WEEK OF JUNE 14 – 18, 2021
YouTube video from the general meeting was removed due to Medical Misinformation. According to reporting by the Daily Courier, the Commissioners were advised by YouTube that if county officials refute the misinformation, their videos can stay. Given they often comment in support of these weekly COVID conspiracy baltherings, it is likely that they will find alternative ways to broadcast their meetings.
Commissioners didn’t do much during public meetings this week but said they kept busy meeting with people in their offices. They did decide to scale back on weekly Public Health and Finance reports since they perceive the pandemic is over. Commissioner Herman Baertschiger said he predicted it would be over by the time the legislature adjourned because they liked meeting behind closed doors, but Commissioner Dan DeYoung said he talked to the governor’s office and a spokesperson said Oregon is on the verge of hitting the 70 percent vaccination rate so when it does we will be fully open again.
With that, Commissioners took the opportunity to criticize the governor with Commissioner Darin Fowler saying he’s been “embarrassed” by Oregon’s COVID response and lag behind other states’ openings. “Our governor is such a follower, she’s not a leader. Even California beat us opening,” he said. “I’ve been embarrassed by our governor, by the riots in Portland. I’ll get over it. But there’s been a lot I’ve had to get over in the last year.”
The Commission met briefly Tuesday to give the American Rescue Plan committee, which they formed to help them figure out how to spend the nearly $7 million in COVID aid, direction on how the board wants the money spent.
DeYoung wants to give every department head money to spend according to the ARP guidelines. Finance Director Sandy Novak did a brief presentation of the rules and tried to guide the Commissioners toward what can be done with the money but they preferred to grouse about what they can’t do with the money. Novak also said Josephine County can spend up to $9 million on vaccines but we have only spent $2 million of that. It comes from a FEMA grant that can’t be used for incentives. There is other money for incentives, she said.
Fowler also pointed out the county has money from the state allocated to help businesses shut down for a week during an Extreme designation when cases spiked here, but not many businesses have applied for that. DeYoung said if his idea for just giving department heads money isn’t allowed under ARP rules, he wants projects you can “reach out and touch,” like a new fuel tank at the airport and improvements to the sheriff’s evidence locker. They also talked about using some funds for Public Health’s move to a new building but didn’t think that was enough of something you can “reach out and touch.” Novak suggested Commissioners look at projects that qualify for ARP funds that are already funded, move those funds to something that doesn’t qualify, and use the ARP funds to cover the qualifying project.
DeYoung conceded it might take a “shell game” to get the ARP money spent the way they want it spent. (Does he intend to unethically move funding around to make spending “appear” appropriate? This spending should be monitored closely.)
During Thursday’s brief Administrative Workshop Commissioners heard a report on the FAA grant to the airport for extending the runway by 700 feet. The $376,786 grant is the first part of a project that will ultimately extend the runway to 1500 feet for another $98,000 of additional grant funding if the project is continuous. Approval for the project was set for next Wednesday. Also Thursday they approved hiring a medical assistant at Public Health.
During Commissioners’ Comments, DeYoung pushed for going back to “live” meetings with masks optional, starting next week. The other two Commissioners didn’t say if they were ready to return to the meeting hall or not. They changed the subject to Governor Abbot’s wall in Texas and mused that Josephine County should send him $100,000 in support of that. Baertschiger warned DeYoung by talking about Abbot’s wall “you’ll be in the paper again,” which launched DeYoung on effusive praise of The Eagle, which mailed out another edition of its monthly right-wing tabloid last week. He all but admitted he didn’t write the article in it about the Commissioners’ letters to the governor by saying “I’m not going to take credit for that. It just had my picture with it.”