From: Councilor Ogier
I am reaching out to spread awareness of an alarming situation that was brought to my attention. As you know the second reading for a $0 utility fee recently failed. The purpose of the utility fee was to help fund public safety services. What was the difference from the passing of the first reading? Councilor Yunker’s vote. It was surprising to hear his no vote in real time considering the public support he has shown for a utility fee and also for public safety in general. Albeit odd, I still felt committed to working alongside all of my colleagues to find a solution to our public safety funding shortfalls.
For context this is Councilor Yunker’s statement the night of the second reading:
Councilor Yunker – “Because Brian really wants my thoughts. I think I have already voiced my opinion on this thing but I don’t like this process right now that’s my problem with this. I hate the levy thing that we are doing. That’s where I’m going on the whole thing, the process the levy the taxes it doesn’t sound very we are all in unity that’s where my thoughts are going to be on tonight when I vote. I have been quoted many times by every source in this town it seems like that i am for the $50 never even got to vote yet and they told me i am $50 it was just a discussion I have been quoted in the daily courier and the Democratic Party its $50 so just because of a discussion and yeah I like the fee I am okay with it Kevin and Bonnie back there would be paying less taxes so I am okay with that but they are not so I mean its just this is not an easy subject and a lot of noes and that’s what I hear here for my whole 40 years is noes.”
The night of the vote I assumed his no vote was attributed to a general concern about moving forward on a utility fee. Where’s the alarming situation that I referenced earlier? It is found in the Bill Meyer Radio show recording from Thursday September 7th, 2023 recorded at 8am on the morning after the utility fee vote. Councilor Yunker chose to disclose his true motive for voting no on the utility fee. So that I do not misrepresent the situation whatsoever here is a transcript of the conversation typed by me:
Councilor Yunker –
“I didn’t get to spend the whole time at the meeting last night. I don’t know if people know we um, I tied up the water fee zero zero the zero on it and the mayor had to vote and the mayor had power last night everyone needs to understand the mayor had power to vote last night and she voted no so there will be no zero water bill thing starting yet.”
Bill Meyer –
“Okay let me get back on this. A lot of people may not have know this. This is the fee to fill in holes in the grants pass budget when the times comes right?”
Councilor Yunker –
Bill Meyer –
“So, this was just voting to approve the ability to put the fee on the water bill?”
Councilor Yunker –
“Yes. It was tied 4-4 the mayor voted no. I think she was pretty much put on pressure because of the recall. If she would have voted yes I think that would have put a nail in her coffin. Without the voters input I think she was forced to do that that is my feeling on that.”
For additional context to the situation Councilor Yunker was a very vocal proponent for the recall of Mayor Bristol. There are circulated writings authored by him that support the cause to remove Mayor Bristol from office. Based on Councilor Yunker’s own words on September 7th while on the Bill Meyer show his vote for the public safety utility fee had nothing to do with public safety services at all. The no vote was a political stunt to put the mayor in a position to vote on the issue.
To be clear I am not being critical of anyone that has concerns about the different possibilities of funding sources. What I take issue with is using a vote as a political stunt when the stakes are this high. It is worth noting the Fire Chief, who also acts as our city’s emergency manager, has formally submitted his resignation in suspiciously close timing to the failure of the second reading. The decision to use this vote as a political stunt has and will likely continue to have serious consequences. The Medford Fire Department announced they were awarded a SAFER grant and they will be receiving funds to hire four new firefighters. I fear our Chief resigning from Grants Pass Fire Rescue is just the beginning of department loss, although I hope I am wrong.
Our public safety professionals need leadership that will navigate us out of the difficult time our community is facing. They deserve better than their financial future being dependent on the personal agenda of one councilor. This behavior is absolutely unacceptable and should be recognized for the outrageous act that it is. As we move forward I think it is incredibly important for everyone receiving this letter to know that Councilor Yunker has chosen to use our public safety services as a toy when attempting to reach a means to his end. I would ask that you not only keep this in mind when considering any vote Councilor Yunker may take in the future but also join me in condemning this behavior in the strongest possible terms.
If you’d like to listen to the recording to hear Councilor Yunker’s words yourself, you can find the Bill Meyer show where you listen to your podcasts.