COMMISSIONER CHERRYL WALKER RECALL
by Margaret Goodwin
June 15, 2014
On June 13, 2014, a group of citizens filed a petition with the Josephine County Clerk to recall Commissioner Cherryl Walker. The text of the petition can be found here, and information on the recall can be found here. Anyone wishing to help gather signatures, contribute money, or get involved in the recall effort can contact Bill Hunker at 541-291-2859.
First Year as Commissioner
Cherryl Walker was elected to the position of County Commissioner in November of 2012 by a paper thin margin of 58 votes, out of a total of 34,411 votes cast.
Her first notable act as Commissioner was to establish herself as the primary proponent for a package of four ordinances that expanded the powers of county government at the expense of private property rights and due process.
In response to strong public opposition, she displayed a flagrant disregard for the will of the people by admonishing the other Commissioners to “not give in” to the “threat” of a referendum. The Board of Commissioners adopted the ordinances by a 2:1 vote, with Commissioner Simon Hare voting against them.
The citizens quickly gathered enough signatures to force a referendum but, the more opposition Ms. Walker encountered, the more resolute she became in her personal crusade to get the ordinances passed.
In September, Cherryl Walker gave a presentation from the Commissioners’ dais at a Weekly Business Session advocating for the ordinances. At the insistence of Mr. Hare, and over the objections of Ms. Walker, the opponents were granted equal time the following week. Ms. Walker then insisted on being allowed to give another presentation in favor of the ordinances, this time as a private citizen.
Throughout the year, Cherryl Walker repeatedly misrepresented numerous aspects of the ordinances she was promoting. (For details, see Commissioner Cherryl Walker Explains It All for You and the related articles.)
Cherryl Walker was strongly opposed to publishing a voters’ pamphlet for the referendum election. She advocated publishing a “fact sheet” instead. Unlike a voters’ pamphlet, her “fact sheet” presented only the arguments in favor of the ordinances, and provided no opportunity for opponents to present the arguments against them. (See County Fact Sheets Short on Facts.)
Ms. Walker invariably insisted that all of the people she talked to were in favor of the ordinances. She also contended “The opposition is expressed mostly by individuals who oppose a lot of things.”
The referendum cost the county $40,000, and the ordinances were overwhelmingly defeated by nearly 80% of the vote.
Chair of the Board
The position of Chair of the Board of County Commissioners is rotated annually among the three Commissioners. Cherryl Walker has been serving as Chair for five months. During this time, she has called the police twice during Weekly Business Sessions. On both occasions, the police responded to her call but no arrests were made because no laws had been violated.
On May14, she adjourned a Weekly Business Session without conducting the county’s business because she was annoyed by a group of Oath Keepers standing in silent support of their fellow Oath Keepers’ testimony during the public comment period. (See Oath Keepers Stand Up to Commissioner Cherryl Walker.) Because she adjourned the session early, a decision that had been on the agenda had to be made in an administrative session, in chambers, which violates the BCC’s policy of making all decisions in public sessions.
After adjourning the May 14 Weekly Business Session, Ms. Walker sought to prevent any future “disturbances” by removing the public comment period from future agendas. Commissioner Hare objected, stating that he would not vote on any administrative items until he had an opportunity to hear public comment on them. After a contentious dialogue, Ms. Walker relented and reinstated the comment period at the next Weekly Business Session. (See Commissioner Cherryl Walker Feels Threatened.)
In all of these cases, there was no actual disturbance (to anyone other than Cherryl Walker). In each case, one or more citizens did something that annoyed her. In each case, she made up a rule on the fly prohibiting whatever it was they were doing. In each case, her impromptu rule was challenged, and she got angry. She got so angry that she could not continue conducting the meeting.
Every time Cherryl Walker calls the police or adjourns a meeting without conducting county business, she demonstrates her inability to handle the role that the citizens entrusted to her. The police can’t control a meeting for her; that’s not their job. Silencing public comment is not an acceptable solution.
Cherryl Walker’s mishandling of these situations has resulted in wasting county resources and violating public policy.
On May 22, the Sheriff requested that the Budget Committee allocate $446,000 from the Public Works budget to the Public Safety budget to provide four sheriff’s patrols, pursuant to HB 4175. In 2012, the state legislature passed HB 4175 to address the public safety emergency in the hardest hit O&C counties by allowing them to reallocate federal forest reserve funds, normally dedicated to roads, to use for law enforcement.
The comments from citizens at the Budget Committee meeting unanimously supported allocating the funds to Public Safety. One citizen pointed out that public safety is the number one concern for our community. Yet, Cherryl Walker voted against it. Her justification was that, as a mother, all of her children are her priority and, as a Commissioner, all of the departments are her priority, and she “wouldn’t sacrifice one for the benefit of another.”
In the 2014-15 budget, Public Works receives over $1.6 million dollars more than Public Safety does. Our roads in this county are in excellent condition. By contrast, we have only two Sheriff’s patrol deputies for the entire county. That’s one 8-hour shift, five days a week.
We are already sacrificing our Public Safety for the sake of Public Works. In the past, our county hasn’t had the discretion to allocate those funds where they’re needed most. Owing to the severity of our situation, the state has granted us dispensation to make that call ourselves.
Budgeting, like leadership, is about prioritization. If Cherryl Walker sees county departments as her “children,” and she can’t bring herself to prioritize one over another, she isn’t capable of executing the duties she was elected to perform.
What We Need
We need County Commissioners who are truly in touch with the people they represent, who put their constituents’ concerns ahead their own, who can handle opposition without feeling threatened by it, and who are able to prioritize effectively in the course of conducting county business.
We need County Commissioners who are accountable to the people, and who are more interested in serving the public than in ruling us.