JOSEPHINE COUNTY GOVERNMENT IN CRISIS
By Joseph Rice
January 27, 2015
Josephine County, Oregon - County Government is in crisis. Not what we usually think, financial, emergency or some disaster. The crisis is one of trust by the people. The citizens of Josephine County have lost trust and faith in our elected representation. We endure the dribble of the silly season of campaigning only to realize, once again, we have been mislead and deceived. We have all experienced issues of trust and losing it. We know how long it takes to regain it, yet our county leadership seems lost on how to reestablish it with the people they represent.
We have a dismal graduation rate of only 64% in the Three Rivers School District, loss of sheriff patrols, a failing economy, disappearing jobs and vanishing opportunity. We know the problems, but how do we reverse the trend? Josephine County is a diverse community with varying values, beliefs and skills. This makes our county a colorful and unique to live in. Talking with people, they truly love the area, but don’t trust or believe in our county leadership. How can you blame them! Proposals go before the Board of County Commissioners and die a death by inaction, no economic development plan, no accountability of how funds are spent and a lack of transparency or willingness to represent the people. They become perpetrators of bureaucracy and governmental process forgetting, they have the ability to curtail and improve it, yet lack the moral courage to do so. They spend their time traveling in closed circles with other bureaucrats, lauding programs that funding for does not exists, yet believe grant money somehow is “free” money. They are out of touch with the county residence and the daily struggle they face, pay the mortgage or put food on the table.
Simon Hare stated “we can’t build our way out of this”, we need state or federal funding. Hare seems to have missed that day in school that taught how America became America. We are a nation of individuals with creative minds, resources and a work ethic that has created one of the greatest nations in the world. We did this by building it, not taking a hand out. The county tax rate is .58 per thousand, not enough to support all county supplied services. What Hare refuses to acknowledge is, a functioning economy creates financial security for the working class in Josephine County. If living wage jobs are available, the financial stress on families is reduced and then, and only then, are people more will to support a tax. But then this leads to another, larger issue, trust. Trust that the money will be used efficiently and wisely.
Josephine County has no idea how many private contracts are held by the various agencies our tax dollars support. They have no accounting of economic development dollars received from lottery funds or why they have found their way into the general fund. You know the General Fund, that magical pot of money that seems to fund everything, completely controlled by the Commissioners. We want our tax dollars to be used as we have intended them to be used. When the Commissioners transfers 500K to the Sheriff Office to fund patrol 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, we expect that. We don’t expect to have it reduced to 10 hours a day, shorting county residences 14 hours a week on patrol.
The new Sheriff states it is for overlap and Deputy safety, yet staffing numbers and schedules remain the same. Trust, does he think we are not paying attention? Sheriff Dave Daniel is supporting a new taxing levy to increase patrols. Out of eighty-three thousand residents in Josephine County, this “scientific” poll sampled a whopping 404 residents, not even 1/10 of 1% of the county population. Trust. The Commissioners allowed six thousand dollars to the departing county legal counsel for work not performed and no guarantee it would ever be performed. It seems it was more of a relocation bonus. Again trust.
So how do we turn this around? Demand transparency and accountability. Attend meetings, ask questions, trust, but verify. Every county employee is an employee of the people, we pay their salary with our tax dollars, making them public servants. The elected employees must start hearing what the people are saying. They must reach out to communities within the county to find out the value they want preserved in their community. The people require it, for it is “We the People” that government derives it authority from, but it is also the people who are responsible for demanding accountability and transparency. When we have that, the county residence will start our journey back to trust of our county government.
© 2015 Joseph Rice - All Rights Reserved
Joseph began his aviation career in 1981 when he entered the United States Army where he was trained as a helicopter crew chief and mechanic. In 1984 he attended the Army Initial Entry Rotary Wing Aviator Course, becoming a military helicopter pilot. He has worked all over the world as a Combat Pilot, Company Principal, Managing Director, Chief Pilot, Director of Operations, Training Pilot, Check Airman, International Aviation Operations Consultant, Safety & Risk Mitigation Manager and Developmental Test Pilot for Department of Defense product certification.
He most recently worked in Afghanistan flying mission support for the War on Terror as part of the International Security Assistance Force with the Department of Defense. He is the Coordinator for Oath Keepers of Josephine County, a member of the Patriot Guard Riders supporting fallen service members and the Executive Officer of the 186th Battalion, Oregon State Defense Force.
Website: Oathkeepers of Josephine County