Hot off the Press
From: Councilor Ogier
I am reaching out to spread awareness of an alarming situation that was brought to my attention. As you know the second reading for a $0 utility fee recently failed. The purpose of the utility fee was to help fund public safety services. What was the difference from the passing of the first reading? Councilor Yunker’s vote. It was surprising to hear his no vote in real time considering the public support he has shown for a utility fee and also for public safety in general. Albeit odd, I still felt committed to working alongside all of my colleagues to find a solution to our public safety funding shortfalls.
For context this is Councilor Yunker’s statement the night of the second reading:
Councilor Yunker – “Because Brian really wants my thoughts. I think I have already voiced my opinion on this thing but I don’t like this process right now that’s my problem with this. I hate the levy thing that we are doing. That’s where I’m going on the whole thing, the process the levy the taxes it doesn’t sound very we are all in unity that’s where my thoughts are going to be on tonight when I vote. I have been quoted many times by every source in this town it seems like that i am for the $50 never even got to vote yet and they told me i am $50 it was just a discussion I have been quoted in the daily courier and the Democratic Party its $50 so just because of a discussion and yeah I like the fee I am okay with it Kevin and Bonnie back there would be paying less taxes so I am okay with that but they are not so I mean its just this is not an easy subject and a lot of noes and that’s what I hear here for my whole 40 years is noes.”
The night of the vote I assumed his no vote was attributed to a general concern about moving forward on a utility fee. Where’s the alarming situation that I referenced earlier? It is found in the Bill Meyer Radio show recording from Thursday September 7th, 2023 recorded at 8am on the morning after the utility fee vote. Councilor Yunker chose to disclose his true motive for voting no on the utility fee. So that I do not misrepresent the situation whatsoever here is a transcript of the conversation typed by me:
Councilor Yunker –
“I didn’t get to spend the whole time at the meeting last night. I don’t know if people know we um, I tied up the water fee zero zero the zero on it and the mayor had to vote and the mayor had power last night everyone needs to understand the mayor had power to vote last night and she voted no so there will be no zero water bill thing starting yet.”
Bill Meyer –
“Okay let me get back on this. A lot of people may not have know this. This is the fee to fill in holes in the grants pass budget when the times comes right?”
Councilor Yunker –
Bill Meyer –
“So, this was just voting to approve the ability to put the fee on the water bill?”
Councilor Yunker –
“Yes. It was tied 4-4 the mayor voted no. I think she was pretty much put on pressure because of the recall. If she would have voted yes I think that would have put a nail in her coffin. Without the voters input I think she was forced to do that that is my feeling on that.”
For additional context to the situation Councilor Yunker was a very vocal proponent for the recall of Mayor Bristol. There are circulated writings authored by him that support the cause to remove Mayor Bristol from office. Based on Councilor Yunker’s own words on September 7th while on the Bill Meyer show his vote for the public safety utility fee had nothing to do with public safety services at all. The no vote was a political stunt to put the mayor in a position to vote on the issue.
To be clear I am not being critical of anyone that has concerns about the different possibilities of funding sources. What I take issue with is using a vote as a political stunt when the stakes are this high. It is worth noting the Fire Chief, who also acts as our city’s emergency manager, has formally submitted his resignation in suspiciously close timing to the failure of the second reading. The decision to use this vote as a political stunt has and will likely continue to have serious consequences. The Medford Fire Department announced they were awarded a SAFER grant and they will be receiving funds to hire four new firefighters. I fear our Chief resigning from Grants Pass Fire Rescue is just the beginning of department loss, although I hope I am wrong.
Our public safety professionals need leadership that will navigate us out of the difficult time our community is facing. They deserve better than their financial future being dependent on the personal agenda of one councilor. This behavior is absolutely unacceptable and should be recognized for the outrageous act that it is. As we move forward I think it is incredibly important for everyone receiving this letter to know that Councilor Yunker has chosen to use our public safety services as a toy when attempting to reach a means to his end. I would ask that you not only keep this in mind when considering any vote Councilor Yunker may take in the future but also join me in condemning this behavior in the strongest possible terms.
If you’d like to listen to the recording to hear Councilor Yunker’s words yourself, you can find the Bill Meyer show where you listen to your podcasts.
The defeat of Grants Pass Mayor was fully expected by those running the recall effort against her. The drubbing was not. Voters soundly rejected the recall by a no vote of 64.3 percent to a 35.7 percent yes vote.
“Under the circumstances, with the number of people that stormed the office to discuss this and plead for help, you know, you woulda thought more people would’ve come out in support of their needs, But they didn’t. They just didn’t. It was a shock,” said Josephine County Republican Party Chair Holli Morton on KMED Radio’s Bill Meyer Show the day after the election.
Morton blamed the defeat on Gov. Tina Kotek’s visit August 16, nearly a month before the election.
“It looks like about 36 percent of Republicans turned out….and 42 percent of the Democrats so you know, uhhh, Governor Kotek came down a couple of weeks ago and I think she weighed in on this very heavily. And also, we just found out last night that they’re allocating $2 million dollars, it looks like to UCON (UCAN) or something like that in support of the homeless problem….” said Morton. Meyer interrupted her by saying, “Yeah, I got a note from Grants Pass Councilor Dwayne Yunker. And he told me this money is going straight to UCAN, straight to the non-profit and the city will have no say in what happens to it. The homeless lobbyists win again.”
Yunker was wrong. The money is not going to United Community Action Network – UCAN. It is going to a tiny house project in Cave Junction. UCAN has become a target of the right in Josephine County. Meyer called UCAN a “homeless racket,” while Morton blamed UCAN for the tents and propane tanks she says end up in the river.
The recall was supposedly about how the Mayor handled homelessness in Grants Pass. Yunker and Morton tried hard to convince voters that Mayor Bristol is far more powerful and responsible for homelessness than she actually is, with articles in The Eagle (a right-wing quarterly tabloid) and pre-election appearances on Meyer’s conservative talk show. (Under the City’s charter the Mayor runs the meetings, does not participate in setting policy and only votes when the eight-member council is tied.
However, Morton said after the election what the recall was really about.
“I’m the chair of the party and I know if you have a certain voice, just having that position you can go somewhere and people are going to listen to you, whether you make any sense or not. I think she (Mayor Bristol) has benefitted from that a lot. She’s involved in a lot of organizations where she can influence people and a lot of those people just listen to her and read the Courier, her husband’s paper essentially, he’s the city editor, and so they get ideas in their head over a long period of time that probably the vast majority of people in our county would not subscribe to,” Morton told Meyer.
Ideas in their head? That a majority in this county wouldn’t subscribe to? Like working for a low-barrier shelter so police can enforce the law in city parks again? Morton didn’t elaborate on what dangerous ideas the Mayor is forcing on unsuspecting citizens in Josephine County. Nor did she see the irony in complaining about the Mayor’s Courier connection while talking on a radio program that reaches thousands. The real purpose of the recall was to stifle voices Morton’s Republican Party doesn’t agree with. And the voters got it.
In the weeks before the election Morton and Yunker were on the radio, getting free air time to push the recall. After citing statistics showing a rise in overdose deaths, Yunker tried to link those to the Mayor’s tenure on Meyer’s show.
“I can’t say she influences the deaths but the people that she associates with and want to do the shelter are all in this realm of the Soros thing you’re talking about. It’s harm reduction, not a stop using drugs kind of thing, you know, she’s going toward,” said Yunker. (Meyer made a reference earlier to the “George Soros backed people pushing Measure 110.” There is no evidence George Soros backs Oregonians in favor of Measure 110, a voter-approved initiative that decriminalized small amounts of hard drugs, but Soros is one of Meyer’s favorite boogeymen.)
Yunker also admitted he used his City Council vote to bolster his contention that the Mayor is a powerful force in the community. The vote at the Sept. 6 meeting was to decide whether or not to set in motion the structure, with zero funding attached, needed to eventually add a public safety fee to city utility bills.
“I don’t know if people know I tied up the water fee and the Mayor had to vote and the Mayor had power last night. Everyone needs to understand the Mayor had the power to vote last night and she voted no, so there’ll be no zero water bill thing starting yet,” said Yunker.
“Yeah, yeah, and so it was tied, four to four and the Mayor voted no. I think she was pretty much put on pressure because…the recall. If she would’ve voted yes that would have just put a nail in her coffin, you know, so without the voter’s input, I think, she was forced to do that. That’s just my feeling on that,” said Yunker.
Before the vote Yunker, who had been supportive of the utility fee, said this….
“I’ve already voiced my opinion on this thing but I don’t like the process right now. That’s my problem with this. I hate the levy thing that we’re doing so, I mean, that’s where I’m going on the whole thing, with this is the process, the levy, the taxes, it doesn’t sound like we’re all in unity. So, that’s kinda where my thoughts are gonna be on when I vote. But um, you know, I been quoted many times by every source in this town it seems like, ‘I’m for the fifty dollars.’ (Bangs his hand down) That’s what everybody’s put…so I never even got to vote yet and they already told me I’m fifty dollars so it was just a discussion. So, I’ve been quoted several times in the Daily Courier and the Democrat Party ‘it’s fifty dollars’ so just because of a discussion I said and yeah, I do like the fee, I’m ok with it….” (Yunker is running in the Republican primary against Oregon Rep. Lily Morgan so he’s backtracking on his comment saying instead of a $30 public safety fee the city should ask for $50)
The vote was called for: yes, no, yes, no, yes, yes – four yes votes with two votes to go, Yunker and Councilor Brian DeLaGrange. Everyone knew DeLaGrange’s opinion. He was a no. So just before DeLaGrange voted, Yunker voted no, tying the council.
The vote completed, Bristol said, “As luck would have it, I had a feeling this would happen.”
Did the recallers use Yunker to set a trap for the Mayor? If so, she didn’t fall into it.
“You’ve all said a lot of good things here tonight. Public safety is a priority. I also don’t like the process. This action would put the train on the tracks. It’s a blank check. It’s a stealth tax. We’re not asking the public to vote on it. And I’m going to vote no,” said Bristol.
You could almost hear Yunker’s coffin nail clattering to the floor after Bristol’s vote.
Later in that meeting a county ordinance prohibiting the possession and use of alcohol, marijuana and illegal drugs on public property was on the Council’s agenda. County Commissioners were asking the city to sign on to Ordinance 2023-004, but City Attorney Augustus Ogu explained to the Council the county’s ordinance was a basically a duplicate of what the city had already passed last June.
Was this another trap? Is it possible County Commissioners did not know the City of Grants Pass had already passed in June what was in Ordinance 2023-004?
Councilor Vanessa Ogier asked why the matter was on the agenda. Councilor Lovelace explained that during a Council workshop Yunker thought it should be on the agenda and she had questions she’d like answered about the Ordinance. Meanwhile Yunker had taken off, saying he had to attend one of his children’s ball games. Councilor D.J. Faszer said “I find this not only duplicative, but superfluous and arguably unenforceable.”
After a presentation by Ogu, comments from Police Chief Warren Hensman and a lengthy discussion by Council members, all those present, including Lovelace, voted against signing on to the county’s ordinance because the city had already covered the issues addressed in the county’s ordinance. The whole exercise was deemed a waste of time by several Council members. During the vote, Councilor Rick Riker said Yunker texted him saying he would vote to sign on to the ordinance. Bristol quickly noted that he didn’t have a vote because he wasn’t present.
Mayor Bristol said the matter skirted the normal process for putting items on the agenda, and if Commissioners had not cancelled the standing monthly meeting with the Council, the discussion could have taken place there. Lovelace argued that the Commission wanted the Council’s buy-in by Sept. 15, before the Council would meet again, so she worked to get it on the agenda quickly. She said because of the sometimes contentious relationship with the county, she believed a discussion about the Ordinance would at least show good will.
It didn’t. At the next Commission meeting Sept 13, even though the recall had been defeated, Commissioner West said this, “I am appalled that the City of Grants Pass chose not to tag on to the Ordinance of 110 (the county wanted to counter Measure 110 with the ordinance) that the county is moving forward with. That was free to the city. It was no cost. It would have given them another tool in their toolbox to help control the drugs and some of those issues on public property. But I’ve heard the terms. We’re playing politics and there’s no playing politics here…”
Commissioner Herman Baertschiger said this, “I am disgusted with that Council. Absolutely disgusted. I challenge those people on the City Council to go have a conversation with a parent who has lost their child to overdose.”
Commissioners had a week to figure out why the City Council didn’t vote to sign on to their Ordinance 2023-004. Instead, they chose to play politics.
Fox News has just been SLAPPED with a lawsuit by the state of Oregon, saying that its false claims about the 2020 election caused losses to the state’s employee retirement funds.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed the lawsuit officially against Fox Corporation, after an investigation revealed that the company knew its employees were broadcasting false political claims about the election.
This caused shareholders to “expose themselves and the company to liability and exposed their shareholders to significant risks,” the lawsuit reads. Fox has already had to dig deep to satisfy one lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems for an eye-popping $800 million. That and the additional $2.7 billion dollar lawsuit from Smartmatic contributed to the drop in value of Oregon’s state retirement fund stake in Fox stocks from $11.7 million to only $5.2 million.
Since it’s clear that Fox News TV anchors and hosts still haven’t learned their lesson as they continue to push election lies, should other states file their own lawsuits and push Fox to bankruptcy?
“We yanked the funding because all the kids left the program,” Josephine County Commission Chair Herman Baertschiger said on The Bill Meyer Show Aug. 1.
In July a Freedom from Religion Foundation attorney sent a letter to the Board of Commissioners asking them to reconsider their decision to defund the 4H and consequently the Master Gardeners program. This statement avoids his original justification for depriving the 4H of its funding.
The defunding came after a group of parents got into a disagreement with 4H leaders about wearing religious t-shirts at 4H functions. Baertschiger said at a May 10 meeting with 4H officials “It just saddens me, you taking God out of 4H” and he suggested 4H partner with local churches. During their June 7 meeting Commissioners Baertschiger and John West voted to cancel the small 4.6 cent tax for the 4H and Extension Services District, commenting that 4H and the Extension Service were imposing “woke” agendas on kids and “brainwashing” them, siding with a Christian youth group that complained to Commissioners they weren’t allowed to participate in 4H wearing obvious displays of their religion. West and Baertschiger defied the Services District Budget Committee, which voted against a defunding. A majority of the members said they believed 4H and the Christian group could work things out. Master Gardeners, uninvolved in the dispute, complained but were shooed off by West and Baertschiger as a bunch of elites who could fund their own program.
Since getting the letter from the attorney, Baertschiger has changed his tune regarding his 4H defunding vote. He now says he voted to get rid of the tax because it was for the kids and 95 percent of the kids had left. That percentage has not been verified. After implying the 4H defunding wasn’t about religion, Baertschiger went on to give examples in history that showed the US was founded on Christian principles and said the letter from the attorney was part of a secular movement pushing hard against our Christian heritage. In the letter, attorney Christopher Line cites the First Amendment and said the Board may not use its power to force a select set of religious values on Josephine County citizens.
After that chat with Meyer, Baertschiger left on vacation, leaving his friends to fill in. A conservative automotive columnist from Grants Pass called in to complain that our public schools were training kids to be “punch throwing Antifa.” He wants to start collecting signatures to bring school choice to Oregon.
Musing about Trump, Meyer told his listeners “no matter what you think of Trump you gotta back this guy in his fight against tyranny.” In right-wing media, holding Trump accountable for breaking the law is “tyranny.” The columnist agreed saying “it’s not about him it’s about us.”
Anything that annoys a “woke” prosecutor will get you indicted, he proclaimed. Those Democrats, they’re a bunch of authoritarians, they concluded. They were joined by a caller who read quotes from his “patriotic bible” that says God was in every aspect of our country’s founding so God shouldn’t be left out of our schools.
Aug. 22 Congressman Cliff Bentz joined Meyer with the latest news about the Biden impeachment effort. Bentz said his friend Rep. Jim Jordon, who is on a subcommittee of a subcommittee, has been going through thousands of documents looking for a connection between Biden and the shell corporations he says Biden set up for nefarious purposes. Bentz’s other buddy, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, is on the verge of holding impeachment inquiry hearings once Jordon finds evidence the Bidens committed crimes. It didn’t seem to occur to Bentz or Meyer that an old Speaker trick is to keep firebrands so busy working on obscure research projects they don’t have time to cause trouble.
Bentz also bragged that he’s part of the one-third of the Congress that doesn’t take earmarks during budget negotiations, which means his rather low-income district gets left out of funding it could really use.
Bentz showed up at the KMED studio, causing Meyer to cut short a conversation he was having with Josephine County Republican Party Chair Holli Morton, who was describing her brush with right-wing celebrities at a recent Election Crime Symposium put on by the My Pillow Guy Mike Lindell. She said Lindell was “very available” and he’s the same in person as he is in his commercials. She said he spent a million dollars on the Symposium because “he feels our country has been stolen.” He even provided all the food, Morton said, but didn’t reveal what it cost to attend the event.
Meyer asked her if Lindell had been indicted along with everyone else. “Yeah, they’re going after everybody,” she said (Lindell has not been indicted, according to news reports, because he was more of a Trump groupie who was kept around for his money but not actually involved in the election overthrow scheme).
Morton came away from the Symposium determined to do something about all the crime in our elections. Meyer asked her what she would be doing to reform the situation.
“Well, what we’re gonna have to do is petition each county to get rid of the machines. So that’s what we’re gonna start doing now. We can’t have the machines. They’re obviously the root of the problem.”
It wasn’t clear how she would use petitions to get rid of voting machines or if this is just intended for Josephine County or all 3,143 counties in the US.
In California Shasta County, 178 miles south of Grants Pass, dumped their election machines. Morton didn’t say if she was in touch with county board members there who have cost the county $3 to $4 million to restructure their election process and prompted state legislation forbidding the hand-counting of ballots.
Grants Pass Home Girl, Sara Bristol
Sara Bristol was born in Grants Pass, Oregon and went to grade and high school here. Sara comes from a family who believed in community service. She saw their rhetoric in action as they worked tirelessly for, and with their neighbors, to make Grants Pass a great place to live. Sara saw volunteerism and public service firsthand and has spent her life following their example. Sara’s father, Mike Murphy, once served as Grants Pass mayor.
During summer break from college Sara worked as an intern at the Daily Courier in Grants Pass, where she met future husband Chris Bristol. Sara followed her heart and left school in Colorado to return to Oregon. Back in Oregon, Sara continued her studies at Southern Oregon University, where she graduated with a degree in Journalism. Sara and her new husband, like many young couples, were destined to leave their hometowns due to job considerations.
The young couple and their two children moved first to Portland and then to Yakima, where Sara and Chris both worked at local newspapers. Despite her growing work and family responsibilities, Sara still felt the call to serve her community. Supported by the ideals of independence, transparency, fiscal responsibility, and honesty, Sara decided to run for a city council position in Yakima, WA. No surprise this spirited dynamo won easily.
A big job change for Chris was coming and it would bring Sara and her family back to Grants Pass. Leaving Yakima was hard, but coming home to Grants Pass was an exciting prospect; and as always, the family leaned into the move and all the changes the move promised.
It wasn’t long after moving back to Grants Pass that Sara saw real problems in the Grants Pass city government. She became quite alarmed at what appeared to be a city government run by a crowd of bullies who were playing fast and loose with taxpayer money. After her father’s years as Grants Pass mayor and her experience as councilperson in Yakima she decided she had to run for Grants Pass mayor. As an independent, unaffiliated candidate she won handily.
And Now — The Current Recall
Recently, a group, providing the address of the local Republican committee office as their headquarters, attacked Sara’s performance as mayor. Suzanne Barber and several Republican precinct workers began collecting signatures for a recall election. The reason for the petitioned recall, according to the petition, is Sara Bristol’s insufficient conservativism.
Grants Pass voters wanted an independent and unaffiliated voice at City Hall, that’s why Sara was elected. Support our mayor. Vote No on the recall, September 12, 2023. At a time when our national headlines are filled with vitriol and hate Sara wants to be sure that divisiveness does not contaminate our local government. Sara believes in calm, transparent, confident leadership, not hysterical extremism. Join Sara to turn back a small but vocal minority.
SUPPORT SARA BRISTOL AT THESE COMMUNITY EVENTS:
Friday, August 25, 2023: Anne Basker Auditorium at 6 pm
Saturday, August 26, 2023: Josephine County Courthouse at 12 Noon
Tuesday, August 29, 2023: Fruitdale Grange at 6pm
Two issues agonizing the Grants Pass City Council are becoming hotter and hotter as the summer wears on. The first one is homelessness, which draws people from the city and the county to complain about city parks, city streets, and private property impacted by the proliferation of tents, old RVs, trash, and drug paraphernalia. The second is the proposed Public Safety Utility Fee, which would add almost $23 to the utility bills of people living in single-family homes and varying fees to businesses, including non-profits and industries in the city.
During the Aug 2nd and Aug 16th regular meetings of the Council, several people complained that the homeless are ruining Grants Pass by scattering trash, doing drugs in plain sight, clogging the streets with their vehicle homes, and making city parks dangerous. One said the “scumbuckets” from other states are coming here to take advantage of Oregon’s lax drug laws. Others said people are encouraging homelessness by giving out “free stuff” and lamented Measure 110 (decriminalizing small amounts of drugs) as undermining the punishments that used to be incentives to straighten out.
Two people asked the Council to organize a letter-writing campaign to the Governor asking her to overturn Measure 110 which they believe exacerbates homelessness (the governor can’t overturn the voter-approved measure; the legislature would have to put a repeal on the ballot, or a citizen’s group would have to gather enough signatures to get a repeal on the ballot).
“I get it. It is an issue,” said Councilor Valerie Lovelace, who urged people to express their concerns about Measure 110 to their state representatives.
However, while complaining loudly about the need to “do something” about the homeless, none of the speakers offered viable solutions, and Councilmembers took issue with comments suggesting the police aren’t doing anything. Councilor Vanessa Ogier read a long list of police responses to homeless rule-breakers while others on the Council tied the complaints to the dire need to increase public safety funding. City Manager Aaron Cubic also clarified where parks funding comes from after one commenter said the city should stop funding parks out of people’s property taxes because they can’t use them. Cubic said parks funding doesn’t come from property taxes, it comes from the general fund fed by other taxes, fees, and grants.
Councilor Rob Pell also pushed back against complaints the Council “handcuffs” the police concerning homeless mayhem. Cubic and Operations Captain Tyler Lee assured the speakers this wasn’t the case.
“The Council is doing no hampering other than following injunction laws,” said Cubic. Lee said the revised ordinance passed by the council in July setting restrictions in city parks “is a big help.”
Councilors were very responsive to complaints from property owners about the homeless camping along their property lines strewing trash and starting fires. Councilor Brian DeLaGrange called for a discussion about mitigating risks to property owners through brush clearing and fencing. Pell reminded those complaining about the homeless that in 2020 they turned down a 10-cent increase in the public safety levy “and now you’re looking to the Council for solutions.”
Mayor Sara Bristol’s role was to read the rules regarding public comment time, call on people who wanted to speak, and time them so they didn’t exceed their allotted three minutes. She also clarified some points that came up during the comments.
“The City doesn’t send people to the park to help the homeless and the City wasn’t paying to run the small shelter that closed recently.” She also reiterated that the only way the City can start enforcing no camping rules in the parks is to provide a low-barrier shelter. Lovelace pointed out that the recent injunction appeal, while it failed, did clarify that if a city offers a low-barrier shelter, it can ban people from its parks.
After several meetings and a lengthy discussion, the Public Safety Utility Fee was approved at the August 16th meeting but left with zero funding, to be added, or not, after more public input. DeLaGrange said alternative ways to fund police and fire in Grants Pass hadn’t been thoroughly presented to residents and called for a survey to let them express their views. Lovelace shot back that she was tired of “kicking the can down the road” and after 15 meetings on the subject, it’s time to stand up and take a vote.
“I consider myself a leader and I will do something uncomfortable if it means public safety is there because that’s our number one job,” she said.
While DeLaGrange insisted there is still time to “fully vet the options” on the matter, Lovelace said once the decision is made to increase utility bills the Council needs time to “sell it.”
Pell and Ogier agreed with DeLaGrange while Councilor Joel King reminded them that one of the alternatives, a sales tax to fund the sheriff proposed by Josephine County Commissioners, was overwhelmingly voted down just last year. Ogier demonstrated the weight of the decision to raise utility bills on the decision-makers.
“The new fee is burdensome but the crush of modern society is real, police and fire are necessary services.” She said she understood the need to get the ”infrastructure” for raising the fees in place but said she too would like to get more information about how citizens feel about it from a survey.
Mayor Bristol pointed out that voting to amend the municipal code to establish the methodology of the fee is “just a placeholder” with the amount to be voted on later. The Council did vote five to three to approve that “methodology” with Pell, DeLaGrange, and Councilor DJ Faszer voting no. Faszer said he wasn’t sure constituents were clear on the matter and agreed with DeLaGrange that there is time to get more input. No one on the Council argued that funding for the city’s police and fire departments isn’t needed. More information about the Utility Fee can be found here Public Safety Utility Fee
There were a few people arguing against it during the public hearing on the utility fee including perennial commenter Mark Seligman who doesn’t live in the city but said he cares about the poor. Mayor Bristol reminded him not to use his public comment time to “campaign.” Seligman has announced he’s running for a seat in the Oregon House. So has Councilor Dwayne Yunker, who has advocated for a $50 public safety utility fee. Another perennial commenter, Judy Ahrens, said while she appreciates the police people are already financially overburdened like single parents “Well that’s a moral issue but I won’t get into that.” Rycke Brown, wearing one of her signature hats, also spoke against the utility fee saying public safety “isn’t a utility.”
The next reading of the amendment will be held at the Council’s Sept. 6th regular meeting.
The curtains have fallen on the 2023 Josephine County Fair, and what an event it was! We owe a heartfelt “Thank You” to every single one of our volunteers who ensured that the Democratic Party booth remained vibrant, energetic, and full of life throughout. The JoCo Democrat booth was not just a booth, but a gathering spot, resonating with both young hearts and the wise ones. With the Stonewall Caucus banner flying high, we proudly signaled our booth as an inclusive spot of unity, especially resonating with the queer youth who graced the Fair.
Our generous giveaways were an absolute hit! We distributed a plethora of items: flags, stickers, bracelets, buttons, and those delightful pinwheels that caught everyone’s attention. And what’s more? Numerous attendees signed up for our email newsletter, eager to stay in the loop. Our “Let’s Turn JoCo Blue” banner was a beacon of hope and inspiration, receiving nods of approval and enthusiastic thumbs-ups.
In addition to our booth activities, we passionately supported the Citizens for Responsible Government charter petition. Our booth became a hub of information, educating countless visitors. The response? Page after page adorned with signatures from supportive fair-goers!
Our advocacy didn’t stop there. We also ardently stood with Mayor Sara Bristol, urging everyone in Grants Pass to cast their votes against the recall slated for September 12, 2023. To further this cause, non-partisan community members are organizing a “Support Sara” Rally on August 26th, starting at Noon, right at the heart of our community—the Josephine County Courthouse. We urge every resident to join hands, bringing friends, family, and neighbors to create a chorus of support for Sara. Let’s show her that her community believes in her.
For those wishing to extend their support financially for Mayor Sara, contributions can be made to:
Sara Bristol for Mayor PAC
850 NE 10th St.
Grants Pass, OR 97526
Alternatively, you can show your backing by donating online at donorbox.org/retain-mayor-bristol.
Every bit helps in this crucial moment for our community.
As some of you may be aware, our county charter, adopted in 1981, is growing old. After 42 years, it contains provisions that have been declared unlawful or unenforceable by the courts. It’s time that we update the charter to best address the issues currently facing Josephine County.
For those interested in this cause or those who have questions, Brady Keister, Lynda Spangler, and Rick Flora will be at the west end of the Growers Market (on 4th Street between the railroad tracks and the west entrance) this Saturday, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, collecting signatures for the green petition.
There are competing petitions aiming to add initiatives to the November ballot, with these initiatives proposing to replace our current county charter with two very different new charters.
The green petition proposes replacing our current charter, which requires 3 full-time commissioners elected at large, with a model involving 5 part-time commissioners and a county manager. This system would divide the county into four districts, each electing a commissioner to represent its citizens on the board, with a fifth commissioner elected at large.
This proposal comes in response to the fact that, for the past 40+ years, our commissioners have predominantly come from Grants Pass. By creating districts, people from areas like the Illinois Valley, the Applegate Valley, Wolf Creek, Sunny Valley, and other non-Grants Pass regions of Josephine County would have the chance to select the candidate they believe will represent them best.
By replacing three full-time commissioners with high annual salaries, plus benefits and retirement packages, with five part-time commissioners receiving approximately $25,000 annual stipends, we would save enough money to hire a professional county manager. This could lead to considerable long-term savings.
The green petition also proposes removing the unlawful or unenforceable provisions in our current charter and converting the county attorney and surveyor positions from elected offices to county employee roles. Importantly, all remaining elected county offices would continue to be non-partisan. The proposed charter was put together by a non-partisan task force, Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG). Their website is jocoCRG.org.
In contrast, the pink petition proposes a different revised charter, one that turns all elected county offices partisan and maintains three commissioners elected at large. However, this switch to partisan elections for county officials could disenfranchise non-affiliated voters in Josephine County, effectively locking them out of the primary round of voting.
The proposed county charter represented by the pink petition is sponsored by Jonathan Knapp and the group identified as WeThePeople. However, we support the charter revision represented by the green petition that proposes replacing 3 full-time commissioners with 5 part-time commissioners and a county manager.
We need a lot of signatures by August 9th to get this initiative on the November ballot. While good progress has been made, a concerted effort is still needed to get this done.
Please come down to the Growers Market, sign the petition, or even just to ask questions and discuss this further. Let’s change our county for the better.
On the July 11 episode of The Bill Meyer Show on KMED, Herman Baertschiger, Chair of the Josephine County Commission, articulated his preference among the charter proposals currently vying for a spot on the ballot. It’s worth noting that traditionally, charters do not originate from the commissioners, rather, they are exclusively drafted by a citizens’ committee.
Two years prior, the Commissioners had appointed a committee to modernize the county charter. The revised charter they proposed was, however, not adopted by a citizens’ committee. Instead, two separate charters were put forward: one by Chief Petitioner Jonathan Knapp, and another by the Citizens for Responsible Government.
Knapp’s proposal aims to make all elected roles within the county partisan. Thus, candidates for positions like sheriff, county clerk, or assessor would have to declare their affiliation with either the Republican or Democrat party.
The proposal by Citizens for Responsible Government, on the other hand, advocates for expanding the Board of Commissioners from three to five members and hiring a professional county manager.
What follows below is the radio exchange between Meyer and Baertschiger.
This conversation reveals a limited understanding of the implications of the proposed charter amendments, as well as a mischaracterization of those advocating for changes. To provide context and clarification, we have included responses that counteract these misrepresentations and provide a more nuanced perspective on this crucial local issue. We hope this analysis serves as a helpful guide as you navigate this complex conversation and consider the future governance of Josephine County. At the end of this recap, you’ll find our message to the Democrats and Independents in Josephine County.
Bill Meyer – So you have a couple of charter change amendments in JoCo?
Herman Baertschiger – So there’s two versions, there’s the conservative version and both of these are out on the street for signatures, and then there’s the liberal version so there’s two different groups of people.
Baertschiger’s claim is patently incorrect. To label the Citizens for Responsible Government’s proposal as a “liberal” version is an egregious mischaracterization. This group is a non-partisan assembly consisting of Republicans, Democrats, and non-affiliated individuals. It’s simply unjustifiable to shoehorn them into a partisan category. On the other hand, Jonathan Knapp’s proposal is indeed presented as the conservative variant, but it’s essential to separate these facts from inaccurate labels.
Baertshiger – So let’s run through some of the big differences. We don’t have time to run through everything so the big differences is the commissioners, the county commissioners are at large. The conservatives want them to stay the same, three commissioners at large. The liberals want to change it to non-partisan…actually it is non-partisan now.
The conservatives want to make it partisan and the liberals want five commissioners and they want it to be non-partisan. In the five member commissioners’ office, they will be part time because the liberals want to have a county manager now and five part-time commissioners. Four of em will be by districts, I think one will be at large….um they want to give the county manager $150,000 plus a year, plus health insurance plus PERS, plus vacation pay, plus a vehicle, so they…so they estimate the cost would be exceeding $300,000 for this and I think you know how I feel about a county manager. I just I don’t’ like bureaucrats having that much control. It needs to be elected officials. So that’s how I feel about it.
Baertschiger’s figures concerning the so-called “liberal” version appear to be drawn from an unknown source. The task of hiring a county manager would fall squarely on the shoulders of the commissioners, as would the responsibility of determining that manager’s salary. His assertions thus seem to be based on conjecture rather than solid, verifiable facts. It is critical that we keep our discourse rooted in reality and not cloud it with speculative and misleading narratives.
Meyer – I do find it interesting though that the liberal version of the Josephine County charter change being proposed, what they’re trying to get signatures for, is very akin to what failed Jackson County Commission candidate Denise Kraus is pushing. That was in the news media over the weekend here. And they want five. The Democrats want five, by district, and they also want it to be non-partisan. Which I think is very interesting. And to me it’s just a way….well, really essentially what this is about is if you go by districts then Ashland and Jacksonville and a couple of other of the liberal hive minds, they get their communist commissioner. I think that’s what they’re pushing to do.
Meyer’s remarks seem to sidestep a fundamental democratic principle: all regions within a county deserve equal representation on the board of commissioners. As it stands, many residents of Josephine County, particularly those in outlying areas, feel their voices are not being heard because the current commissioners reside in or near the City of Grants Pass. To insinuate that advocating for district-based representation is a ploy for “communist” influence overlooks the genuine concerns of these communities for more balanced and local representation.
Baertschiger – Well of course, of course it is and let me tell you a little story. They were collecting signatures in front of the post office and I stopped. It was an elderly couple. Nice couple. And I said so why is non-partisan better than partisan? And they said well there’s 29 thousand people that don’t get to vote in Josephine County. And I said whataya mean they don’t get to vote? They said they don’t get to vote cause everything’s partisan. I said STOP. Wait a second. I said that’s in the primaries. And they said that’s right, they don’t get to vote and I said well a primary is a party election. If you don’t belong to the Elks Club you don’t get to vote for the Grand PooBah. If you don’t belong to the church you don’t get to vote for the council president. Don’t tell me they don’t get the right to vote. The voting for the position is in November and they get the right to vote so you’re misleading the people saying that partisan doesn’t allow people to vote.
Baertschiger’s assertions seem to fundamentally misconstrue the democratic process. Should the ‘conservative’ charter pass, it would unjustly strip 29,000 non-affiliated voters of their primary election voting rights in Josephine County. This isn’t about club elections – it’s about safeguarding democratic principles. His misleading narrative obscures this serious disenfranchisement issue.
Meyer – By the way, non-affiliated, you know a non-affiliated candidate could qualify for the ballot and run for county commission. Right? You don’t have to be a member of a party to run. Even in a partisan election.
Meyer’s comments gloss over a significant barrier in the process. While it’s technically correct that a non-affiliated candidate could run for county commission, what he fails to mention is that such candidates, not being members of the Republican or Democratic Party, would have to undertake the challenging and often resource-intensive process of gathering signatures just to secure a place on the ballot. This detail is critical in understanding the full picture of what non-affiliated candidates would face under the proposed changes.
Baertschiger – in the general election. But the primary is a party election and so I said look, the United States is, party politics and the they said no its not and I said why is the governor, secretary of state the legislature, the treasurer the president of the united states, senators and congressman all partisan? And they looked at me and they said well we don’t care about all that. We just care about this and so they’re very misinformed, misled, don’t understand the process but yet they’re out there explaining this to people getting signatures so it’s frustrating Bill.
Baertschiger’s comments exhibit a misunderstanding of the nuanced role of local officials. Their duties primarily involve handling local concerns such as the provision of infrastructure, land use decisions, sanitation, and local transportation – all issues that transcend partisan politics. Hence, local officials are typically elected based on their capacity to effectively serve their community, rather than their political party affiliation.
Meyer – Yeah, I’m hoping Denise Kraus fails dramatically on this one but they probably will get it qualified for the ballot though I have no doubt about that but they’re going to sell this thing about (Bill uses a mocking, squeaky voice) “non-partisan is good.” Well really what it means is that you hide your affiliation behind…well we’re non-partisan, right?
Baertschiger – It gives the ability for the left to hide their spots is what it does.
Meyer – And that’s essentially what it does. Now if you want to run as an Independent for county commission, great, that’s fine but don’t try to fool us with this somehow non-partisan means good automatically.
This exchange reveals a concerning undercurrent, suggesting a deliberate effort to suppress anyone outside the Republican base – be they Independent, non-affiliated, or Democrat – from securing local office. This isn’t about partisanship being inherently good or bad; it’s about promoting fair representation and democracy.
Baertschiger – Yeah…now the other thing is the conservatives wants to change the county charter to be a public politic and a corporation in an agency of the state where the liberals want just to be an agency under the state.
Baertschiger’s statement seems to lack coherence, and it is crucial to rectify misconceptions that it may generate. Supporters of the “conservative” charter might claim it strips away the state’s power to govern Josephine County, but this claim is fundamentally flawed. It’s simply not feasible for a county charter to overrule or bypass state governance. Such misrepresentation can lead to confusion and misinformation among the constituents.
Meyer – Which is the current definition in the county right? So this would be changing the definition of the legal relationship of Josephine County to the state? Ok.
Baertschiger – Yeah, and the conservative one adds a section for parental rights, granted rights, protected rights, stuff like that. And then the Democrats also want to remove the ability of the county to go into debt. That scares me a little bit too so um, people are gonna have a choice. If you want to have the best local control over the county I’d suggest you stop by the Republican headquarters and sign the petition. If you don’t care, well you’re gonna git whatever passes but people better get involved or they’re gonna wake up one day and say what happened to my county? Josephine County still has a much higher Republican voters than the Democrat but I will tell you they better not fall asleep. They better get involved and do things like sign the petition and try to push these things forward or it’s gonna be a much bigger struggle in the future.
Baertschiger’s remarks touch on the incorporation of certain rights into the conservative charter. However, it’s worth noting that legal experts have previously asserted that such provisions within a charter are, in fact, unenforceable. Thus, his commentary could potentially mislead constituents into believing these additions would have a more practical impact than they actually could. This is a crucial distinction that shouldn’t be overlooked in the discussion.
Meyer – There’s a Plato quote I like – people who chose not to get involved in politics are governed by their inferiors. Honestly. I think that’s something to take. So many people say ah I don’t want to get involved.
The quote Meyer is referring to is attributed to Plato and it goes: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” However, please note that while this quote is widely attributed to Plato, there’s some debate among scholars about its exact origin and whether Plato actually said it.
Baertschiger – My message to our conservative folks who listen to your show is you need to get involved.
Here’s our message to Democrats and Independents:
Don’t be swayed by misleading narratives and divisive labels. Understand that these discussions about the county charter are not about partisanship or affiliations, they are about democracy, equal representation, and the right to participate fully in our government processes. This includes the ability for non-affiliated voters to vote in primaries and for local officials to be chosen based on their capacity to serve the community effectively rather than their party affiliation.
Remember, 29,000 non-affiliated voters stand to lose their primary election voting rights should the ‘conservative’ charter pass. This is not a minor issue; it’s about safeguarding democratic principles and ensuring everyone’s voice is heard.
The proposal to expand the Board of Commissioners and hire a professional county manager aims to ensure more equal representation across the county, addressing concerns from residents in outlying areas who currently feel unheard. This isn’t about ‘hiding spots’ or ‘communist influence’, it’s about making sure every voice in Josephine County matters.
Remember, you have a choice. Get involved in the democratic process. Understand the implications of the proposed charter changes, engage in the discussions, ask questions, and most importantly, cast your vote. This isn’t about partisan politics, it’s about the future of our county. The choices we make now will shape Josephine County for years to come.
Don’t let divisive narratives cloud the real issues at stake. Make sure your voice is heard and fight for fair, equal representation in Josephine County.