County Commissioners – Week of March 14th, 2022

Josephine County Commissioners transitioned back to Ann Basker Auditorium for their March 16 Weekly Business session but had little to do other than approve some agreements, listen to public comments and air their own opinions.

Commissioners listened to a recap of the Zonehaven software and support application marketed as being able to design the most effective evacuation routes in the county. Emergency Management Director Emily Ring, who had a presentation on the application a few weeks ago, said the $55,000 resource would be paid for by ARPA funds. She said once the evacuation routes are designed, there is an optional $18,000 a year subscription fee that can update the plan as needed, but she said she doesn’t have that kind of money in her budget.

Currently, evacuation routes are “defined in the moment” in Josephine County but Zonehaven would provide preidentified routes in zones. She told Commissioners Jackson County is already using Zonehaven so any overlapping areas, such as in the Applegate community, would be incorporated into Josephine County’s plan.

Commissioners were enthusiastic about acquiring Zonehaven and voted in favor of contracting with them. They didn’t approve the annual subscription but said it would be nice to have that.

“It seems like being one of the hottest fire propensities, we should be able to find money for the annual subscription cost,” said Commissioner Darin Fowler and asked Ring to lobby the state, or any other agency for help with that.

Commissioners also approved a grant extension for the purchase of the electric busses they were briefed on last week by Transit Director Scott Chancey.

Public comments in person had priority and Judy Ahrens was ready to step forward and squeeze several subjects into her three minutes. “It feels like I got my America back,” she said, referring to all the maskless people in attendance. She advised the board to go along with her campaign to beautify Grants Pass by picking up trash while out walking. “We may not be the wealthiest community but we could be the cleanest,” she said. She then suggested Commissioners put on the agenda the price tag for items they approve and then proceeded to give Commissioners a review of the right-wing book on education, Race to the Bottom by Luke Rosiak, but she ran out of time.

Stepping up next was a Grants Pass man who said he was concerned about the removal of dams on the Klamath River and asked Commissioners to send Klamath County Commissioners, who oppose the removal, a letter of support. After he had his say, Guenter Ambron, the Illinois Valley activist and anti-vaxxer, called in to give his weekly report to the board.

Commissioner Dan DeYoung responded by apologizing to Ahrens for not including the cost of the items approved, then read a detailed description of the electric bus purchase with costs, but by then Judy Ahrens was gone. He said maybe the Commission should talk about the Klamath situation and issue a letter from the Board in support of Klamath County Commissioners.  The long running controversial removal project involves four hydroelectric dams that would open up more than 400 miles of the Klamath River. Currently the dams hold back reservoirs that are plagued by toxic algae blooms and block salmon from making it to spawning grounds. Proponents, including coastal salmon fishermen and the Yurok Tribe, say fish habitat and water quality would improve by removing the dams. In 2002 33,000 salmon and steelhead died in the river from disease that spreads in the slow, warm water conditions created by the dams, tribal biologists said. Water in the Klamath is listed as dangerous by the Klamath Basin Monitoring Program. PacificCorp, which owns the dams, say it would be cheaper to tear them down than relicense them with required upgrades.  Opponents say removing the dams would free toxic sediment and silt downstream which would cost billions to clean up. They also cite higher electric rates, insufficient water storage capacity and lack of resources for putting out  fires. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is taking comments on the Lower Klamath Project until April 18. FERC endorses massive Klamath dam removal decades in the making – E&E News (eenews.net)

Fowler thought sending a support letter to Klamath was a good idea and said “they will come after Lost Creek next and so on and so forth. We can help our neighbor fight and they can help us fight.” Then he remembered Ambron had mentioned Dr. Anthony Fauci so he said he’d read the first few chapters of The Real Anthony Fauci by Robert F Kennedy Jr “and I was so mad that I stopped reading it because it was just ticking me off.” (The book has been criticized for warping facts and endangering Dr. Fauci https://willbrownsberger.com/the-real-anthony-fauci/ ).

Commissioner Herman Baertschiger thought the dam issue should be coordinated with Jackson and other counties “so we’re all talking about the same things.”

In Other Matters from Commissioners Fowler used his time to lament a Pacific Power project he heard about while attending the annual Chamber of Commerce awards banquet. “At the awards banquet on Friday I sat at the Pacific Power table with a regional director and he was telling me they’re going to put in 14 of the pump and dump stations for green energy, which is when electricity is cheap at night you pump water up a hill through a pipe to a pond and then during the daytime when electricity rates are high you let the water run down through a generator back into the other pond, so you end up gaining every time you do that. I don’t know about the environmental impacts of that or if we’re gonna have some small fish or grub that grows in those ponds so now we can’t do it and we gotta maintain em. I don’t know where that’s headed but it seems like a little bit of an odd direction to go to find green energy when there’s a river flowing just over there and you could put a generator on it and make green energy so it seems a little odd we’re going to set aside these engineered projects to try and do better with power. These are when you get to the fringe of these ideas and so I have concerns. But it was an interesting conversation because Oregon didn’t sit down with the power companies and power generators and say, ‘hey what would it take to go green.’ Could you give us a schedule, what it would look like and this is what we want to do? No, Oregon and other states just threw a dart at a calendar and said uhh, 2030, uhh, 2040 we want to be green by then. We don’t care what it takes we don’t know what it takes. We just have a dream and so we’re hoping and that seems like the backward way to solve a problem and so that’s what idealism looks like when it hits the ground. You have this idea you think might work and when reality strikes you’re like ‘huh we didn’t think of all those unintended consequences so we’ll see as we keep marching toward greener energy and how that actually plays out.’ Hopefully they’ll be honest with us about how it’s playing out.”

DeYoung responded by saying “renewable fluids always seek sea level by God’s law but it takes energy to pump up to a lake and all that costs money to do when it was free when it went right by you.” He then launched into an unrelated rant about how people are telling him watching movies on your phone is now the thing to do after he worked hard all his life to buy a large TV. He waved his phone around and said, “this seems to me we’re going back to the Stone Age.”

Baertschiger said “as we go into the green energy conversation I hope we learn lessons from people who already tried it. I can remember visiting Germany multiple times and they were putting up solar panels along the autobahns and they were shutting their nuclear power down and so the green energy didn’t work out so good so now they’re dependent on Russia for fossil fuels.” (Note: Germany’s energy resources are more complicated than that  https://www.trade.gov/energy-resource-guide-germany-renewable-energy )

Having  no more comments from Commissioners, the meeting was adjourned after 43 minutes.

The Commissioners’ Thursday meeting was not recorded and made available for public view.


KMED Radio this week

Christine Drazen, a top contender to be the Republican nominee for Governor of Oregon, was a guest on the Bill Meyer Show last week. She took some shots from Meyer for not organizing more walkouts before she resigned from her post as Minority Leader in the House to run for governor. She has raised one million dollars and is now the lead fund-raiser in a large field of Republicans running for Oregon’s top office. Drazen says she’s running to stop the “crazy extreme progressive policies in Salem” and believes this is a “Republican” year. She’s mostly against everything Democrats have done, including mask mandates, vaccine mandates, climate action plans and gas taxes and said she’d reverse all that if elected. Drazen doesn’t bring up abortion but she does let people on her Facebook page know she is “pro-life.” She accused Democrats of “overreach” and said it’s time to “fight, fight, fight.” Drazen said she’s for law enforcement, secure elections, the Second Amendment and said Oregon needs a Parents’ Bill of Rights. She said she expects to be running against former House Speaker Tina Kotek and painted her as an untrustworthy liar.

Drazen can’t expect much help in her run from the Republican Party of Oregon, however, if Meyer’s next guests were right. The party has been in turmoil for the last 20 years, said Kevin Starrett, founder of the Oregon Firearms Federation, whose activism involves Republican Party politics. Starrett sends a survey out to all Republican candidates in order to rank them from A to F according to their answers. Starrett said he doesn’t survey Democrats since he ranks them all “Fs.” He refused to tell Meyer what the questions on the survey were. Meyer told him Republican leadership in the legislature has warned candidates not to respond to the survey from Starrett’s “fringe group” since their answers will be used against them in the future.

Starrett indicated Republicans in the state party disagreed about who can win elections in Oregon. Some believe moderate candidates have a better chance of regaining seats in the legislature and even winning the governorship, while others want candidates who stick to “conservative ideals.” Starrett said Rep. Mark Nearman, who was expelled by the House for perpetrating a statehouse incursion, “was our only ethical member” and called many of the current Republicans in the legislature “clowns” and “idiots who are eating their own.” He said Republican legislators gave away the only tool they had, walkouts, by agreeing to rule changes that impose fines and other consequences for not showing up. In a discussion about RPO’s Chair Dallas Heard’s resignation, both Starrett and Meyer said long-time member and national party member Solomon Yue was the troublemaker. Heard blamed Yue for undermining his leadership. Starrett said Yue has been around 20 years and in that time the party has gone through a lot of chairmen and dissent. Yue, a former international trade economist, responded to Dallas Heard by saying an argument over whether or not to hold an open primary precipitated Heard’s resignation. Heard felt an open primary would allow unaffiliated voters to participate while Yue didn’t think that would help the party. https://www.nrtoday.com/news/state/oregon_politics/yue-responds-to-heards-claims-of-communist-psychological-warfare-tactics/article_cb160d3b-2161-524c-8dec-7cfe74781a7b.html


The Bill and Herman Show

KMED host Bill Meyer and Josephine County Commissioner Herman Baertschiger continued the discussion about the Republican Party of Oregon. Baertschiger became Chair after Heard’s resignation. Baertschiger agreed Yue caused problems but said every state party has its disagreements within. He said leading a political party is like “herding cats to all go in the same direction.” He said Heard was young and what bothered him is nothing new to an older RPO member like himself.

Bill – Does the Republican Party of Oregon have a lock on definition of Republican? Could there actually be a formation of “the new” Republican Party? And more or less say hey we’re going to pretend the flawed one with Voldemort (Yue) at the very top like we’ve been talking about, he who shall not be mentioned again, is just sitting around there, uh, you know, having no influence on anything. Just curious how that actually works.

Herman – Well, if I remember my history right, that’s how the Republicans became Republicans, they broke off from the Whig Party if I remember right. Um, you know, you gotta go back to Reagan, you know, when this is a big tent and we’re all under the big tent different districts are different than others, and we have to recognize that. You know? There’s a lot of districts that are represented by Republicans in Oregon that I probably wouldn’t do so good in because I’m a pretty conservative guy. And so these are very, very complicated situations. I’ve always said it’s like playing five chess games at the same time. And so there’s simply some Republicans they cannot be as conservative as others, or they won’t never get elected, cause they come from districts that they don’t have that big a Republican vote…..

Bill interrupts – And I get that but what has been obvious, by the way the ORP has been running, is when someone’s going on a statewide push that if you are conservative you are a persona non grata statewide. Would that be fair to say? Kinda the treatment? By Voldemort and Voldemort’s minions?

Herman – I think the party has been pretty ineffective of doing much for candidates so I don’t know how much influence the party has…..

Bill interrupts – But then I would ask, what is the point for the existence of that party if it’s not effective at actually getting candidates elected? To me, isn’t that the purpose of a party? Or is the purpose of the party to get invited to the RNC convention every four years? Laughs. And enjoy shrimp and hop knob with Lindsey Graham, etcetera, etcetera, you know, that kind of thing?

Herman – Well the party has multiple functions, you know. From get the vote out to also developing the Republican Platform, but I think the ORP has been a little bit weak on helping get Republicans elected. I think they could do a lot more for that and that’s kinda the direction I want to take the party. Be more relevant in the election process.

Bill – From your lips here and Herman I appreciate the update because I knew you’ve been dealing with, shall we say “excrement storm” would that be fair to say over the last few days?

Herman – Yeah, it’s just, like I said, I think being a caucus leader is good training to be the chair of the ORP.

Bill – Now, final question I have for ya, what can we do to help you help the party? What can we do? Anything?

Herman – I think the biggest thing is that ah, to get more Republicans to help with their county chapters. A lotta cases we get a few people doing a lotta work and I’d rather see a lotta people doing a little work, if you know what I mean Bill? Take the burden off some people. There’s some people that really dedicate a lot of time and effort into gitten things done and I’d like to spread that burden over, so if more people could git involved in these county central committees would really be helpful.