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To the Right of Reality: Councilman Baertschiger’s chats with Bill Meyer

The swaggering hubris of  Herman Baertschiger, Chair of the Josephine County Commission, is summed up in one quote from his weekly chats with KMED’s morning talk show host, Bill Meyer.

“What makes you think Commissioners couldn’t have done that?” asks Baertschiger during his June 6 call-in when Meyer concedes that Jackson County’s well-paid County Administrator has been very effective at helping that county make up for the loss of timber money.

“Danny Jordan was brought in to plug deficits with timber money going away. And I have to tell you he’s been very effective at it in spite of the fact he makes a pretty good living. It’s a lot of money but he seems to have done his job well here. And the board tends to agree with that,” said Meyer.

Baertschiger dismissed Meyer’s assessment of the county manager, saying he’s an overpaid bureaucrat and the trouble with government are the bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, Baertschiger tries to explain why he’s again combining two county departments (previously it was Parks and Fairgrounds), Emergency Management and Information Technology (IT), which caused Jackson County to pull out of a cooperative emergency management agreement with Josephine County.

“Well, we weren’t partners before then we had the Almeda Fire and everybody started pointing fingers at each other and it’s all the Everbridge program notification program,” he said.

Baertschiger points to his 40 years working on fires and says he knows more than a “system.”

“It won’t hurt us not to partner,” he said, “but it will take us a while to do some reconfiguration.”

He claimed Josephine County is so poor it has to combine departments, even though both Emergency Management and IT are supported mostly through grants. He claimed both the Emergency Management and IT positions are supervisory, while others in the department, presumably at a lower rate of pay, will actually be doing the work. The manager will just…manage. Both departments. At a combined salary. Baertschiger didn’t say how much money this will save the county.

He told Meyer he got the idea for combining the departments after Curry County experienced a hack.

“So we feel cyber security is probably one of the biggest emergencies we’re looking at. Everybody says fires, I got all that, but it doesn’t justify paying director fees to manage half a person. Now we’re gonna share the director fees with an IT supervisor who has about seven or eight people and now we’re gonna make our operations guy in Emergency Management full-time so we’ll have a full-time guy in Emergency Management doing the day-to-day operations and we’ll have a supervisor that will supervise both Emergency Management and IT. So it makes sense. It frees up some money and like I said we’re not a rich county like Jackson County,” said Baertschiger.

Meyer changed the subject to 4H defunding. “What is the thought process going on there Herman?” he asked.

“The problem that we’ve found is, you know, when the voters went and voted for the 4H extension service it was for the kids and the kids have all left. Or the vast majority of the kids have left. So we’re not going to renew that tax…and we got these, I’m just amazed, we got these people from the Master program who say what about us? Well, you know what? You guys are all adults, can you throw in a few dollars for the program and just pay for it yourself? I mean I don’t think the Master Gardener program was what the people voted for. The people voted for 4H. That’s why it’s called the 4H levy. It’s not the Master Gardener levy. They’ve been using money for Master Gardening,” said Baertschiger. (During their June 7 meeting when Commissioners actually read the ordinance creating the levy, they found out it actually included OSU Extension Services other than 4H)

“If you vote to defund it or not have it in the budget, what happens to that levy money?” asked Meyer.

“There’ll be zero tax. You will not see that on your property taxes,” said Baertschiger.

“So, you’re essentially cutting taxes then. On people. Okay,” said Meyer.

“Yeah, when was the last time you heard that out of a politician?” asked Baertschiger. (the tax was less than 5 cents per thousand)

“That doesn’t happen often but it’s refreshing. Okay. A lot of people called me saying they’ve been very disappointed in the state university system’s undo influence with this, so I guess this has to do with wokey brokey. Is that pretty much what we’re dealing with here?” asked Meyer.

“Yeahhhhh…You know just why do they take everything, the Boy Scouts (which got sued by more than 1700 scouts claiming abuse), everything and they destroy everything. You know? People just leave and they go form something else and that’s what happened in Josephine County. It’s called Josephine County Ag and that’s where all the kids have went. And you know, there’s no taxpayer dollars, there’s none of that, it just…I don’t understand why we just destroy everything that is good. Just leave it alone. I’m tellin’ ya, people are not happy with Oregon State Extension Service. Not happy. Not only they email me, they come to the office. They come to my house. They come to my son’s business. So they’re very upset Bill,” said Baertschiger.

“Is there a public hearing before you take the vote?” asked Meyer.

“Oh yeah, absolutely, I’m sure they’ll be a lot of people that wanna speak and everything, you know. We only have so much time. We’ll do the best we can to accommodate everybody but, but um, yeah it’s a.…who knows, it will be interesting to see where people come from. If they’re out of the county or in the county ….but you don’t know because when they come up to the mike and they say I’m Joe Jones and I’m from Grants Pass, how do you verity, you don’t know,” said Baertschiger.

“Alright, we’ll see if the hearing gets padded,” said Meyer.

Baertschiger on the radio never fails to recite his version of why Josephine County has no money, (loss of timber receipts) and how our two US Senators, who just happen to be Democrats, do everything they can to keep Josephine County poor (in spite of all the federal money they got for the county to make up for the loss of timber revenue). He also never fails to call Grants Pass Daily Courier Editor Scott Stoddard an “idiot who writes for a rag of a newspaper,” and denigrates Grants Pass Mayor Sara Bristol.

“The Mayor’s got a real problem promoting the Governor and all this homeless stuff. I actually think they’ll gather enough signatures to git her on the ballot for recall, you know. I don’t know, maybe the Bristols will go back to Pasco. I mean I think they got chased outta Pasco, Washington. I don’t know,” said Baertschiger.

“To be fair, though, is it really her fault though because it’s a weak mayor system in Grants Pass. Doesn’t the Council more or less determine policy?” asked Meyer.

“Well yeah, but you know she’s a strong influence on that, or was. I think that’s changing but she was a strong influence on that. Have you ever seen Stoddard write a negative ad about the Mayor?” asked Baertchiger.

“So we can think of Mayor Bristol as a really popular TikTok influencer in Grants Pass?” asked Meyer.

Replying with a high pitch Baertschiger says…”Yeahhhh, but it’s not working. Things are changing you know. They’re changing in Josephine County. Actually, I wouldn’t say they’re changing, it’s just people are waking up so that’s what’s happening in Josephine County. It’s always been this way but a lot of people were asleep at the wheel but they’re starting to say ‘you know, this school board change up, this is going to be interesting to watch to see where this goes and you know I hope there’s, someday in Oregon, you know I worked on that legislation to the money follows the child. Because it’s an ungodly amount of money between what they take from your property taxes and what the state gives per child you know. That’s…it drives me crazy payin’ all these property taxes and then I’m sendin’ my kids to private school on top of it you know,” said Baertschiger.  

On the Republican walkout in the Oregon Senate, both Baertschiger and Meyer lauded those holding up legislation and called Republicans not participating spineless. Baertschiger went so far as to say many Republicans in the statehouse secretly supported Measure 113, which puts penalties on legislators who miss more than 10 days of work without a valid reason because they wanted an excuse not to be able to walk out. Baertschiger also said when he was in the statehouse it was his opinion that we had enough laws and it was his job to stop the production of more.

After railing against teachers’ unions and postulating about the decline in public school enrollment in Oregon, Baertschiger repeats his advice to young parents “to get a night job and send you kids to private school.”

Meyer asked Baertschiger about the law enforcement district Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel is asking the Board to put on the ballot. Baertschiger said the Board would put it on the ballot for him so he doesn’t have to gather signatures, but he didn’t say if he supported it or not.

Baertschiger did say he and fellow Commissioner John West have been looking for money elsewhere.

“Having John West on board is a great asset. He has a lot of great ideas. John’s and my attitude is a $100 here, $100 there, next thing you know got a million….I gotta admit John on board going through department by department, playing a chess game and coming up with money… we’re about at end of that process,” said Baertschiger.

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