County Commissioners Week of January 9, 2022

Between the anti-code enforcement people and the recall people, Commissioners found themselves in a pickle. During Wednesday’s short meeting Commissioner Dan DeYoung and Board Chair Herman Baertschiger used their comment periods at the end of the meeting to lament, defend, argue and express a bit of self-righteous indignation. Meanwhile, Commissioner Darin Fowler, who is up for election this year and not on the recall list, took on Sen. Art Robinson and President Joe Biden.

DeYoung: I think the ad in the Sneak Preview pretty much sums it up as to what…there’s a group of citizens seems like is very unhappy with the whole way the board of county commissioners Is functioning and wants to just flush the toilet and start all over again. I urge you to really take a look at everything that is uh, that is being…I read in the Sneak Preview yesterday and I read Bill, is what’s his name? Bill Smith? Baertschiger interrupts…Ken Smith I think it is. DeYoung:…and I read his long description of what he thinks went wrong with COVID, and um, I agree with some of it but I also agree if you take a look today, uh, I think it was yesterday Dr. Rand Paul said this thing now that it’d got into the Omicron thing, and so many different politicians have had a shot, a bite of the apple, it’s still here, it’s still deadly, don’t blame the politician, maybe we oughta start circling the wagons rather than throwing rocks at each other. And I gotta agree with that I think Mr Paul, Senator Paul, is spot on with that. We’re spending way too much time trying to figure out what we did and didn’t do when actually all the way from the president all the way down to the city councils all the way through I don’t think this thing…I don’t know if we could have handled it better or worse or whatever. We can throw rocks. I’m not going to do that. I just think folks need to understand and maybe if you take a look at what else the Board of County Commissioners have done in the last year, uhh yeah, Commissioner Baertschiger’s (DeYoung calls him Bear Trigger) been here for one year, Commissioner Fowler’s been here for two and I’ve been here for five and maybe you should take a look at some of the things we have done in support of the county rather than using COVID as a battle ax and through the publications to basically unseat us and throw us by the wayside and um, I urge you to look at it very. very carefully. There’s an awful lot of misstatements that I think we’re gonna have to clarify in the next couple of weeks. Read…and I think right now and another thing is that the 002, 2021 002, the code enforcement issue, is going to come up on the May ballot. Congratulations to Holli Morton, she was the petitioner on that, and she was backed up by Sen. Robinson and ah, quite a few people across the street. But you know you got all those signatures, that’s great. I read the deal that was passed out. I just got it yesterday and I have an issue with most of it but I’ll take that up later. But, I also want to uhm, this is going to be put on the ballot? But before it goes to the ballot I urge you all to get the actual ordinance and read it. See how it is encroaching on your civil liberties, your rights as a citizen and I urge you also get out the Constitution and read Article Four in its entirety and Article…is it Bill of Rights?…Wally Hicks interrupts, “Amendment,” DeYoung…the Fourth Amendment and the Fifth Amendment and I want you to read in their entirety because there are guarantees in there to stop what they say is going to happen. There are guarantees if you continue to read the rest of the sentence you will find out the framers of the Constitution and we’re quoted in here that Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and a quote from them and its already in there that those very intelligent gentlemen in our history at a turning point, actually the creation of our history as a free country, as a Republic, that they put that in there. Way back then they knew that this thing could be abused and so they have those checkpoints. They already have it written in, it’s just that the sentence stopped at what you were looking at rather than reading the whole thing which I urge you cause I’ve had some pretty key people in my life said they were collecting signatures until they read the ordinance than said whoa, whoa, stop, that isn’t what I was told so I can’t do this. I think it’s something we all need to look at and that will come up on the ballot. On May 17 congratulations. It’s a heavy lift going out and getting those signatures in the winter time. Standing out in the rain and snow doing that you know my hat comes off to ya….it takes energized people to get things done in this Democracy, we’re a Democratic Republic and you certainly used the system and we’ll see how the voters turn out on May 17. I think is the election, umm, the County Clerk is now verifying all the signatures, they had 41…41, 41 hundred signatures they only needed 1600 and change so they did a good job good job of putting that back to the voters. By the way it says here we were not listening to the people. Commissioner Fowler and I both wanted to put that on the November ballot. We promised to do that. That wasn’t quick enough for the good senator and Holli Morton so this will go on the May ballot. I also want to…it’s quoted here that Commissioner Baertschiger is against that proposal and I don’t think he voted against it. He did vote in opposition of adopting it but I don’t think he was in opposition to the actual text message, the actual message or the ordinance itself. I think he was in opposition to the fact that it didn’t get to go to the public. So, when you quote him saying he was against it and use that as a feather in your cap I think you might want to talk to the Commissioner about that first. And I hope the Commissioner, Chairman Baertschiger, would clarify that at every opportunity that he can.

Fowler: Sen. Art Robinson seems to paint with a pretty broad brush and talks in half-sentences. I wish he’d finish the Fourth Amendment when he quotes it. He calls me a socialist. I’d like you to find somebody else in Josephine County that thinks I’m a socialist. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a thinking Republican. I’m not an extremist, I’m a thinker and I want consensus, not um, adversarial relationships. And so, I’m disappointed in Art Robinson’s whole approach to this. The fearmongering, the broad brush, saying ‘hey they’re gonna come take your house, steal your property. How many times do we have to say that’s never our intention, it’s not gonna happen in Josephine County. We know it’s not going to happen. And we need this tool to combat the illegal cannabis crescendo of activity. We got great folks in our county like Duane Stark who is just over the border but started out here in Josephine County. He’s ready to pack up and go to Texas. When we got good folks leaving, that’s when I think we’ve got to raise the flag and raise the battle, try and meet the problem and I think our sheriff is trying as best to meet that illegal cannabis problem right in the teeth, um I think this kind of political maneuvering on Art Robinson’s part is not very pretty.

After complaining how Robinson is fearmongering and painting with a broad brush Fowler does a bit of that himself. “I am embarrassed nationwide that the most successful country on the entire world doesn’t have enough test kits for COVID. I have a test kit at my house I was thinking of putting it on eBay. I might get a pretty penny for it. And we’re the most developed nation in the world. The most successful in the world and you don’t have test kits that starts right at the top at the Brandon Administration. They should have had this all set up and they don’t. I can’t believe the smartest country in the world is still fighting the pandemic the same way we did on day 1. Stay home. Don’t come to the hospital if you’re sick. Stay home.  if you get really sick finally you can come to the hospital. We got no therapeutics, not treatment we got no suggested path out, we have no light at the end of the tunnel wearing masks now. So I’m a little embarrassed by our country’s reaction and especially Oregon’s reaction, always slow. Always whatever CA and WA is doing we’re followers not leaders. It’s embarrassing.

Baertschiger: I want to touch on the recall. There’s so much misinformation as far as I’m concerned. The article in the Sneak Preview…. he (talking about Ken Smith) blames DeYoung…. vaccines, the fire district, the ordinance and disrespect. Vaccines. We’ve done everything the Health Department’s wanted but we ask tough questions that’s what leaders do. Our critics don’t want us to ask questions but we’ve been steadfast that is to consult your medical provider to see what’s best for you. People want us to tie our citizens down give them vaccinations. We’re not gonna do that. Best advice is contact your medical provider. You have to remember, there is another side of this. (Herman reads an email saying “concerning the 7th street vaccine banner and clinic…you should be ashamed of yourselves why allow the f…to allow take place. You idiots, the vaccine is nothing more than Russian roulette.”) So, there’s another side. There’s not just one side so sorry we won’t come out and tell people you need to go get vaccinated.  We won’t do that. We always defer and I think that’s smart. Some can’t have vaccinations because of autoimmune disease. if we dispense medical advice to them they could be harmed. As for fire district. give me a break. We put it on the ballot and it was shot down.  This happened before and if you don’t enter in conversations with ability compromise it never gets anywhere. You have to compromise. That’s lacking in the State of Oregon. When I first went to the senate we always moved forward. That’s no longer valued in the Oregon legislature. Without compromise.…and the ordinance. Commissioner DeYoung and I helped write it and gave as many protections as we could. When issues are very controversial they should go on the ballot.

Ah, the other thing is, we disrespect our other elected officials. Well…..you know, go to the Josephine County Democrat uh, page, I think at Josephinedemocrat dot com…Go to their page. You know what? They got cartoon characters of all three of us commissioners. They refer to us as the three stooges and they do nothing but blast me and distort the truth and take little snippets out of what we say and put em together to make it sound like we are the three stooges. Talk about disrespect. That is the hypocrisy of the Democrat Party and they’re the ones behind trying to recall us, with mistruth. It’s all political. And people say that Josephine County commissioners’ office is non-partisan? Well, guess what, (109:35) the Democrats just made it partisan. (Note: The “cartoons” are stylized drawings, there is no reference to three stooges and no snippets, only notes from board meetings).

In other business Wednesday Commissioners approved an addendum to ambulance standards that allows flexibility in a crisis, made some appointments to committees, approved Order No. 2022-003 declaring Josephine County a Second Amendment Sanctuary, and approved an agreement with the Grants Pass Irrigation District over who uses whose ditches that is supposed to smooth relations between the county and the district according to Rob Brandes in Public Works. The county uses irrigation ditches for water runoff during storms.

These were discussed during the Legal Update meeting Tuesday where DeYoung again wondered if their ordinance prevents a home raid that might find enough ammunition to declare someone a terrorist. He admitted he didn’t know what was in the gun safety legislation passed last year and only heard this from “campfire talk.” Baertschiger asked what the definition of “arsenal” is. Legal Counsel Wally Hicks said he didn’t know. There was an agenda for a Thursday Administrative Workshop but it wasn’t put up as a recording.

During Public Comments Wednesday, Guenter Ambron from Cave Junction called about his Health Freedom group that will be playing a recording of Dr. Peter McCullough, a Texas cardiologist discredited by the scientific community who says COVID vaccines are unsafe and treatment options like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin have been suppressed. He also claims 16,000 Americans died after taking the vaccine, which has been debunked by the CDC. Texas A&M College of Medicine, Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine have all cut ties with McCullough for spreading misinformation. Doctor fired for spreading COVID misinformation finds support in Bartlesville (examiner-enterprise.com) Ambron said his group is putting together “therapy” packets containing therapeutics such as ivermectin so they can start taking it during early COVID symptoms.

John Maupin, who said he’s a resident of the “unprotected” area of the county, called in to refute some of the claims Baertschiger made last week. “Herman is concerned Rogue Valley Fire Chiefs mutual aid standard is not signed by an elected official. Apparently this concern is not shared by the state fire marshal since that office touts the agreement as a model of for delivery of auto aid and mutual aid. This agreement is in effect for four fire districts in the county and Grants Pass Fire as well as 15 departments in the Rogue Valley. Furthermore, nationwide standards for fire service are not developed, maintained or signed off by elected officials. For example, the National Fire Protection Association standards for firefighting NWCG standards for wildland firefighting and ISO standards for rating fire departments are not signed off by elected officials. The NFDA and ISO are actually private companies. The commissioner said standards affect private land and only serve a small area. Actually, the Rogue Valley fire standard is the document that allows every citizen in this county to receive critical life safety, fire service through auto aid and mutual aid. Auto aid permits immediate turnout by dispatch of predetermined resources within a minute of received call by 911 call center. Mutual aid allows fire resources throughout the Rogue Valley to be rapidly dispatched to major incidents in a pre-planned manner. Finally, the Commissioner mentioned there would be costs associated with the standard. He is correct and I’m assuming he is referring to costs for county fire since Rural Metro has been operating under the standard for several years. These costs are the costs of doing business for a private company. There will be costs to meet the standard, additional costs to engage, but without standards county fire will continue to deliver an uncertain level of service to an undefined area while receiving auto aid and mutual aid from Rural Metro and Grants Pass Fire with no reciprocity. In other words, the private company is being subsidized by a competing company and Grants Pass taxpayers.

After public comments, which limit speakers to three minutes each, Commissioners respond to those comments with no time limits.

DeYoung, responding to Ambron, said he “always appreciates Guenter keeping up on this” and said Commissioners are being criticized about their reactions to COVID “and yet there’s another side and I appreciate you (Ambron) bringing it forward when you do come under attack by all kinds of people.” DeYoung also wanted those critical of Commissioners to know they got kicked off YouTube, not for what they said but for allowing people with “different” opinions to comment. “Different opinions are better than none,” he said. As for the fire standards Maupin brought up, he said he’s looking forward to having a discussion about them, cautioned that even though a fire district had been tried it failed but maybe in the future different people will step up who didn’t before to get it passed.

Fowler also praised Ambron as a community activist then said the board should start the fire standards conversation in the first quarter of the year.

Baertschiger also praised Ambron, and said he looks forward to him and “the folks he meets with.” On fire standards Baertschiger said he isn’t opposed to them. “On fire standards we keep comparing apples and oranges, not opposed needs to be vetted to people. Remember when a govt agency imposes standards on another govt agency is one thing but when govt agency imposes standards on private companies is another ball of wax. I know that the private fire protection vs public fire protection conversation is all over the board and its complicated but I have to remind everybody you know people point the finger at me like I’m trying to quash this. I’ve been working on a fire district since 1994.

DeYoung interrupts….in some form or another Commissioner you have….

Herman: Yeah, and I even went so far when I was a senator to try to get a million and a half dollars to start one. So, when people point their fingers at me and say I’m anti anti I don’t git it! I’m not. I just understand the politics. I understand how complicated the discussion is and you have to move within those sideboards. That’s just how you have to do it. There’s a lot of people that want us just to say this is how it’s gonna be. It’s gonna be an order. Well, that’s not gonna go over very well. That’ll go over like a lead balloon. So, it has to be a discussion. There is going to have to be a dialogue. And um you’re just going to have to come to something that…you’re going to have to reconcile your differences and come to an area we can generally agree on. That’s the only way you’re going to get it done. We just saw that the commissioners gave an order to create an ordinance and the people took it to the ballot. Well, I have a funny feeling, if we create fire standards without having a broad discussion amongst everyone we will have that same process again. So that’s how our Democracy and how our Republic is founded and unfortunately its usually a slow-moving ball but that’s just the world we live in good bad or indifferent. I think it’s a good process. I know it’s very frustrating and you have to have patience.

DeYoung asked what happened to the $1.5 million the state set aside for the fire district. Baertschiger said it’s still out there and that the $50,000 spent on the study came out of that funding. DeYoung then asked if they have to apply for it again. Baertschiger said no, it’s still there, but the state legislature can “sweep it away” anytime. DeYoung then asked, “who do we make aware that we’re still interested?” Baertschiger said until they go down “certain sideboards” fire standards or another attempt at a district “just won’t happen.”