Citizens for Responsible Government looks to replace charter

Josephine County’s local nonpartisan organization Citizens for Responsible Government held a public meeting at Wild River Brewery and Pizza Nov. 12 to discuss Measure 17-116, which will be on the May 2024 ballot. If passed, this measure would repeal and replace Josephine County’s current charter. The replacement charter would not only increase the number of county commissioners from three to five, it would also allow commissioners to be voted in by districts within the county. The aim of this rewritten charter is to provide Josephine County residents with more representation and control within local government.
Josephine County residents and CRG members Jean Ann Miles, Larry West, Jane Slama and Ken Beatty emphasized to those in attendance how hard their organization has been working to bring Measure 17-116 to the voters for consideration. Through copious amounts of research, CRG discovered that while there have been 15 attempts made to amend the county charter by various groups since its inception in the 1980s, each of these previous attempts have fallen flat. In January of this year, CRG approached the current county commissioners with their idea to potentially rewrite the charter, and later that month a committee was established that would serve to review the charter in its entirety. From there the idea of a “blue ribbon committee” was broached in April, though it took until September for the committee to find nine members. Throughout all of that time, numerous meetings were held and petitions were signed in order to show the commissioners that the people were willing to consider the charter’s replacement.
Measure 17-116 and its attached charter would divide the county into four districts, each of which would then be represented by its own local commissioner and one at-large commissioner from the overall county. These commissioners would oversee a county manager who would take on the bulk of the administrative duties, and the commissioners would receive a stipend of approximately $24,000 with no additional benefits, rather than salaries with benefits. This would theoretically deter “career politicians” from running for these positions.
According to their website, CRG describes themselves as “a nonpartisan civic organization that promotes, encourages, and advocates for good local governance, and works to educate the citizenry and those who seek and hold public office in the principles and practices of good governance.” To the members of this organization, good governance includes adequate representation, something that members believe is lacking in Josephine County’s rural and unincorporated areas.
In the last 20 years, only a few commissioners have lived outside of Grants Pass, and while Grants Pass is arguably one of Josephine County’s central hubs of community activity, it is not the only place that makes up this diverse region of Southern Oregon. CRG recognizes this fact, and this is a large part of what fuels their shared desire to get this measure passed. While they also recognize that it is likely that portions of Grants Pass will be represented in at least three of the districts, CRG admits that there is really “no way around that.” Nevertheless, they were insistent that rewriting the charter to include more commissioners will benefit the community overall.
As far as how smoothly this transition would go, the county’s legal counsel along with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office are working to determine how this transition could occur, should the measure pass.
To learn more about Measure 17-116 and how it may impact Josephine County residents overall, please visit CRG’s website at www.jococrg.org.