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To the Right of Reality – 2/23/23

Josephine County Commission Chair Herman Baertschiger and Grants Pass City Councilor Dwayne Yunker appeared on right-wing talk radio during the last two weeks. The sum of their discussions is an eight-letter word beginning with “b” and ending with “t.”

Yunker, following the grand tradition established by Baertschiger, called in to the Bill Meyer Show on KMED to complain about the Grants Pass Daily Courier and it’s editor. He was encouraged by Meyer, who’s monologue that day included the paper’s Feb. 19 editorial about city council friction. Meyer said one side wants to “coddle” the homeless while the other wants to “fight.”

“Am I right about that?” Meyer asked. Yunker said he was “right on with that.”

Yunker complained that the Courier never wrote anything bad about the Mayor because the editor is very connected with her. “She loves him and retweets his postings all the time.”

Meyer teased him about being part of what people call “the gang of five” and said they should nickname themselves “Thanos” (a comic book supervillain). “You’re trying to destroy their world Dwayne,” said Meyer.

“Yes, but we’re not going along with their agenda,” said Yunker. This said from someone who ran for election to get rid of all the “liberals” on the council, defining “liberal” as anyone not a part of his right-wing clique in the county.

Yunker then cited an obscure “survey” he said he found on the AllCare website (I looked at everything on that site and found nothing like Yunker cites) as justification for voting to give OnTrack, an addiction treatment facility, $890,000 out of the $1 million the Oregon Department of Administrative Services granted to the city to help find a place for the homeless other than city parks. Yunker said according to this “survey” people’s number one priority was to find mental illness and substance abuse counseling for the homeless but less than 1 percent said they wanted a shelter or tiny homes or anything like that. “So the Mayor and these other couple a counselors, they have an agenda and they don’t want to listen to the people and the people don’t want to pay for a shelter.”

When Yunker signed off Meyer followed with “Dwayne Yunker, also known as Thanos.” Perhaps that nickname will follow Yunker as he upsets and destroys progress on homelessness and other issues because he wants to force his uncompromising right-wing beliefs on the citizens of Grants Pass.

OnTrack operates a residential treatment facility on Sixth Street in Grants Pass but is planning to use the money to move to two buildings on Rogue River Highway. It will provide up to 15 beds for people awaiting addiction treatment. There is usually a long waiting list. This is not a general shelter and won’t solve the problem of people camping in the parks. In exchange for the money, OnTrack will turn over to the city the 4,864 sq. foot building it owns downtown built in 1905. Yunker and Councilors Joel King, Valerie Lovelace, Rick Riker and DJ Faszer voted to give the money to OnTrack and take the building. Councilors Rob Pell, Brian “DeLaGrange and Vanessa Ogier voted against it. The concerns were: so much of the funding will be used for a small number of beds, it doesn’t solve the problem of homeless people in the parks and the old building the city gets in exchange could be a lemon.

Yunker said the people of Grants Pass don’t want to pay for a shelter for the homeless. Mayor Sarah Bristol never said the people of Grants Pass will have to pay for a shelter. Her goal has been to find a place for the homeless, be it land they can camp on or a building where they can sleep, then turn it over to a non-profit to run. That would satisfy the court injunction for a low-barrier shelter so the city could stop allowing people to camp in the parks.

When Baertschiger took to the airwaves later he called homelessness “a wedge issue” and said people come in and ask what they are doing about it. The county can do nothing is what he tells them “because we don’t have the resources and nobody has the solution. Tell me what the solution is and I’ll be glad to work on it. I, like everybody else in this country don’t have a solution…its just a human phenomenon.” Baertschiger says cities like Portland have “tons of money” and they don’t have a solution “so why would a tiny county have a solution?” He then resorted to his tiresome rant about how Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley took away Josephine County’s income (timber money).

During both his Feb. 14 and 21 radio appearance, Baertschiger proclaimed himself an expert in climate change, COVID, inflation and the war in Ukraine. He said Americans don’t spend the time to do the research but he does, then cited books written by people on the far right who have been debunked by scientists and fact-checkers. Baertschiger and Meyer discussed Ukraine like a pair of old retirees in suspenders sitting at a bar repeating everything they heard on Fox News that day. They never mentioned Pres. Biden’s trip to Ukraine or what the stakes for Europe and the US are in this war, but did say “political parties will do anything to stay in power,” even starting a war.

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