“Yes, I am a Constitutional Sheriff because I believe a sheriff has to follow the Constitution,” was Jonathan Knapp’s answer to the first question he got at the Josephine County Democrats’ Sept. 11 meeting in Grants Pass.
Knapp didn’t say he was a member of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), however. CSPOA is a group that believes sheriffs are the highest executive authority in the county and therefore constitutionally empowered to be able to keep federal agents out of the county as a method of saving it from being overrun by the federal government. Much of its philosophy is drawn from the old Posse Comitatus movement of the 1970s. But Knapp has been endorsed by a previous Josephine County sheriff who adhered to that philosophy, Gil Gilbertson. Gilbertson was defeated by Dave Daniel, the current incumbent sheriff Knapp is running against. Knapp also worked for the infamous Joe Arpaio in Maracopa County, Arizona, but he says during the 18 years he was there Knapp says he only saw him “eight or ten times.”
“Everyone has had to work for someone they didn’t always agree with,” he said.
Would you enforce Oregon State Law? Knapp said as sheriff he would take an oath of office to do that.
“My sole responsibility is to uphold the law,” he said.
Knapp introduced himself by saying he grew up in Josephine County, attended Grants Pass and Hidden Valley high schools, graduating from there in 1979. After that he was a fire department Chaplin in McMinnville, was in the US Air Force 1980-84, moved on to Arizona where he worked for the Salvation Army and Bed Bath and Beyond, then the Maracopa County Sheriff’s department until 2017.
“I always talked about moving home (Josephine County) to retire, but I’m only 57 with a lot of experience so I’m running for sheriff to put that to good use,” he said.
On taxes Knapp said without the passage of the levy the sheriff’s department wouldn’t have any patrol, but acknowledged the levy was for the jail when that was pointed out. He was thankful the levy for the jail passed although he thinks it was more money than needed.
He said he could run the Josephine County Sheriff’s Department far more efficiently using the “one riot, one ranger” method of sending just one deputy out to handle a crime scene. The exceptions would be domestic violence calls or “shots fired” calls. He said much of the routine work taking up deputies’ time could be done by volunteers, answering phones, responding to non-emergency calls, doing vacation watches, helping with traffic accidents, and transporting arrested people to the jail from places like Cave Junction so the deputy there could stay on patrol. He would also organize a reserve posse.
“In Maracopa we had 2,000 volunteers,” he said.
If O&C funds increase, Knapp said he would ask for $375,000 for three more deputies and put them in the schools for security.
Knapp says it’s hard to tell if the county’s crime rate has gone up or down because the crime rate is based only on reported crimes. A lot isn’t recorded because no one has time to do it, he said, so crime rates get skewed.
Illinois Valley is currently on contract, paying for services they don’t totally get, and Knapp vowed to fix that.
Answering the last question, Knapp said “yes I did sue Joe Arpaio.” You can find that story on my website http://knappforsheriff.com/frequently-asked-questions/ .
Logging will save Josephine County, according to Ron Smith, vying for a seat on the Board of Commissioners against Darin Fowler, currently Grants Pass City Council mayor. Smith spoke at the Sept. 11 meeting of the Josephine County Democrats in Grants Pass. Introducing himself, Smith, a Republican, said he was glad to be talking to Democrats because there are a lot of things we can collaborate on to make the community better.
Smith reminded about 30 people at the meeting that his “family’s been in Josephine County 100 years.” Smith, a supervisor at Western Signs Systems, organized an effort to defeat the 1.2 million-acre Siskiyou Wild Rivers National Monument and was involved in the Klamath Falls water dispute. He is currently the overseer of the Fruitdale Grange.
“This summer’s smoke really hurt tourism here,” he said, and advocated bringing everyone “to the table” to talk about forest management.
Smith said it is a waste to let our forests burn up when we could be harvesting the timber and using the money to fully fund the sheriff’s department. We can be good stewards of the forest and still use its resources to provide for the county. More taxes just burden property owners who only occupy about 8.7 percent of the land in the county, he said, so the only other solution to county money problems is to develop its resources.
Questions about using timber harvesting for fire suppression and as a solution to Josephine County’s monetary problems bubbled up from listeners. One woman said she heard nothing about the ravages of climate change and how our forests have changed because of a torrential rain/drought cycle. Replanting burned areas is difficult because of this, and simply harvesting smaller trees won’t work without a lot of prescribed burning as well.
Smith said we have to take care of the forests as if they were our own gardens, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t use the timber. Better than letting it burn, he said.
Smith acknowledged housing is a big problem in Josephine County. He spoke of one Grants Pass apartment complex that was bought by a California development corporation. Overnight the rents went from $750 to $1400 a month, he said. According to Smith more apartments would provide more competition so this wouldn’t happen but too many state and local regulations inhibit this.
Homelessness is not necessarily caused by a lack of housing, however. He said meth and heroin addiction that cause mental health problems are the root cause. He was asked if he was for locking up addicts as opposed to providing resources for treatment. He said he favored treatment and would “gladly” fund that, but pushers and drug dealers should be locked up.
On jobs, again Smith said Josephine County’s timber and minerals could be accessed more to provide work for people and tax revenue for the county. He said right now we get most of our minerals for cell phones from the Congo under slave labor. We have minerals here so we should be using those instead, he said.
“Shame on us, we should be mining our own minerals. We can go to the moon and to the bottom of the ocean but we can’t mine our own minerals,” he said. “Write down everything that doesn’t start with a hole in the ground – we need our resources.”
Kevin Marr, who is on the Three Rivers School Board, asked Smith why he hasn’t said anything about school funding. Good schools should be a priority, he said, because they help mitigate poverty and homelessness. Schools can be the key to a thriving community, yet the “no new taxes” mantra has hurt schools to the point where they had to close three days last year for lack of funding.
“We want services here but don’t want to pay for them,” Flynn said. “We need to support public education.”
Smith didn’t appear have an answer to the schools question but was saved by the “time’s up” signal.