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County Commissioners Week of October 4th

This week Josephine County Commissioners were so outlandish in their opinions about vaccines and mandates they made the Oregonian newspaper in Portland this week….. https://www.oregonlive.com/coronavirus/2021/10/oregon-politician-says-ask-god-about-covid-19-vaccination-you-cant-trust-doctors.html

Wednesday Commissioner Darin Fowler put forth this magniloquent rant (41:48): “This virus has become completely political. It’s only got a few things left in the medical field and I’m not sure I want to tell people to talk to their doctor whether to take the vaccine anymore because they’re threatening doctors’ licenses and livelihoods. Umm, so I’m not sure I want you even asking your doctor. You’re just going to have to ask God and pray for wisdom on this one. Because you can’t trust the politicians you can’t trust the doctors you certainly can’t trust the CDC or any world health organization. And so I’m saddened that all these folks (vaccine refusers) are at the moment in their lives where they have to make really hard decisions things that have long term consequences. Ahhh, I’m also very disappointed in our governor’s office who is willing to, ahhhh, kick all of our heroes out of the hospital after talking so nicely about them for the last 18 months, be willing to kick em out and I can only think it’s because you’re down to the Republicans and if you can purge all of our systems of Republicans, get them to leave the state, um, then I bet you would. I bet you would in a heartbeat. And I think that’s a lot of what’s behind the governor’s agenda right now. Let’s cleanse Oregon of all the red and get as blue as we can. That’s also very unamerican. It’s petty politics and it shows the immaturity at our governor’s level. She doesn’t know what she’s doing. She’s out over her skis, she’s lost track of the truth and she doesn’t have anybody she could trust. Apparently she’s way out there and we’re going tie this thing around her neck as being one of the failed governors of this whole era. That’ll be her legacy. So ah, like I said, stay tuned we’re trying to do what we can to fight but we all know mandates are illegal no matter what you say I will still stand on the side of freedom every single time. The freedom to choose is very American. And I won’t be moved.”

FYI: A judge recently upheld the governor’s mandate… https://www.oregonlive.com/coronavirus/2021/10/judge-wont-halt-governors-covid-19-vaccination-mandate-despite-oregon-police-troopers-lawsuit.html

This came as Fowler reported to the board he talked to representatives of a long list of employee groups in Josephine County who, according to him, said they would lose 5 to 30 percent of their employees who would rather quit their jobs than obey the state mandate to get vaccinated by October 18. On Tuesday Commissioners reviewed drafts of two letters they want to send to Governor Kate Brown’s office, Oregon Health Authority, the State Epidemiologist and the Office of Emergency Management as well as to the Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh in Washington DC with County Counsel Wally Hicks. The state letter to Gov. Brown “& others” asks that the October 18 mandated deadline for getting vaccinated be pushed back to November 30th to give workers extra time to finish the “vaccination process.” They asked for this considering the November 30 deadline extended for about 24,000 employees represented by the Service Employees International Union 503 because their collective bargaining process was still underway. In the letter, they cited an unofficial and easily skewed poll from the Grants Pass Daily Courier as evidence that 75 percent of the people in Josephine County don’t want health care workers and teachers to lose their jobs because of the vaccine mandate. They even included a screenshot of the poll. The letter says Fowler met with several organizations including those representing charter schools, a longshore and warehouse union, manufacturing, trucking, restaurants, lodging, school boards, senior care providers, naturopathic physicians, a school activities association, Mercy Flights, school administrators, fire district directors, volunteer firefighters, nurses, and the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe. Commissioners said these organizations sent a “resounding message” that the state’s mandate will cause dramatic harm to those who belong to these organizations. Later, at Commission Chair Dan DeYoung’s request, they added that the citizens of Josephine County will be harmed because of a shortage of workers represented by these groups. Then the letter changes tone from the beginning paragraph where they are asking for a deadline extension, to the last paragraph where they ask “that you eliminate the vaccine mandate” or at least delay the deadline.

The letter to Secretary Walsh asks the federal government to include the medical and religious “exceptions” to the mandatory vaccines as the state of Oregon has done and that those who can prove they had COVID be considered “low risk” and exempted from the vaccine mandate.

Commissioners made no mention of the “Liberty” resolution that garnered them so much negative email activity and public comments last week.

They did ask Hicks if he had a copy of the Jackson County emergency declaration because if as many workers walk off the job as Fowler says will go many services could be impacted. Hicks mumbled that he didn’t have a copy at hand and that declaring an emergency before an actual emergency was not usually done. It would be like declaring an earthquake emergency before an earthquake happened, he told Commissioners. However, he promised to find out what Jackson County has done.

Commissioner Herman Baertschiger wondered what declaring an emergency would do to help Josephine County prepare for a worker shortage.

“Nothing comes to mind,” Hicks said.

DeYoung worried aloud that declaring an emergency would rip authority away from the board. He said their drought declaration sent authority to emergency management and other agencies and left the board without control over managing the emergency.

Hicks said the board doesn’t surrender authority but “assigns” authority to those staff members with expertise in the areas of emergency. Hicks also assured Baertschiger that the board can rescind that authority at any time.
After the letter discussion DeYoung brought up a handwritten letter sent to him from a father telling him his two daughters were about to lose their jobs at Asante because of the vaccine mandates and that the hospital wasn’t allowing medical or religious exemptions. He promised to read it as soon as he could find it.

This prompted Baertschiger to “throw” out one of his Tucker Carlson-type speculations.

“It would be interesting to know, because I do not know, it would be interesting to know, since the legislature is sitting on somewhere around a billion dollars on the e-board (Baertschiger is fond of throwing around legislative jargon), if these hospitals have been promised a golden ticket if they absolutely enforce this vaccine mandate. I do not know that but it would be interesting to know if there’s any of that going on,” he said.

By this time, DeYoung found his letter and said he’d make it available to boil the other two commissioners’ blood. Then he launched into a tirade about how commissioners form their opinions because they see a lot of things the rest of the community doesn’t see. He did not elaborate on what they see the rest of the community doesn’t see, however.
The rest of Tuesday’s Legal Update meeting was taken up with the design and message of the informational brochure for the jail and juvenile detention levy. Sheriff Dave Daniel was on hand to make sure the commissioners and Hicks didn’t get carried away. He advised the board to keep the brochure simple and informational since they are not allowed to spend county money on something that promotes one side or the other in an election. DeYoung pointed out that additional information can become talking points when they are asked to speak to organizations like “the Democrat Party” on the issue.

In Matters from Commissioners Tuesday, DeYoung advised all the commissioners to go to the next Association of Oregon Counties meeting coming up in Eugene, using commissioners’ travel budget. He said it’s a useful place to bond with other commissioners and you usually get useful information. Fowler and Baertschiger indicated they wanted to see the agenda for this year before making a commitment.

After the pledge of allegiance and recognition of employees they held a public hearing on an ordinance updating rules for commissioners that included electronic participation in meetings. The only one to comment during the public hearing on this was Holli Morton who said she was still hearing from constituents on some issues but she would come in and meet commissioners face-to-face to discuss those issues. It wasn’t clear if she was addressing the ordinance at hand or just made a general statement.

After closing the public hearing commissioners went straight to public comments from citizens who wanted to talk about anything. As usual, anti-vaxxers Judy and Craig Hinkle took up the first six minutes of the public comment session with their conspiracy theories, this time something about population control, chemically induced sterility and the real purpose of the vaccines – to wipe out most of earth’s human population while Biden and Congress secretly skip the vaccinations.

Malcolm Drake called in to add sanity to the public comments, as did Tracy Thompson who asked commissioners in all their talk of “freedom” if it doesn’t extend to his right to be safe from a disease, a woman’s right to choose and a person’s right to marry whomever they want, “then it’s just hypocrisy.”

Two women called in to talk about the coming emergency in health care if the vaccine mandate isn’t lifted with one predicting suicides over this and the creation of “a minority (of unvaxxed) chastised for life!”

And of course Guenter Ambron of Cave Junction got in again to talk about Ivermectin.

Holli Morton was put on the microphone but she just said she wanted to make sure the board knew she was observing them.

Fowler started the board review of comments by telling Tracy “I disagree with everything you said.” He did not tell Judy and Craig or Guenter that, however. Those people are thanked profusely for their contributions each week and never refuted no matter how crazy they get. Then Fowler launched into the rant about the governor trying to rid Oregon of Republicans. He didn’t extend that logic to the possibility Democrats may be fleeing Oregon’s conservative areas because of health and safety concerns brought about by elected officials who listen and praise conspiracy theorists, however.

Baertschiger waved a stack of e-mails on liberty he printed out and said he’s baffled about why all these “unsung heroes” in our health care system are being fired and villainized for not getting vaccines.
“I find that appalling,” he said.

Baertschiger went on to talk about how COVID is being used as a political wedge and claimed there are two valid sides to the vaccine issue, then he cited Benjamin Franklin’s “liberty” quote and implied that if you give in to vaccine mandates then you’re giving up your liberty.

DeYoung also made a swipe at Tracy’s comments saying something about his right to “freedom from disease” wasn’t the same as hospital workers right to freedom from vaccines and that you “don’t have a right to throw rights at a dartboard…..but in his characteristic random thoughts expression he didn’t go on to explain what he meant by that. He was still fuming over the letter he read the day before about hospital workers not getting medical or religious exemptions at Asante, although he didn’t say he actually called Asante to make sure that was factual. Then he revealed a good friend of his had just died in the hospital here of COVID and his family was disappointed he didn’t get any therapeutics.

During the consent agenda commissioners approved the letters to Governor Brown and the Secretary of Labor with DeYoung’s addition. They have written many letters to Governor Brown but so far have not announced any replies.
During Matters from Commissioners Fowler announced he met with the broadband assessment consultants and they are now at the stage where they are putting their data together to show what the broadband situation is in Jackson and Josephine counties. He also said the ARPA deadline was Sept. 30th, so now all applications will be ranked and the commission will decide who gets what out of the $7 million American Rescue Plan funds. They will do the process over for the $8 million they expect to get next fiscal year.

Baertschiger said he met with Asante’s CEO in Grants Pass last Friday to ask him questions about the hospital’s vaccine mandate “but I didn’t get a lot out of him.” He said he met with the CEO for 30 minutes and told him he didn’t know why these “unsung heroes” are now being “villainized” by mandates. He said about all he learned is that Asante is “still reviewing” the possibility of exceptions to their vaccine mandate and little else.
“That’s my report. Wish I had other news but I simply do not,” he said.

DeYoung congratulated the city on last weekend’s Art on the Rogue but admitted he didn’t attend. He said the city should have set up a vaccine booth as part of the event. He again brought up the letter from the father about how his two daughters were getting dumped from their nursing jobs because they wouldn’t get vaccinated and there was no religious or medical exemption at Asante and predicted there will be a huge walkout of like-minded people in Josephine County. He then addressed Tracy’s comments to the point where anyone listening might assume those who express a disagreement should expect a breathtaking spuddle of vitriol aimed at them for the duration of the meeting. Then he got into a bizarre discussion about reports COVID causes sterility in men and said his doctor took care of that years ago while the other commissioners tried to look busy with something else in front of their Zoom screens. He ended his soliloquy by saying COVID has divided people as bad as the civil war after squeezing in a comment about not believing anything in the Courier and how he got e-mails from a lot of people who thought that during the city/county meeting last week the county got the upper hand and the city had no answers.

The Baertschiger and Bill Show Tuesday Oct 5.
During his weekly call-in to KMED’s Bill Meyer Show, Commissioner Herman Baertschiger pondered the possibility that local labor shortages are caused by people collecting unemployment, Oregon Trail benefits (food stamps) and Medicaid while making $1,000 a month in cash by working in the marijuana grows. Meyer said his “source” tells him corruption is a big problem and insinuated county officials and judges could be bought off by all the money swirling around in the industry. Baertschiger didn’t get into that one as Meyer is always throwing out some kind of rumor in the hopes of making his rather boring show more exciting. Baertschiger did say even with state and some federal help the sheriff’s departments here in Southern Oregon are limited in their ability to address the illegal grows in these geographically large counties. Both then groused about state leadership with Baertschiger saying they don’t seem to want to fix the problem while Meyer said they probably like the product. Baertschiger said actually most of what’s grown in the state isn’t used here and said, as an example, a cannabis shop in Ontario Oregon sold $90,000 worth of product and he doubted the residents there used that much.

When asked about his meeting with the Asante CEO, Baertschiger reiterated what he reported to his fellow commissioners…that he didn’t get any answers to his questions. He and Meyer then went on about how Josephine County used to have a county hospital and maybe that system should be brought back, presumably so commissioners would have more control.

Then they got into the “war” between the Grants Pass Daily Courier and Baertschiger. He said he revised his op-ed to admit he forgot he said Biden didn’t win the election but they still didn’t print it. He denied putting it in the Sneak Preview as an ad and said he didn’t know for a long time who did that but now he knows. Bill said the “war” must be because Baertschiger exposed the Courier’s application for CARES funds. Baertschiger denied he ever said the paper committed fraud but still said the paper didn’t include enough information to qualify for the grant even after the Courier explained last week that SOREDI didn’t get all their paperwork because their software didn’t have the ability to download all of what they submitted.

Meyer continued the unfounded rumor that the Courier is just trying to get Grants Pass Mayor Sara Bristol elected to the board while Baertschiger agreed, saying he thinks the voice in the “ad” on the Courier’s website showing him saying what he denied later was the voice of Sara Bristol’s husband who works at the Courier.
While he denied putting his op-ed in the Sneak Preview Baertschiger told Meyer that the more the Courier goes after him the more people seek out the Sneak Preview to see what he said.

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