Now that the proposed law enforcement service district will officially be on the November ballot, the citizens of Josephine County have over two months to debate whether increased sheriff’s funding is worth the higher tax bill. The JoCo commissioners have left no room to misinterpret they feel the answer is yes.
At the Aug. 16 county weekly business session, held at Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass, the district was first brought up during requests and comments from citizens by former commissioner candidate Mark Jones.
Jones recounted some statistics supporting his conclusion that increasing patrol deputies constitutes “a good return on investment.”
Relaying a report he heard on Nevada public radio, Jones remarked, “According to some FBI data and other public data for 242 cities, adding one officer will prevent approximately 0.1 deaths. Therefore, every 10 officers hired would likely save one person a year, and since the federal government puts a statistical value of 10 million dollars on a life the average cost of 10 officers is $1.3 million. I’d say that looks like a good return on investment. the data also shows that providing more officers reduces serious crimes like robbery, rape and aggravated assault.
“A direct quote from the article reads while they find serious crimes fall after the average city expands its police force the economists find that arrest for serious crimes also fall. The simultaneous reduction of both serious crime and arrest for serious crimes suggest it’s not the arrests that are driving the reduction; instead it suggests merely having more police officers around drives it. The data available proves that additional patrol officers provided by the funding for the law enforcement service district will indeed lower our crime rate just by having them on the streets.”
In response to Jones’ testimony, Commissioner Dan DeYoung spoke to the importance of fairly compensating law enforcement personnel, using the example of a recent news story in which an entire town’s police force in Minnesota quit because they were “overworked and underpaid.”
“In some sense we’re basically in that same problem,” said DeYoung. “Because whatever we do here it’s never enough. We’re always getting outbid by other people.”
The commissioner went on, “We’re a bedroom community for a lot of employees that work in Medford and I think we have an obligation to the people that live here, whether they work in Medford or work here, it doesn’t matter, but we have an obligation to make them safe and if they want to live here they need to know that they’re going to be relatively safe.”
DeYoung said it would be his hope that even if the service district fails in November, that those who vote in favor of it still voluntarily donate the amount of money they would have been taxed so that the sheriff has all the resources he can get.
Commissioner John West added that he is frustrated members of the community criticize Sheriff Dave Daniel for the county’s crime rate but refuse to give him the resources he needs to fight crime.
“It’s like he’s supposed to be a magician, and he’s a sheriff,” West said. “It just floors me.”
Another discussion at the Aug. 16 meeting was prompted by meeting frequenter Judy Ahrens during citizen testimony, when she said, “Our schools are in bad shape. I mean, what they’re teaching our kids is unbelievable. The good news is that we’ve got some people that have been elected on both school districts who are pretty dynamic people and they want to get back to the basics… get rid of the sex education for six-year-olds and stuff like that with naked little bodies of boys and girls and get back just to the basics: reading, writing and arithmetic and knowing a little bit of geography would kind of be really significant.”
Both attending commissioners, West and DeYoung, seconded Ahrens’ desire to get back to the basics in public education.
DeYoung remarked, “I think we need to concentrate more on what is necessary to succeed and be part of society… If you want to start your own school system and have the girls and the boys shower together and you want to have whatever you want to do in your own school system, you do that, but our school system should be what we want.”
West added, “I don’t know what to say about the schools. It’s so different from when I was in there. I’m perplexed.
“All we can do is hope that the people we elected to the school boards can can do what they’re allowed to do and try to get a handle on it but I don’t always want to put everything totally on the schools. I think sometimes parenting starts at home, you know, and hopefully we raise our kids in the way we should raise them and the problem is when we send them to school for eight hours a day they get indoctrinated by maybe some of the wrong things.”
West went on, “We got some wonderful teachers out there and I hope we never are trying to say that we don’t have good teachers because we do have a whole lot of great teachers out there. There’s a few bad apples but it’s what comes down from Salem through the educational system what they want taught to our kids and so it’s a decision-making so hopefully that will get better.”
Under matters from commissioners, DeYoung gave props to the sheriff for his recent crackdown on illegal marijuana operations and discussed the implication that legal marijuana farms will be more profitable as black market cannabis is removed.
“We are the best growing place in probably the entire nation; our farmland is fertile,” said DeYoung. “We really have the climate to do this and I for one would welcome legitimate agriculture even if it’s in the cannabis business. I would welcome it as long as it’s done by the law and done right. I have no problem with it. I don’t have any problem whatsoever with it, so I think that is what’s going to happen and I think it’ll be to our advantage because we don’t have any crops to speak of anymore including trees, so we’ll go from there.”
The last matter discussed at the meeting was the commissioners’ response to the recent county fair.
DeYoung complimented the fair board for a successful event, recalling the large crowds he witnessed and the busy vendors selling their merchandise. He added that he hadn’t seen the stands so full for a concert at the fairgrounds since The Beach Boys in 2003.
West chimed in to opine that the free entry model turned out to be “genius” for attracting attendees.