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JoCo Commissioners — Catching Up

We’ve been busy preparing for election activities. Here is a wrap-up for Aug 17-Sept 8 2022

Josephine County Commissioners, drained after the laborious tasks of trying to save the Sheriff’s Department and coming up with psilocybin ballot measures, settled back into the routine matter of running the county with no small measure of relief.  Commissioner Herman Baertschiger took a vacation for a while and they all took Labor Day week off, formally cancelling a Wednesday business session.

After months of trying to figure out the best way of funding the Sheriff’s Department without backlash from their base of anti-tax Republicans in the county, Commissioners finally settled on a 3 percent seasonal sales tax, called the Retail Activities Tax, saying it would bring in approximately $18 million a year. This was based on number-crunching by a legislative acquaintance of Baertschiger, who was a state senator before being elected to the Commission. When the City of Ontario in Malheur County looked into a sales tax (later defeated by voters) Councilors commissioned a $20,000 study to find out how much a 1 percent sales tax would generate. Josephine County did not commission a study before putting the sales tax measure on the ballot as the single choice for funding the Sheriff.

The sales tax ordinance was given final approval by Commissioners during their Aug. 17 meeting. The ordinance will be put into effect next spring if voters approve it in November. The ordinance outlines what will and will not be subject to the sales tax, how the tax will be enforced and who gets the money from the tax. Josephine Democrats will have a detailed report on that later.

During that meeting Commissioners also finalized two ballot measures letting voters choose whether or not to allow the clinical use of psilocybin, also known as “Magic Mushrooms” and whether to allow the manufacture of the substance used in the clinics in the unincorporated areas of the county. Weary of chasing down illegal marijuana grows, Sheriff Dave Daniel fiercely opposes allowing mushroom grows.

Psilocybin is a psychoactive substance that can produce hallucinations. Doctors treating alcoholism, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), drug abuse and depression report some patients improve dramatically with controlled use of small amounts of it. Oregon voters approved legalizing the clinical use of the substance but not recreational use. The state has chosen to let counties opt out of the legal use of psilocybin, however, so Josephine County Commissioners decided to let their voters choose. The Grants Pass City Council simply voted to allow the controlled use and manufacture of psilocybin within city limits after hearing from constituents, which will put city voters in the unique position of being able to vote on it in the county but not vote for or against it in the city.

Commissioners’ meetings the first week of September were back to hearing reports and voting on routine matters. Often few people attend these kinds of meetings, but there were several who showed up to comment on various issues not on the agenda, ranging from a concern about the homeless to new road-building technology. One speaker honed in on SB 762, a bipartisan bill passed by the Oregon state legislature to provide money for wildfire preparedness. This bill is increasingly unpopular among Josephine County’s conservative base as an infringement of property rights.

More on the latest Commissioner meetings can be found here….

Aug 18 commissioner report 

Sept 1 to 8 meetings report