It was Republican vs. Republican vs. Republican during Wednesday’s Weekly Business Session of the Josephine County Commissioners. While some landowners here would like to see the messes created by illegal marijuana grows cleaned up others saw commissioner’s proposed fix for the predicament as an infringement on their property rights.
During the board’s second reading and public hearing of a proposed county code amendment that would put a few teeth in code enforcement by allowing code inspectors the ability to write citations and impose fines, Commissioner Herman Baertschiger suddenly decided he wanted a sunset clause in the proposal after being supportive of the code amendment during previous discussions.
“I would not support this without a three year sunset,” said Baertschiger, who cited possible unintended consequences as his reasoning.
Assistant County Legal Counsel Augustus Ogu, looking perplexed, explained to Baertschiger that you can’t sunset just one section of an ordinance without sunsetting it in entirety.
“It’s not as simple as putting a sunset clause at the end stating which clauses to sunset,” he said. “Also, may I remind the board you have the power at any point in time to go back and amend the ordinance. A sunset provision isn’t necessary.”
Baertschiger disagreed with the attorney, saying he worked on “thousands” of pieces of legislature when he was a state senator and had no trouble putting sunset clauses into laws to force a revisit.
Commission Chair Dan DeYoung was open to putting in a sunset clause to make Baertschiger happy, because he said it is important all three commissioners support this. Commissioner Darin Fowler, however, favored just taking a vow to revisit the ordinance.
“If three years is the goal, you two guys sitting here will still be here. It’s not like five years when we could have a whole new commission. You guys make a vow and do it without writing into the ordinance, said Fowler.
Baertschiger asked Ogu if they could just sunset the fines. He explained if the fines were left to expire the ordinance would be left with the threat of legal action but no fines to back it up. He said unless they had a completely new ordinance passed through readings and public hearings and ready to replace the one with the sunset clause they would have no codes at all.
DeYoung, growing impatient told Baertschiger his statehouse experience did not apply here. If you want to base this ordinance on what you did in the statehouse I’m not on board, DeYoung said. He said in the statehouse everything was partisan and “you got outweighed all the time.” He told Baertschiger forcing illegal growers to clean up here is non-partisan and something a lot of landowners want. He said he wasn’t prepared to explain to them in the supermarket or post office why the proposed amendment didn’t pass after all this time spent crafting it and addressing people’s concerns.
Fowler proposed the public hearing and the decision on the matter be postponed a week so Ogu can come up with some way to guarantee Baertschiger gets his review. Legal Counsel Wally Hicks intervened to remind commissioners they had people waiting to comment during the public hearing, so DeYoung allowed them to speak during their Zoom meeting.
Two people came on opposing the code amendment saying it would make it harder for them to make full use of their property, that any property regulation would be the death of the county and that cannabis growers should be celebrated as part of the economy like the wine industry. Then state Senator Art Robinson, who represents Josephine County in the statehouse, came on with a threat:
“As the state senator for this county I am sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States….the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution of the United States forbids the uh, revocation of the private property rights of the people. It does that because if there’s no private property there can be no freedom. I am sorry to tell you that I will use the full power of my office in opposition to this measure which revokes the property rights of the people who I represent to their disadvantage. I will see that there is a referendum run and I’m sorry, there will be a lot of acrimony. I find it very difficult because I don’t want to oppose the commissioners but the commissioners are doing something that violates the Constitution of the United States. A protection we have under our federal constitution that is essential to our freedom. So, I oppose this measure because the Constitution doesn’t say you can revoke property rights for 10 minutes. It doesn’t say you can revoke their property rights for three years. You do not have the authority to revoke these property rights because the federal constitution prevents this. So, I don’t want to be impolite. I’m very sorry we’re in this situation but you’re going to find that I will use the full force of my office to benefit my constituents. My constituents are harmed by this measure. Moreover, they’re already harmed because many people in the county are very concerned because they have built lives, businesses, and other things here which are now going to be put under the control of bureaucrats. Socialist, liberal bureaucrats. And therefore, I’m your opponent. I can’t help it but as long as this measure revokes property rights protected by the Constitution I will oppose what you are doing with the full force of my office. Thank you.”
Robinson did not say where he got his interpretation of the US Constitution.
Fowler reacted to Robinson’s threat by saying “There’s always going to be folks who don’t think we need planning code enforcement but what I hear is 99 to one are in favor of this. Our planning department has never been more willing to get to a solution, to get compliance without a hammer. We’ll always have a certain instance where someone is not happy but that doesn’t represent what I’m hearing at all. Although I have some respect for Art Robinson his threat is just bluster. He hasn’t done anything since he got in the senate.”
Baertschiger retreated by saying “property rights are always sensitive, then went on to say other countries don’t have property rights so people here get nervous “like vaccines.”
DeYoung told the callers who expressed problems with code enforcement in the past to come in, sit down and discuss what happened and what a solution might be. He said he has no problem with legal cannabis growers but something has to be done about the illegal growers and code enforcement is one way to do it.
“I’m all for personal property rights. It’s a touchy subject. But we are overwhelmed with reports of people’s wells running dry, creeks running dry, use of illegal chemicals. What if I wanted to have an old car pile next to your property?” he asked.
After the public hearing commissioners voted to postpone the vote on the code enforcement amendment and continue the public hearing until next week.
During the public comment part of the meeting the usual anti-vax speakers showed up with their conspiracy theories but when caller Vicky Palmerton said vaccine mandates are not new, are part of why our country is so successful and that she was “sick of being locked down because of the crazy selfishness of people” she was thoroughly renounced by commissioners.
Baertschiger claimed the board has done “everything we can” and said people should have the freedom to choose to get vaccinated or not.
DeYoung launched into a disjointed soliloquy, dismissing Palmerton’s concerns, using the opportunity to bring up a nasty letter someone sent him, repeating some of his favorite points and praising the conspiracy theorists:
“First off I agree 100 percent with Commissioner Baertschiger and I guess if there’s a group of folks out there through the network or whatever you want to call yourselves that want to blame the board of county commissioners for everything…I, I…these are the kind of people who want to blame anybody but themselves for what’s happening on around em. If you want to blame us that’s fine but I agree with uh I checked with legal and I said gee if I stood up to the microphone….first off you’ve trashed the board of county commissioners for the last 18 months over this covid thing so it’s really non-productive. If I were to step up to the microphone and say ‘get vaccinated’ (said in silly spook voice) it won’t have any teeth. It’s counterproductive cause you’ve trashed all three commissioners cause we didn’t do what we thought you…we, we were supposed to do but we really can’t do that. If we were to do that and there was some adverse condition three years from now, God help it that there isn’t…that this thing rolls right along and eventually put to bed which I‘m questioning whether that’ll ever happen, but if that were to happen then say I saw on film commissioner DeYoung told me to get vaccinated…well I did and now I’ve got these underlying these conditions that popped up all over the place and I can’t read the future I don’t have a crystal ball here so it’s entirely up to you if you want to get vaccinated or not. To be quite honest with you I got vaccinated and I’ll tell you why I got vaccinated because I have, I am of the age and I have some underlying conditions that’s none of your business. However, I got vaccinated with the assumption I wouldn’t be able to get sick again because when you got small pox vaccination when little kids…you used to get a sugar cube with some red droplets on it when I was in kindergarten and first grade that was for smallpox, tuberculosis, diphtheria…there’s quite a few vaccines out at that time in the school system but you never got it again. Now I’m finding out not only get it again, and I have had COVID, I can not only get it again even though I’ve had COVID but I’m a spreader so therefore you look at me I’ve been vaccinated and you look at someone who hasn’t been vaccinated and they’re no more worse off than I am because I’m still a spreader I can still pass it along. If I get it again and you’re probably absolutely right I think, vaccine…I will give it credit I don’t think you get it near as bad as you possibly could but I mean I’m getting letters, I get some pretty scathing letters, got one here yesterday oh my gosh I can’t read it, I can’t read it because it has so many expletives and cuss words in it and I thought to myself wow this particular gentleman is clear full of hate for me and the board of county commissioners over a vaccine. We’re not killing anybody, we are providing it, from the very beginning, when the vaccines were available, our county health department…we stopped production out at the fairgrounds, brought in the National Guard, giving vaccines up on the top of Hayes Hill and we’re keeping you from getting a vaccine? The Board of Commissioners is? Come on! I’ve said this before I was watching drag racing the other day and it had four commercials right in a row for prescription medications at the end of it in the disclaimer not one of them said be sure and check with your board of county commissioners. Check with your county commissioners before taking this medication. Not one! Why is it up to the commissioners, you tell us not to play doctor we’re not playing doctor. We’re giving you advice to go to your doctor. And that’s between you and your doctor. I’m not picking your doctor for you. I’m not mandating a doctor you gotta see that’s on my side or the other side or if there’s even a side anymore. This thing’s doin’ what its designed to do and that’s split America down the middle. And this guy that wrote to me yesterday or day before yesterday….Mister you and I are on opposite sides of the spectrum and we’ll never be on the same side. There is no coming together with a person like this. None. Whatsoever (shaking a letter around). It’s not rational and we’re trying to be rational about this think. We know I’ve had….I’ve had a personal friend of mine pass away from COVID the other day and you say ‘you must have killed him.’ I want to know what was the therapeutics was he given. If the man’s on his deathbed did you offer him maybe some of the ‘questionable drugs’ (air quotes) that are out there. I don’t know. I don’t think that was available to him. So, if your hatred for me, or for Donald Trump, for ex-president Trump or whatever your hatred is that deep that you’re gonna ignore therapeutics and ignore a possible…a possible thing that could save somebody’s life when they’re on their deathbed I can’t help you either but please don’t blame that on me and I disagree. It says not even God will forgive you for that. Your ignorant comments may cause citizens of Josephine County your life. My comments don’t keep you from doing what’s right in your own heart. And it says sleep well and stay blank you blank blank blank John Wayne you might…and I can’t even say it from then on…but that’s not getting my attention in a good way sir. Not at all. Not at all. So with that I appreciate you Guenter, all that you’ve done and Geri I wish we could have heard from you and Judy and Craig Hinkle I appreciate you always chiming in…but with that I’ll move along…..”
In other business Wednesday DeYoung said he would hand-deliver a letter to Congressman Cliff Bentz asking for federal help with illegal marijuana grows in the county. Fowler said there are openings on the property tax appeal board which hasn’t heard a case for the entire three years he’s been a member. DeYoung also said he wanted to submit a letter to the Courier editor thanking health care providers in the county for their work during the COVID crisis.
“Good luck,” said Baertschiger.
Fowler and DeYoung couldn’t leave the meeting without more comment on vaccine mandates. Fowler raved about the ineffectiveness of vaccines, artificial mandates and how the government’s efforts at reining in a pandemic have just pissed people off. DeYoung questioned the legality of mandates and said this should be a question for our state representatives.
During Tuesday’s October 12 Board Discussion, commissioners danced around the possibility the sheriff’s department will need more than just the jail and juvenile justice levy to keep it going at its current level.
Fowler laid the groundwork:
“…..a reminder we are only a two-thirds funded county, we’re a shoestring budget kind of county and that’s what our taxpayers have said they wanted and so not only are we doing the best we can with the money we’re given but we’re prioritizing law enforcement, criminal justice, juvenile justice as being our fund first and our sheriff has embraced that and even stretched it a little saying ‘hey we’re going to get to 20 hour patrols and try and get to 24’….um and do what we can in the illegal marijuana arena which has grown exponentially over the past few years and so we’re really doing a lot with a little and I think the taxpayer appreciates that but we got to articulate it as well and say it out loud that we are not a fully funded county, we are tied for last as far as tax rate, base rate and so, but we’ve almost gotten comfortable with that, living on a shoestring budget and doing the best we can and stretching those folks, stretching and stretching those folks, paying overtime sometimes, just to make things happen in our county, so I’m really impressed where our sheriff has brought us over the past six years going on seven and I really think this levy is going to be an indicator of that…of the hard work the commissioners have done before me and myself as well but also staff, Sheriff Daniel, Sandy our Finance Director and others, Juvenile Justice and the rest of them have really sharpened their pencils and brought us to the point where you see more sheriff patrol and you see juvenile justice being done and real because you really gotta catch those folks before they become adults and let em hear that clink (35:54) and let em know they can’t just get away with stuff in our county. So, I appreciate that turn that this board of commissioners and this sheriff has been a part of, a huge part of, so I want to thank you for that event though our budget is stretched to the limit I think people kind of like that too. They like that we’re using every penny as best we can but we gotta be honest with them about where we’re at so that’s part of the discussion today.”
DeYoung tried to anticipate a blowback:
“People are always saying you would like to see more things go to the ballot so there’s going to be some things coming up in the not too distant future and rather than throw stones I wish you would look at the proposals and there will be more than one and look at the proposals kinda on the merit. Could this work for our county? Look a little outside the box. I’m going to tell you that right now, if it’s what I think it is and, ahh, its exciting cause it’s gonna…we’re gonna be at the tip of the spear again, if it works or doesn’t work, at least we’re gonna throw something at the wall.”
However, Sheriff Dave Daniels said he wanted to remain focused on getting the levy passed right now:
“Well…I’d like to focus on the levy right now, on the renewal, I think that’s the most important thing. I don’t have a whole lot more to say. Let’s stick with what’s on our plate right now. I’ll tell you this I’ve seen it in the past, kind of looking at the citizens in the county funding law enforcement and they don’t do it (vote for a levy)….then it’s kind of like a punishment phase, like we’re going to shut the doors we’re not going to do this we’re not going do that. Being positive and forward moving and forward thinking is a choice. And I think it’s important to let our citizens know that no matter what happens from the sheriff’s office perspective down to every man and woman that works in this job, we will provide the most professional public safety service possible. If things don’t work out we’re going to remain positive, were not going to give up. We’re not going to quit and we’re not going to go away. We’ll always be here. The level of service may not be there if things don’t work out. Things you’re satisfied with. We might go back to 2012. But I chose to look forward. I chose to be positive and I choose to make the best example of law enforcement that can be there.”
Then he looked into his monitor and asked the people of Josephine County to support the levy.
“It’s important to all of us,” said Daniel.
Finance Director Sandy Novak was prepared to give commissioners the bottom line on the sheriff’s finances but in light of the levy vote coming up they cut the discussion short of that.
During matters from the commissioners Tuesday, Baertschiger brought up the Asante vaccine mandate and said his experience in the legislature tells him there’s “something else driving them.” He claimed (35:54) he looked at an audit done by Hillsdale College (a conservative religious college in Michigan that does “audits” looking for misdeeds in liberal states) and he discovered the governor of Oregon solicited hundreds of businesses when she was running for governor in exchange for, so far, the state has awarded $2.6 billion in contracts to those companies she solicited to so she’s using taxpayer money to do things. The legislature is still sitting on billions of dollars of this money they got from the federal government and MY QUESTION, and it is a question Daily Courier, My question is, has the governor, through the Oregon Health Authority, offered hospitals money in cooperation for upholding her vaccine mandates in the absolute….I do not know that but looking at her behavior on some other things that she has done that lifts an eyebrow I would like to ask that question Wally.”
Hicks said he will research that.
Commissioners, looking for some way to get back at Asante for implementing the vaccine mandate, asked Hicks if they had to maintain a certain level of service to qualify as a tax-exempt service.
Fowler said Asante has “quite a few properties that they hide money in” (43:58):
“They (Asante) just have not been good community partners. They don’t play well with others. They’re protecting their own like a for profit company, and look at the capacity levels they’ve settled on, 130 beds in a county of 85,000 people. They make their own decisions and they went for the minimum instead of the actual and so they’re an embarrassing partner and they’re also rural Oregon. They should get it, why some of their employees don’t want a vaccine, and should make accommodations appropriately and they’re not doing that either. And so, they’re drinkin’ the Kool Aid the state is putting out and it’s embarrassing for our local community because we have great quality folks that are going to be told to take a walk in a week or so. Kicked to the curb, the heroes who showed up and did overtime and poured blood, sweat and time into all of their career are now going to be booted to the curb and that’s embarrassing. I hope that they reevaluate their really bad stance not only in the community but on this COVID thing. They have a chance to embrace their community, become a good partner and they’re choosing to gather all the kings’ men and build a bigger wall to keep people out and that is not right. It’s not community-based, that’s not do no harm, that’s not not for profit, for the benefit of the community. They’re missing on just about everything and that’s embarrassing to their employees and I wish their staff would wake up and smell what’s really going on.”
Baertschiger brought up Texas, saying we’ve got one state (Oregon) that’s got us all in shackles and another that says, “no shackles at all” and wondered if there could be some solution “without all this flak.”