Valley residents speak out about funding sheriff
The Board of Josephine County Commissioners unanimously voted to send the proposed law enforcement service district to the November ballot with the full support of Sheriff Dave Daniel Wednesday, Aug. 2 at their weekly business session, held at Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass.
Daniel has appeared at several meetings in recent months to advocate for the district, which he urged the board to put on the ballot when it became clear there was not enough time for it to be done by citizen petition by the deadline.
At last Wednesday’s meeting, in a show of how passionate he is about securing enhanced long-term funding for his department, the sheriff stood on the opposite side of the podium so he could face the audience rather than the commissioners, so he could look directly into his constituents’ eyes as he made his case.
“I see a very diverse group here – geographically speaking, also,” Daniel began. “Illinois Valley represented, north county, greater Grants Pass, Cave Junction. I want to start off by saying to you, first, thank you. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to have a choice and to have a voice. I came to you individually and asked you for, well, I guess you can call it a favor but a request. I asked you to give us a chance to put something on the ballot. I did not believe there was time for an initiative petition to get going on this matter for a Josephine County Law Enforcement Service District so thank you very much for giving us a choice.”
Daniel went on, “These are important times. This is an important issue. This is an important matter. We’re talking about something that is a foundation of our community, of our county: public safety. What is that? Is it cops that are driving around in the cars with their ‘wee-woos’ on going to handle dog complaints? No, it’s not just that – it’s much more than that.
“It’s our community, and what is that? It’s our children. Our children! Think about that for just a second and how important that is to our future, of what we are and who we’re going to be: It’s our retired; it’s maybe those that can’t help themselves like they used to be able to do; it’s putting men and women in uniform to complete a mission, an objective that I’ve been doing for 29 years now. I’m coming to the light at the end of my tunnel so this isn’t for me; this is for you. Our law enforcement now needs more support these days than we ever have.
“Society (wants to) defund the police, spit on the cops? No, not in this town. Not in this community. You supported (us), now it’s time to take another step, a little bit more. Ninety-nine cents per thousand, so boy it’s not that much just to give us some stability, stabilize a foundation. We’re going to be transparent with you and we’re going to offer you something. We’re going to offer you dedication, commitment; we’re going to do it with courage, we’re going to do with compassion, we’re going to serve. That’s what we want to do; that’s really our mission and that’s my ask.”
The sheriff went on to warn of tough times ahead if his department does not secure sustainable funding, which could see law enforcement availability become as sparse as 2012, which was “a nightmare” as Daniel put it. He said he wasn’t telling the community that “to scare you” but rather to be transparent.
“We are Josephine County,” Daniel concluded. “We’re strong. We have a foundation to build upon. This service district will support that. We will support you. We’re asking for you to support us.”
Following Sheriff Daniel’s remarks, Commissioner Dan DeYoung thanked him for his “dedication to this county” and reiterated that the board is “behind you all the way.”
“I know money’s tight and money’s this and we all look at money but we’ve got to look at at our own safety throughout the county,” DeYoung stated. “What do we offer anybody that comes here? We need to guarantee not only our own safety but people that come to visit us, we need to guarantee their safety too, so this is a huge step forward at least getting back towards some reasonable semblance of law and order in Josephine County.”
Commissioner John West again praised the fact that the ordinance to get the service district on the ballot was “citizen-driven” and he thanked the community members who worked with the sheriff on it.
“I think this is a testament to the community and to the citizens coming together on what they want,” West said. “Not what government wants, but what they want.”
Board Chair Herman Baertschiger told the sheriff it wasn’t a “favor” to refer the district to the ballot, but a “pleasure,” adding, “I’ll go on the record: I support this and I’m not a big supporter of taxes but this tax will remain in Josephine County for the protection of its citizens and so I believe that’s a very important tax, so I’m behind you 100%.”
During the public hearing on the service district ordinance, Cave Junction City Council President Jean Ann Miles told the commissioners “how invested the city is in this project,” relaying that three of the five CJ councilors made the drive to Grants Pass to attend the hearing. “That’s not easy for an old retired person like me to do this time of the morning,” added Miles.
“I remember 2012. I remember what it was like out there and I truly felt like we were living out in the Old West,” Miles commented. “This one is really important because now we have so many (illegal cannabis) grows out there and we need (law enforcement) … We as citizens want to be safe.”
Another Valley resident, Iris Chinook, said she was “in the Illinois Valley when there was virtually no police presence. I worked for a domestic violence program at that time and it was hell. It was absolute hell just like it’s been for the last several years with all these illegal grows.”
Chinook called any JoCo resident who is opposed to the taxing district a “fool,” adding, “All they have to do is wait for when their car gets ripped off or their daughter gets raped or whatever it is and there’s no police coming to help them. I hope we don’t ever see that again.”
Illinois Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Megan Pugh voiced her support for the endeavor, stating, “This would not only help to stabilize the sheriff’s office but also to stabilize our communities and that is very important in economic development and public safety.”
I.V. Chamber Treasurer Christopher Hall, who approached the podium alongside Pugh, commented, “We are a proud people. We have always said we will pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Well, this is the test – do we actually stand behind that or not? I guess we’ll see if we have the courage of our convictions.”
Other proponents of the service district who testified included CJ Councilor Jesse Dugas, who said, “We need this desperately;” Southern Oregon Sanitation Manager Trent Carpenter who recounted how SOS had to close their shop in the Illinois Valley due to the frequency of thefts; Pat Fahey, who remembered being “the butt of the nation’s joke” in 2012 due to inadequate law enforcement; and John Miles, who argued the district would be a worthy investment.
Following public testimony, the commissioners struck a positive tone surrounding the service district’s chances at voter approval, with West opining that he’s never seen support for the sheriff’s office as high as it is now. The vote to refer the district to the November ballot was 3-0.