Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Give Us Ordered Liberty

Comment to the Josephine County Commissioners and Grants Pass City Council, 7-28-12

Honorable Commissioners:
You asked for comment on what to do with the $4.65 million that the feds finally gave us after we'd already laid off most of our deputies, some prosecutors, and our juvenile jail crew. It isn't enough to hire them all back, and it's only for one year. Moreover, the voters of this county rejected paying for these employees themselves, at least with property tax.
The Chair has said that we should use about $3.5 million to refill our contingency fund that we are using to pay for the protection we have now, considering that there is no new revenue on the horizon. I agree. The people have not yet voted to fund our public safety.
Some people said that it would be foolish to do so, when the federal government has "always" come through with funding, and they "always" will. That funding has been hard to pass, and decreasing in both amount and length. First we had five years of "full" funding of about $12 million, which is not enough for us to jail petty thieves and minor assailants. Then we had 4 years of decreasing funding, passed just in time to stop the sheriff's tax district from passing as Obama was elected. Now we have one year of funding at about a third of the level we need to cite and release minor offenders. Any "renewal" will come after the election, not before it; it will therefore be unlikely to pass.
The message from Washington, DC, is clear: fund your own public safety; we won't do it for you anymore. Counties all over the nation do so as a matter of course; they don't see why they should pay for ours. And yet some who voted not to fund our public safety are saying that we should use this money to do so. It's not nearly enough and it won't be there next year; why should we use it this year to save people who won't vote to save themselves?
So we shouldn't use any of this money to fund the sheriff, prosecutors, or even the juvenile jail. The people and officers should "live with their means" for a year, as some people keep saying that we should, and learn how inadequate those means are. And the Board should present the people with the question of a sales tax, which you lately have said you will this November. Thank you. 2 cents could give us $12 million dollars; 3 cents could allow us to fill the jail, which we haven't been able to do since we built it.
Meanwhile, we have county properties that haven't been properly maintained for years, violating city codes by being a nuisance to neighbours with blowing weed seeds and gathering litter. Disorderly properties encourage disorderly conduct. Please use that last million dollars or so to clean up County properties in the City, starting with the fairgrounds, the defunct hospital on Dimmick, and Schroeder Park. Since you can't give us proper law enforcement, at least give us order.

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