Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel stepped up to the podium with purpose at the May 24 Board of County Commissioners’ weekly business session at Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass. His mission – request that the commissioners put a law enforcement service district on the November 2023 ballot, with a tax rate of $0.99 per $1,000 property value.
“You look at business,” Daniel began his remarks. “I look at three kind of main points: I look at price, I look at quality and I look at service. If you could only choose two of those three – price, quality or service -what do you think is the most important?
“When I go to Les Schwab, I want quality and I want service. I’m willing to pay just a little bit more of a price because I get those other things. That’s my goal as Josephine County sheriff – to provide quality and service.”
Sheriff Daniel went on, “Service is why I got into this business. Service is what drives most law enforcement professionals, firemen, and people in that sector. But we want to be able to provide the quality as well. That’s most important. Over the course of a person’s lifetime, they will contact law enforcement, on average, about six or seven times. One time in the middle of their lives. The other five or six? The last two or three years, when they need help the most, whether it be law enforcement or fire, medical, that sort of thing. So that quality of service is paramount. That’s what I aim to provide.”
“Currently Josephine County Sheriff’s Office is operating on one time funds,” Daniel explained. “One time funds. I wanted to dispel a myth. I wanted to dispel a myth not necessarily speaking to you directly, board, but to the citizens of Josephine County out there. That the Board of County Commissioners can just find money. That they just grow a tree and, ‘Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! We found $5 million over here!’ That’s not the case.”
The sheriff advised the community, “We gotta get very, very real,” as it becomes increasingly challenging to fund law enforcement. He recounted how the seasonal sales tax that would have raised money for patrol failed overwhelmingly last November, and while “we respected that decision,” it left his department in a precarious position.
“But at that same time in November,” Daniel recalled, “our finance director, Director Novak, found a possible source of money by the grace of God. And thank God she did, in the form of an ARPA grant that popped up literally in November. It wasn’t something we knew about in May or June or January that year. We got lucky. I’m kind of tired of getting lucky.”
After stating Josephine County can’t keep relying on one-time funds to keep the Sheriff’s Office up and running, Daniel officially made his request for the service district to be placed on the November ballot.
He told the board, “I’m not asking you to back it. I’m not asking you to even be vocal about it. I’ll do that because it’s my request.”
Daniel added that the service district would “cut out” the city of Grants Pass, because “they have their own funding stream and their own fiscal issues as we do.”
However, Daniel sent a letter to the city of Cave Junction asking if they would like to opt into the service district should voters approve it.
Commissioner Dan DeYoung asked Daniel to remind community members what the repercussions would have been if those ARPA funds had not been secured. The sheriff said he “tries to avoid that answer because I don’t want to campaign on fear.”
DeYoung countered that spreading the word about how sparse public safety could get without a sustainable funding option is campaigning on reality, not fear.
Daniel said that there is no way to convey the reality of the situation without inevitably causing fear: “My office, sir, would be absolutely decimated. I would have no Detectives Division other than what monies I have for JMET. So there would be a few detective positions there which are state-funded. I would have basically at this point, no patrol division at all. There would be zero hours of coverage.”
Commissioner John West said there is a “coalition of citizens” in the community that support a new law enforcement service district. He added, “It needs to come from the citizens and the sheriff, not the board. And if the citizens are behind it then I think that’s the most important thing.”
DeYoung asserted that his preference was to have a citizen petition get the service district on the ballot, but “we’re out of time.”
Emphasizing that point, Board Chair Herman Baertschiger said that because the matter is “time sensitive,” he would entertain a motion to approve the request for a $0.99 per $1,000 service district to be referred to the November election. DeYoung made the motion and West seconded it. All three commissioners voted in the affirmative to approve the sheriff’s request.
West said he hopes the voters back the service district in November: “We can’t go down this county without law enforcement. We gotta take our best stab at this.”