County Commissioners Week of November 1 2021

Money earmarked for vaccine promotion, originally rejected by Josephine County Commissioners, was dangled in front of Grants Pass Mayor Sara Bristol, then snatched away through a letter that said they were disappointed the “rough framework” of ideas she submitted for promoting the vaccine in the city did not have the total approval of everyone on the Council. During their November 1 meeting Counselor Brian DeLaGrange said everyone on the council had been sent the proposals and asked for comment before Bristol forwarded her letter to the Commission. Counselor Rob Pell attacked the mayor, saying she was spreading disinformation and alleged vaccines don’t stop the spread of COVID-19. He said he wrote to counselors and Commissioners to stop her spread of disinformation and refused to endorse her letter to the county board after Counselor Vanessa Ogier made a motion that the counsel do so.  Councilor Rick Riker abstained from the vote, saying he hadn’t read the mayor’s letter, while Councilors Valerie Lovelace, DJ Faszer, Joel King voted not to support her along with Pell. Lovelace and King said it was time to move on because people are never going to agree about vaccinations.

The Commissioners’ letter touted their own efforts to promote the COVID vaccine through advertisements on the radio, newspaper ads in the “Sneak Preview,” “Illinois Valley News” and the “Eagle” (a partisan mailer that Commissioner Herman Baertschiger is associated with according to the Daily Courier). So far there have been no ads in the Grants Pass Daily Courier. Commissioners also say in their letter they are sending mailers to everyone in the county advising them where to get a vaccine. They haven’t said how much of the vaccine promotion money they’ve spent, but Bristol told councilors they have already committed about $340,000 and she was asking for what was left of the original total of $538,000.

One of Bristol’s proposals, to give out $100 gift cards to people as an incentive to get vaccinated, met with a particular blast from Commissioners. The letter states “Using taxpayer money to bribe citizens to take action for a monetary benefit is something we cannot support. It would not be fair (misspelled in the letter as fare) for all the citizens that have already been vaccinated.”

Bristol said that was just a suggestion on a list of suggestions she had been encouraged to provide to Commissioners. She said the months of working with Commissioners has been a “frustrating” process but she was glad they are using the money to promote vaccines.

The commission approved their letter, obviously without much editing, during Tuesday’s Board Workshop. Wednesday, during Matters from Commissioners, Chair Dan DeYoung looked into his computer screen during their Zoom meeting and addressed the mayor directly, who was not present.

“Mayor, there are people that are that serious about not getting vaccinated that they gave up a 20 year career in medicine, they gave up their tenure, they gave up all their seniority working for Asante, they gave up their pensions, they are threatened with unemployment…all the above and they still wouldn’t get vaccinated and you think a $100 gift card’s gonna sway them? I don’t think so,” he said.

During a lengthy pontification DeYoung went on to say he thinks the “vaccine community” needs to recognize people with antibodies from having COVID and that he and his wife probably had it last January when they were very sick with what they thought was a bad case of the flu. It was DeYoung’s opinion that a lot of people got sick with COVID before it was recognized and they ought to be given credit for inching us closer to herd immunity.

In other money matters, Commissioners had a discussion with county Finance Director Sandy Novak on Tuesday and went through the recommendations of their ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds totaling $16.9 million. Proposals include spending on county airports, rural broadband improvements, courthouse improvements and fairground, industrial park and recreational parks improvements. Cave Junction will get money for a water line. Although Commissioners didn’t say anything during their meeting, the Daily Courier reported Sheriff Dave Daniel may get an armored vehicle. Other allotments were not specified. Commissioners will vote whether or not to approve the list at their Nov. 10 meeting. They emphasized that even with approval, their plan may not be how it’s ultimately spent.

“Pieces may move around…some may drop out, some added, but we’ll go ahead and agree on the plan,” said Commissioner Darin Fowler.

“This is basically a map but we haven’t decided to go to any destination yet.” said DeYoung.

Commissioner Herman Baertschiger suggested the county take 10 percent off the top for administration. Rob Brandes from Public Works said that needs more discussion as a blanket 10 percent would, in some cases, result in a huge amount of money for very little in the way of administrative work.

“We have costs and pretty big asks in the future from other departments for our normal monies so I don’t want to use one penny out of the general fund to administer this,” Baertschiger said.

Novak said she would check the ARPA guidance on what is allowed for administration.

During their Legal Update Tuesday Commissioners renewed an inmate healthcare service contract through June of next year, at which time they will discuss other options. They also discussed the request or an extension of American Mineral Research’s exploration permit. County Forester Dave Streeter said the permit’s expiration date is May 11, 2023 and it is too early to discuss an extension. He also said AMR should be responsible for all administrative costs of the permit. Fowler said he would like to hear from AMR and find out what they’re looking for on county property and why they need an extension. Commissioners directed Streeter to send a letter asking representatives to join a meeting in the near future. Commissioners also heard a presentation about merging with the software the City of Grants Pass uses for its 911 service. This will enable the sheriff’s department to communicate with the police department more efficiently.

On Wednesday Commissioners recognized some employees for their lengthy service to the county and approved a subdivision map. Then they went into Public Comments with the usual anti-vaxxers calling in with their latest vaccine horrors. Judy Hinkle, who says she represents We the People United of Josephine County and Peoples’ Rights, Area 9, said giving five to seven-year-old children a COVID vaccine was the same as murdering them. She alleged the vaccines cause the immune system to deteriorate and the kids would have a form of AIDS by Christmas if they got vaccinated now. She called vaccines for children the “kill shot” then said people who have been vaccinated reported feeling drunk for days. Guenter Ambron rattled on about the damaging effects of COVID policies and said he’ll share all the information he’s been studying. Victoria Marshall, who said she was put on by accident, asked Commissioners to get rid of vaccine and mask mandates and to bring back the “Liberty” resolution they dumped a few weeks ago. Holli Morton called in just to remind Commissioners she was listening.

During Commissioners’ response time Fowler said he agreed people should be cautious about giving children COVID vaccinations.

“I would think long and hard before taking that vaccine on my child’s behalf or my grandchild’s behalf not knowing the future implications because if you’re 76 years old with underlying conditions and you take the vaccine long term effects may not show up with you but a younger person who is six or 12, we don’t know the long-term implications and so I would certainly move with caution and I appreciate the speakers who spoke about that,” Fowler said.

In response to Victoria Fowler said the board could do nothing about mask mandates and expressed disappointment they haven’t been given criteria for lifting the mandates yet. He said people have just been told to “shut up and wear the mask till we tell you to take it off.” Then Fowler talked about traveling last weekend on an airline where “all of us were just sitting there looking like idiots.” He then railed about masks and their inability to prevent you from catching COVID because the virus floats around in the airplane like the smell from a package of Corn Nuts.

Baertschiger didn’t say much except he thinks history will treat COVID differently than we’re seeing it now.

DeYoung rambled on about how God gave us immune systems to deal with pandemics but some people’s immune systems are better than others, especially germophobes who stay so clean their immune system disappears because it has nothing to do. He agreed with Fowler about vaccinating children and thanked Ambron for his “good stuff.” He said he was going to check with the county public health director to find out what he’s hearing about COVID vaccines for children.

After the public comments and commissioner ramblings the board approved three new Fair Board Directors. Fowler gave a report on the meetings he’s been to including a telecommunications conference in Ashland where they talked about how much money may be available for broadband when President Biden’s infrastructure package gets approved by Congress. He then thanked voters for passing the jail and animal shelter levies and urged people to do their Christmas shopping locally.

Baertschiger and Bentz on the Bill Meyer Show

Josephine County Commissioner Herman Baertschiger, who claims he reads a lot, discussed the book “Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom” by Patrick Moore, a former Greenpeacer turned climate skeptic. https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2021/06/04/Fact-Checking-Patrick-Moore-Climate-Skeptic/ Moore’s claims have been debunked by several scientists but it is widely touted by right-wing media. Baertschiger said he ordered the book from Amazon but was notified the package got lost. He joked that liberals probably did it. Other than that, Baertschiger briefly mentioned the Commission’s letter to Grants Pass Mayor Sara Bristol concerning her request for part of the $538,000 vaccine promotion money. He said the Commission didn’t like the fact she didn’t have the council’s approval of her list of suggestions for the money, and they certainly weren’t about to approve her idea of giving out $100 gift cards as incentive to get vaccinated. The Commission doesn’t think it’s ethical to use taxpayers’ money that way.

(Note: Many counties across the U.S. have done this including Gaston County in North Carolina. In Oneida County NY a $100 gift card was given as a phone app that could only be redeemed at local businesses. In Columbus OH vaccination rates rose by 49% during the first week a $100 gift card was offered. Public health officials said the cards actually saved money by keeping people from getting sick.)

Rep. Cliff Bentz called into the show after Baertschiger. He said he is trying to get the nation’s attention for the illegal grow situation in Southern Oregon. He said he gave a report on it in front of the House Judicial Committee and is showing pictures from local sheriffs to his fellow Congress members. Bentz complained about Oregon’s redrawn congressional district lines, which make it easier for him to get reelected but harder for any other Republican in Oregon to get elected. “I’d like some company here. I’m the only Republican from Oregon,” he said. Bentz said Alek Skarlatos has filed to run again against Rep. Peter DeFazio but didn’t sound optimistic about that because of the redistricting. He said in order to get elected “We have to do work harder, not just be anti-democrat.”

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