trying to change county charters to give them an advantage and orchestrating a massive registration switch so Democrats can skew Republican primaries. All this is being led by a professional political operative, now the Chair of  the Josephine County Democratic Party that imported her from Stacy Abrahms’ Georgia voter registration campaign.

Debunking of this Conspiracy Theory

This conspiracy theory, making the rounds of social media in Josephine County, was debunked by the “political operative” herself, Democratic Party Chair Eva Avery, who spoke at the Josephine County Commissioner’s May 22 meeting. Preceding her at the podium was Brandy Bianchi, who doxed prominent people who had switched from Democrat or non-affiliated registration to Republican even though it made little difference in the Republican primaries when all the votes were counted. Bianchi blamed this dirty trick on Eva Avery, saying “they cheat and lie to deceive.” Then it was Avery’s turn at the podium.

“I’m here to set record straight. There seems to be some confusion about who I am and the power I wield. My name is Eva Avery. I am the current Chair of the Josephine County Democratic Party, but I am here on my own behalf. My husband George and I moved to Grants Pass in 2018 from Lilburn, Georgia in 2018 in an effort to be closer to our children and grandchildren who live in Albany and Seattle. We chose Grants Pass because we have family here it gives us easy access to our kids and because we love its natural beauty and its family friendly small town feel. I was born in Chicago but raised in Northern Indiana. I’m the seventh of 11 children in an Irish Catholic family. My dearly departed parents were of a mixed marriage. Dad was a lifelong Republican and a Sox fan. Mom was a Democrat who loved the Cubs. Our dinner table was a place for discussion, debate, arguments and growth. I loved being a member of my giant family and I’m proudly close to my siblings.

What I am not is someone so powerful that I can convince people, most of whom I have never even met, to change party affiliation in some sinister effort to somehow tilt Josephine County to a blue dot in a red area. I am well aware that Josephine County is split 60/30 Republican to Democrat. The chances of moving the needle to the left is slim. Right? That said, I am a proud Democrat. What that means is I value honesty, integrity, equality, opportunity, family and freedom.

So you know, I have met our Mayor (Grants Pass) though I’m certain she couldn’t tell you much about me as we have never socialized. I have also met Vanessa (Grants Pass City Council President Ogier) at least once and spoken to her briefly. Someone who I have never met but who seems to know a lot about me is Bambi Bianchi. I also don’t know the people she mentioned as having changed registrations. I’m sure they will confirm that they don’t know me on any personal level. I was and I am an activist. While in Georgia I participated in a lot of political action. I have met once and marched with Stacy Abrahms and I know she couldn’t pick me out of a lineup if pressed to do so. I have marched with John Lewis and Raphael Warnock, none of them have ever been to my home. We don’t exchange holiday cards, I don’t know them, they don’t know me, I’m just one cog.

In closing I would like to extend a hand to each of you, I’d like you to get to know me, I think you will find that we share a lot in common. I love my town, I love my community, I want to see solutions to the challenges we face, and I am willing to offer myself up to achieve our common goals.”

Commissioner Dan DeYoung was the only one who commented on Avery’s comments, saying he was glad she came forward about her position as Chair of the Democratic Party. For once Commissioner Herman Baertschiger and Chair John West were speechless regarding the Democrats.

Other Commissioner News — Economic Development Funds

Have Josephine County Commissioners been so embroiled in culture wars lately they haven’t paid enough attention to the county’s finances? Mark Jones had questions during their May 22 general meeting.

“Yesterday’s legal meeting left me with quite a few questions. A little concerning to be honest with you. Economic development funds – it was stated that there’s $400,000 in that balance fund. Why are these funds not available for disbursement? It’s stated you only have $36,000 left to put out this year. It seems to me if you have a fund balance of $400,000 in economic development it should be used for what it was intended for…to boost our local economy and help people when they come to you and ask for it.

The other thing I’m failing to understand is how telling somebody that these funds are available to businesses to apply for is a bad thing. Aren’t economic development grants supposed to be there for the people or are they supposed to be secret? Are these funds only supposed to be used when certain people are connected to the ask? While going over some of the budget numbers I’ve also had some difficulty understanding how economic development dollars could be used for court security. I’m not seeing how court security is actually helping our economy. In the ’21-’22 budget $120,000 was used, $175,000 in ’22-’23 and $200,000 in 23-24. And again it’s under economic development money so that’s a little confusing.

Firewise Funding

Also I (again, Mark Jones) have to question the Firewise program funding. It was my understanding back when this program was developed that it would have adequate funding to last the entirety of the contract. If there was $140,000 per year budgeted for the city side of the contract, only $104,000 and $64,000 were used in the last two years. They should have some extra funds available. Right? Now the only variable that I don’t see in the original plan was Search and Rescue being funded out of the Title 3 funds. I understand that Search and Rescue had responses on Forest Service and BLM lands in both ’22 and ’23 but I have also found on the Title 3 website it states that those funds cannot be used for salary and wages of normal operations.

I think the perception here is that maybe those funds are misused. Some citizens have a concern about these Title 3 funds and what they’re supposed to be used for versus how they’re being used. If there is a $743,000 fund balance and not all the funds originally calculated in ’22 and ’23 there should be plenty of funds to continue the contract with the City of Grants Pass for our much needed Firewise program to continue as originally planned for. The whole issue would leave citizens who are following these meetings wondering what exactly is going on.”

Commissioners responded with something about how they didn’t always know when they would get economic development money so it was hard to budget it. DeYoung said the funding comes from the state lottery. Firewise, a national program for aiding people in high-risk fire areas with property evaluation and risk mitigation, was discussed Tuesday during the Legal Counsel meeting, Commissioners were on the verge of terminating their support for the program as advised by Emergency Management/IT Director Michael Sellers, but held off after Grants Pass City Manager Aaron Cubic, accompanied by city fire officials, said they had just heard about the proposal. Commissioner Herman Baertschiger said later the Firewise program isn’t going away, they are just trying to downsize it so it will last longer. Chair John West echoed his comment saying it wouldn’t be very responsible for them to spend all the Firewise money down at the current budget level and have it go away…extending it is more prudent.

… And about Public Comment

West also got in his two cents about last week’s City Council meeting where Mike Pelfry was escorted out of the Council Chamber for being belligerent and not following the rules for public speaking. “As long as I’m sitting here you can come and say whatever you like and I hope the next people that come here sit and listen too.” West did not seem to understand that the Board’s own public comment rules say people who get belligerent and don’t follow the rules will be asked to leave.