JO-CO COMMISSIONERS COULD FIX THE PROBLEM
By Attorney Jack
July 20, 2013
[NOTE: This article was first submitted by "Citizens Saving Private Property," Jim Frick and Ron Glynn, Chief Petitioners to the Daily Courier as an Guest Opinion, they had no reply.]
Josephine County, Oregon - Why would groups like Southern Oregon Resource Alliance and the JoCo Republican Party oppose the Board of Commissioners’ new Code Compliance Ordinances? Do they not care about an ugly blight of nuisances across our county?
Let us assume there actually is a backlog of complaints from citizens seeking help dealing with offensive neighbors. Let us assume they are unable to obtain assistance from the County for years. We must then ask ourselves, “How can that be?” Our various agencies have thousands of rules and ordinances designed for somebody’s protection. How can these people be missing from the mix?
The answer is easy to understand. There are plenty of rules and statutes and there is even traditional civil law. The problem is not a lack of law. It is the implementation of the law that creates the problem. Anyone who has ever had any dealings with government knows all about the bureaucratic run-around. Would one suppose that Josephine County would be any different?
Getting legal action supposedly takes years. Yet the only solid waste nuisance case currently active in the County Court is barely three months old. That does not suggest an undue delay in the functioning of the court. The problem is getting to court.
A recent article in a local newspaper cited a real estate broker who has repeatedly attempted to get help. At the Planning Department she is said to claim she was told, “There is only one person handling these cases and there are 300 to 400 people in front of you who also want help.”
When the broker went to the DEQ, she was quoted as saying, “They could not help and sent me to the Health Department who referred me back to Planning or DEQ.” The broker gave up. Sound like bureaucratic run-around?
We have a problem of management of County business by elected officials who have no business experience. A businessman whose success depends upon customer satisfaction, when confronted with a disgruntled and unsatisfied customer, will respond like a manager. He will go to the department complained against and find out what is going wrong. He will immediately take steps to educate his employees in how to satisfy customer demands and he will terminate employees who will not or cannot get with the program. That is not always easy to do in a government bureaucracy. Yet it is what we must require of our government executives.
Worse, we also have a commissioner with lots of bureaucracy experience. Unlike the businessman, a bureaucrat when confronted with a problem will respond with a knee jerk reaction. He will conclude that more rules and more departments are necessary. For the bureaucrat, there is never a question of accountability. There is no such thing. The question is always one of insufficient authority and control. As stated by Cherryl Walker, “These ordinances are all about local control.”
The answer to the alleged nuisance problem, if there is one, is for our elected executives to go to work and manage the departments under their control for effective service and results. We do not need a whole new layer of bureaucracy and code compliance police.
It was an initial assumption that there is a backlog of complaints. In point of fact, in 2012, only 14 solid waste, public nuisances were reported and not one of those reports qualified as a legal complaint upon which the County could take action. This is a far cry from the 300 to 400 supposedly alleged by the Planning Department and well short of the 300 claimed by the commissioners.
Nor are there 50 cases tied up in the Court. There is only one solid waste/public nuisance complaint even in the system. There is another case active under the same ordinance but that is a matter of a restaurant allegedly operating on an expired permit.
The problem of the bureaucratic runaround is a simple one. People in the sundry agencies do not know their jobs and they do not know the law. The County’s current Solid Waste and Public Nuisance Abatement Ordinance assigns responsibility to the Environmental Health Director. It gives no authority whatever to the Planning Department. Depending on the waste involved, DEQ might be alternatively involved but in any event, the ordinance gives authority to the Environmental Health Director. Any County employee directing anyone to any other department is simply frustrating the victim.
There are a great many misrepresentations and half truths being circulated about these code compliance ordinances themselves. Even labeling them “nuisance” ordinances is a quarter truth.
The ordinance package proposed applies to any and all County ordinances, codes and rules. Apart from the specific nuisance ordinance No. 2013-002, they are not complaint driven. Offenses and citations are based upon any reasonable cause the compliance cops can find. The hearings officer ordinance is an attempt to remove the checks and balances imposed by the separation of powers doctrine in our traditional form of government. There will be no protection of the individual against an over-reaching government when the tribunal and jurist is serving at the pleasure of the governmental executive branch.
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Finally, if there is any doubt as to the commissioners’ desire to avoid the court’s protective system, ordinance No. 2013-005 incorporates a host of State statutes as County ordinances for purposes of prosecution in their home court.
Is all of that not reason enough to oppose the code compliance scheme?
I would strongly encourage those of you who care about the quality of life in Jackson & Josephine counties to sign up for the Southern Oregon edition of NewsWithViews alert in the bannor above. Information can be a powerful tool. And please, send this article around to all your friends.
Cherryl Walker, Kangaroo Court and Big Fines
2- Josephine County, Oregon: Sad Failure of Central Planning
3- Commissioners Cherryl Walker and Keith Heck Misinformed
4- Bureaucrat Cherry Walker - The Bully in Josephine County Government
5- What the Grants Pass Daily Courier Failed to Report
6- County Government vs. Citizens, Part 1
7- County Government vs. Citizens, Part 2
8- County Government vs. Citizens, Part 3
9- County Government vs. Citizens, Part 4
© 2013 Jack Swift - All Rights Reserved
Jack Swift is an retired attorney.
Actively involved in the Republican Party and local politics, Jack would
love to see honest Constitution following representatives in local Josephine
County government. Jack believes if we are to save America from the grip
of evil, people must get involved on the local level and expose wrongdoers
at every opportunity. He is putting that belief in practice.