JOSEPHINE COUNTY, OREGON
By Commissioner, Jim Raffenburg
April 29, 2008
The Board is now offering audio recordings of the Board of Commissioner’s meetings online, in an MP3 format. The website address is: www.co.josephine.or.us
This is my last monthly “Commissioners Report.”
No, I’m not out of office and I am not resigning. But I am going to take a break from writing for a while.
When I start writing again, sometime this summer, I will be changing the format and approach I use for keeping all of you informed about the situation “on the frontlines” of what has become a struggle for the “hearts and minds” of the People of Josephine County, Oregon.
In addition, I have restarted my website, and I will be posting important information there along with offering you an email address to contact me in the future. Long term plans call for me to establish a blog where we can all interact and post information.
The recent political attack on me by The Grants Pass Daily Courier and by commissioner wannabe, Cherryl Walker, accused me of lying to all of you. I have rebutted every one of their libelous allegations and yet they say they don’t care. Like I have said before, this attack was never about the truth. If you want to read my most recent and comprehensive rebuttal, please go to my new website, to read it for yourself.
Both The Grants Pass Daily Courier and Cherryl Walker have been served with written demands for full retractions. The Daily Courier refused, and I do not expect Walker to comply either. Formal lawsuits for damages will now follow.
These political attacks, aided by the “Courthouse Cabal” and their supporters, have changed the dynamics of local politics for what will likely be years to come. What they attempted to do amounts to nothing less than a “coup de tat.”
These people want me not only gone from public office, but silenced as well. They decided to make an example out of me, which is also meant to be a clear message to all of you, “Don’t rock the boat.”
In my last Report, I called this political attack on me an attempted political assassination. This time they used ink and paper and they failed.
They will try again, because, as I’ve already said, they will not tolerate me speaking out to all of you about what they have planned for your future.
They have tried very hard to present the current situation as being, “Raffenburg” vs. the “Courthouse.” But they have left out the most important ingredient: You the People.
I have dared to actually represent you, the People, instead serving the “system.” And they don’t like it.
These “system” supporters have tried to characterize me as being “radical” or “anti-government” in the division between me and the other two Commissioners, and that I am therefore responsible for that division.
How can anyone see a person who is representing the interests of the People as being “radical” or “anti-government”?
On the contrary, I believe it is the very basis of free and open self-government to have dissent, both inside and outside of government. Would you really want three “nodding heads” as commissioners who just smile and rubber stamp everything the bureaucracy demands?
What these people (system supporters) have done to me in the past month is just plain wrong and they have to know that in their hearts. They have falsely accused me and then refused me any fair opportunity to respond to their false allegations. They have engaged in a systematic process where their chosen target is automatically determined to be guilty, by mere accusation. That is why I called it a political assassination attempt.
Added to all of this, is the poor decision by Commissioners Toler and Ellis to attack KAJO Radio for trying to provide a fair and balanced playing field for me to defend myself. Toler and Ellis have blatantly taken the side of The Daily Courier in its’ attack on me, and by attacking KAJO, have just made things worse for all of us. They have drawn a clear, and unfortunate, line in the sand by adopting this “Bunker Mentality.” They seem to see the situation now as an “us versus them” problem.
Without any doubt at all, since these people knew I was leaving office before they launched their smear campaign against me, they are indulging is a classic smoke and mirror effort to make all of you look one way while they attempt to accomplish their goals while you are distracted.
Their real goals are the subject of my Commentary this month.
April, 2008 Commentary
Folks, this County is facing a serious financial crisis and the special interest, big spender “cabalists” running county government today don’t have the slightest intention of trying to control costs because they don’t know how. They want bigger government, and for that they need more tax dollars. It’s all they understand.
Government “eats” money and its appetite is growing. The supply of personal money we citizens have left, after the current appetite for taxes and fees is fed, is shrinking. Yet government is going to demand more and more fees and tax dollars in the days ahead. Not just in Josephine County, but at the State and Federal levels as well. The only control you have left is to say no at the local level and, to a lesser extent, at the State level.
There is little anyone can do for you if you are still inclined to hide your head in the sand instead of facing reality. I encourage you to pay very close attention to what happens over the next year and to talk to your friends about what you see. Then, do something about it.
“The Why,” Your Wake-up Call….or….What all of this means to you:
If the people who have smeared my name and reputation can do this to me and get away with it, they can do it to anyone, even to you, if you are so brash as to oppose the political designs of those who believe you can not stop them.
That is why I had no choice but to hold my ground and defended myself. I have been falsely accused and have done nothing wrong. If I had quit or remained silent, they would have prevailed and become even bolder yet. All of us would be losers then.
Many have asked why they would still do this to me, when I’m not even seeking re-election. The simple answer is, they didn’t want me to tell you what they are doing, behind the scenes.
The people who pull Toler’s and Ellis’s strings, want you to pay higher taxes and they want Josephine County government to become bigger and less accountable to the People. They want:
- A new permanent County Fire Department/Taxing District (with
heavy, new taxes to follow in two years. The initial cost that I heard
being discussed was somewhere in the $3.00 to $4.00 per $1000 valuation
on your property. That was just to start.)
2 - Two new Sheriff’s Taxing Districts, with new taxes next year (I’ve heard the total amount for the two districts will be between $2.50 and $3.00 per $1000 valuation on your property.)
3 - A new, intrusive and all inclusive Code Enforcement Ordinance, with Enforcement Citation Officers (who will go out into the county looking for “violations”) to enforce the new Ordinance. These officers will “make sure” you have the proper permission from government to use your own property. And, of course, that you have paid all of the new, required county fees necessary to pay for all of this “enforcement”.
4 - A new County Charter, to do away with our current form of representative government, replacing elected Commissioners that manage County government with an appointed and unaccountable (to the People) County Manager form of government
5 - A new “Waste and Abandonment” Ordinance, that would allow County Treasurer/ Tax Collector John Harelson to seize your home just 30 days after the county foreclosed on it for back taxes, instead of going by State law that gives you two years to settle your back taxes
6 - You to tighten your financial belts while they ignore any need to reform how they conduct county business to minimize future costs
things are coming folks. But you can still stop them in their tracks,
depending on how you vote in the upcoming elections. If you do not,
you will not be able to stop any of what I have outlined above.
Let’s take a look at how bold these people are already, with only two commissioners working for them. The following are just two of the most recent examples:
1) The 2008/2009 Budget Hearings are nearly done. Last week, in a 4 to 2 vote, the Budget Committee voted to pass new budgets that include significant increases in spending compared to the 2006/2007 Budgets for the following Elected Offices:
Assessor Office 2008/2009 Budget: increased by 17%
* Clerks Office 2008/2009 Budget: increased by 7%
* Treasurer/Tax Collectors Office 2008/2009 Budget: increased by 8.5%
* District Attorneys Office 2008/2009 Budget: increased by 12% * Board of Commissioners Office 2008/2009 Budget: increased of 19%
the Sheriff’s Office is set to have 2008/2009 Budget decrease
The Juvenile Justice Program is set to have 2008/2009 Budget decrease of 11%
There is something very wrong here. How very convenient that the very areas where they are going to ask you for more tax money (the Sheriff’s Office and Juvenile Justice) are the very same areas where they deliberately cut funding so they could give more money to the other elected officials I’ve listed above.
If the Tax Collector or Assessor were to ask you to vote to give them 8% or 17% increases, I think most of you would say no when you marked your ballots. But if the Sheriff or the Juvenile Justice Manager asks you to vote for higher taxes, “for your own safety” or “for the kids,” you just might say yes, right?
You are being manipulated by people who think you are not smart enough to see it.
The County elected leadership is taking advantage of a difficult period in our history. They are using financial problems created by the Environmentalist Industry (preventing any reasonable harvesting of timber for more than twenty years) to justify higher taxes on all of you. Now they are saying the days of timber harvesting are over, and the only way to pay for county services is for all of you to become “tax slaves”.
Yet, in this years Budget, Commissioners Toler and Ellis don’t even try to keep Public Safety funding stable. Instead, they cut the Sheriff Budget by 21% and the Juvenile Justice Budget by 11% at the same time the are giving huge increases to their Courthouse “supporters” and to themselves! Unbelievable!!
2) Commissioners Toler and Ellis have directed Legal Counsel Steve Rich to have a Board Order ready on May 7, 2008, where they, by their two signatures alone, will create a new Fire District for Josephine County.
will be a new government entity, with full taxing authority.
They will create it without a vote of the People, only
offering you an opportunity to vote next November
on who will be on the first Board of Directors.
There are two other ways this (problem?) could have been handled:
They could have put the issue of creating the district itself to the
voters, but they will not because they know you would likely say no.
- They could establish County Standards for the private fire departments that have served us well for 50 years. Those Standards have been developed and are ready to implement. This would have assured customers of the private departments that the fire department could in fact deliver the advertised fire fighting services the customers were paying for and would have created fire scene management Protocols for all fire service providers, to avoid past confusion when two or more private providers showed up to fight a fire.
These Standards and Protocols could have been implemented months ago. The only thing missing has been the will of a second Commissioner to make it happen.
The real issue now is whether or not you will have any choice in this matter. Toler and Ellis, by their planned actions, have said no, you won’t. I, on the other hand, believe you should have a say in this matter, up front.
By creating a Fire District on their signatures alone, the Board of Commissioners is in effect putting three private businesses "out of business." The new District will force you to pay the highest possible cost for protecting your home, by paying unionized fire fighters with property taxes. You won’t be able to say no, because if you do, you will no longer have private providers to contract with.
Private fire departments could not come and seize your home for failing to pay their fees. With the scheme Ellis and Toler are going to implement on May 7th, if you can’t pay, the county could seize your home. Protecting your home from fire is important, but it is also important to protect it from government seizure.
With the economy worsening, many people will find themselves financially strapped and unable to pay their property taxes. With the clear and present danger presented by the already mentioned Tax Collector’s push for a new “Waste and Abandonment” Ordinance, giving the County the ability to seize you home within thirty days after foreclosure, do you really want to risk your home in this way?
As I’ve already noted, government will need more and more money in the future, because it cannot control it’s own spending habits. By creating a new taxing districts, whether they are for Fire Protection or for the Sheriff’s Office, the result is new, ever increasing, higher and permanent taxation on your home.
The upcoming Elections.
obviously with Commissioner Ellis’ family writing letters to the
editor saying I should resign and with Commissioner Toler, meeting in
his Courthouse office, in closed door session, with Cherryl Walker,
the Chief Petitioner in the recall effort against me, these two men
have made their feelings quite clear.
Commissioner Ellis is up for re-election this year, and I am in a unique position to offer my first-hand insights into working closely with him for the past three and one half years.
He will not have my vote for re-election because he has repeatedly failed to do what he said he would do as a candidate. In the 2004 campaign, he promised to make the hard decisions that needed to be made. But he has not been willing to make those hard decisions when they actually needed to be made.
Here is why I will not vote for him:
1) In September, 2005, the non-union management employees of Josephine County had sued the County, demanding their lavish benefit package of three retirement plans, along with their nine weeks paid leave, after one year of employment, be reinstated.
Then, during January, 2006 union strike, Ellis decided to reverse his decision to see the strike through to a reasonable financial conclusion (for taxpayers). He did this just as fifty percent of the striking county workers were back on the job and we were getting ready to hire some of the more than 500 replacement workers who had stepped forward to help the county out. In addition, and worst of all, Ellis strongly supported the effort to include the now infamous “me too” clause into the new union contracts (which I refused to sign).
This “me too” clause gave the union employees a contractual right to receive the same benefits that the suing management, non-union employees might be given back in any final court decision, even if those benefits had never been offered to union employees in the past.
For example, if the courts were to rule that the management employees must have their nine weeks paid leave reinstated (after just one year of employment), then the union employees would all be entitled to the same amount of paid leave, even though they never were entitled to it under any previous collective bargaining agreement. The costs of county government would become astronomical on that one point alone.
With Ellis making sure the “me too” clause was in the union contracts, the union then began to help the managers with their lawsuit, which has now cost the County more than $250,000 in legal fees, and still counting. Before Ellis made the union a partner in that lawsuit, we were expecting the lawsuit to be resolved within a matter of months.
2) In October, 2005, Ellis (and former Commissioner Jim Riddle) voted to pass Tax Collector John Harelson’s ill advised “Waste and Abandonment” Ordinance after its first reading. Ellis supported making it easier for the Tax Collector to seize your home within 30 days of the county foreclosing on you for not paying your taxes, even though State Law gives you 2 years to become current.
The only reason this Ordinance did not become law is because I held a press conference to call the publics attention to this travesty. The People of the County became outraged when they heard about it and filled the Anne Basker Auditorium, demanding that Ellis and Riddle vote no on the second, and final, reading of the Ordinance, which they did.
3) In the spring of 2006, at the peak of the recent building boom, when real estate prices were at their highest and just as the County was beginning to negotiate with two different developers for the purchase of the old hospital buildings on Dimmick and ‘A’ Streets, Ellis lead the effort to lease that property to Caritas (from Portland) for virtually nothing, for 75 years.
Caritas at first said their project would be used to help local, low income senior citizens find suitable, affordable housing. After the lease was signed, they changed that to low income workers. Later, when I pressed them for more clarification, they would not even commit to the project serving Josephine County residents or even limiting it to US citizens. Since Caritas is also involved with international refugee resettlement activities, that last point is important.
This entire project has now collapsed and Caritas wants out of their lease. Unfortunately the real estate market has collapsed also, so the value of these properties has fallen considerably in the past two years. Now the county must find the money to either tear these two buildings down or to put them into long-term “mothball” status, which will still cost money each year.
4) In May, 2007, just after the Public Safety Levy failed, Ellis told me he was frustrated and disappointed with the voters. He said he was going to start taking his full pay and was looking forward to the end of his term, saying he hated being a Commissioner.
I told him that since we had agreed during the 2004 Campaign to take the10% pay cut together, I would start taking my full pay too. I was upset after the election as well, but my reasons were different. I was shocked at how the County leadership expected voters to tighten their financial belts when they weren’t willing to tighten theirs. I decided that there was no hope of anyone who worked for this organization to follow my lead by willingly taking a lower salary.
I was quite surprised two months later when Ellis announced he was running for re-election and was reinstating his pay reduction. Does anyone care that he only reinstated his pay cut after he decided to run for re-election?
Sidebar comment: Regarding the recent contrived “Board outrage” over my request to Finance for my back-wages, please notice that there was no “Board action” required by either Ellis or me to start taking, or reducing, our pay last year or in 2005. However, Toler and Steve Rich “discovered” a method to “prevent me” from receiving my back-wages, by using the non-logic of Ellis, who was quoted in the newspaper as saying “We’re not deciding and that’s our final decision whether you like it or not!” Not deciding what? That I can or can‘t have the money? They won’t say. Steve Rich just tells our CFO that she, “Has no authority to pay me.” I just want an answer or a check.
5) In February, 2008, Ellis and Toler were poised to give pay raises of up to 30% to union employees, who we were not in negotiations with, that covered about 10% of the total county workforce. The cost would have been more that $250,000 per year and would have raised every employees expectation for similar raises in the months ahead. Ellis was not even aware that the proposed request from our HR manager would have this effect. He thought it would only affect about 7 employees, at a cost of around $27,000.
When I pointed out the real effect, he backed away from supporting those raises, much to Toler’s chagrin.
But then Ellis flip-flopped and went along with Toler (again) on the majority of those raises anyway, just one month later when I was in Salem representing the county at the Association of O&C Counties Board of Directors monthly meeting.
There are many, many more lesser examples. There have been many occasions over the past few years where I have asked myself, “What has happened to Dwight?”
I do know that the pressure from the Courthouse Cabal has been relentless and ruthless on both of us from Day One in office.
Dwight is a nice person, but in my opinion, he just has a very hard time saying no to spending money or resisting pressure from others. This County, now more than ever, needs two Commissioners who will say no to spending money and who will stand up to the “cabalists,” both inside and outside, of county government.
That is why I will vote for Jack Brown for Position 3, and I encourage you all to vote for either Cliff Thomason or Paul Walter for Position 2. There are other very good people running for Position 2, like James O’Grady and Sandi Cassanelli, but I believe Cliff and Paul are the only ones who can stand-up to the massive pressure that will be brought down on them by the Courthouse Cabal if they are elected. Depending on the results of the May Election, I would be glad to vote for anyone of these four candidates for Position 2 in November. If two of them go to the November Election, so much the better. I’ll work that vote out later.
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That’s the truth from my perspective.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to read this Report.
Starting this summer, I will begin to write a new “Report from the Frontlines” in the struggle for Freedom. I hope you will embrace this format change, by changing your “formatted” perspective of our community, and that you will become an active participant in your own future.
See you again this summer.
Jim Raffenburg, Commissioner
© 2008 Jim Raffenburg - All Rights Reserve