Commissioner Herman Baertschiger tried to make a connection between negative stories about Commissioners in the Grants Pass Daily Courier to a rejection by SOREDI (Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc.). Baertschiger, in his best Tucker Carlson method of operation yet, implied that the Courier is getting revenge on Commissioners after being denied American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding through SOREDI, handling the money for the county. During Commissioners’ Aug 31 meeting he said:
“I’m a little worried the attacks on the Commissioners is connected to the rejection by SOREDI of a grant that the Daily Courier applied for. The Daily Courier applied for an ARPA grant and was denied because they didn’t disclose that they received almost a million dollars in two different PPP loans. They did not disclose that. It was found out so SOREDI denied them ARPA funds. So, I’m wondering if those two are connected. They may not be but I’m just…. it’s so coincidental as the massive attacks against the Commissioners and the rejection of the grant for ARPA funds.” (35:49 Aug. 31 audio recording).
The “massive attacks” Baertschiger is referring to are one story last week about masks not being worn during a commissioners’ in person meeting and mentions in larger stories earlier about their comments during meetings with doctors and anti-vaxxers, all verified by listening to meeting recordings.
Commissioner Dan DeYoung’s reaction to Baertschiger’s claim was to say, “That’s interesting. We can’t make that accusation but facts are facts if that’s what happened.” He went on to praise SOREDI saying he’s dealt with them for years and if they say something is amiss and turn someone down they shouldn’t feel picked on. Commissioner Darin Fowler was absent.
Baertschiger and DeYoung talked about how they are “fed up” with letters to the editor of the Courier that accuse them of doing nothing about the pandemic, how the story about the refrigerator trucks being brought in because of an overflowing morgue is misleading, and how the Courier is exaggerating the dangers of COVID.
“Look at the way the Courier described the morgue refrigerator trucks. They talked about a massive death rate but didn’t say the hospital morgue capacity is exceeded quickly because it’s based on an average of 3.4 deaths a day. You can’t depend on the Courier to provide facts without opinion,” said Baertschiger.
During their discussion of how to use the $538,000 they finally accepted for vaccine promotion, they talked about doing a radio blitz, ads in small publications around the county, press releases, mailers, mobile vaccination clinics, providing rides to vaccination sites…anything other than “local newsprint,” they said.
“We need our message to get out not through reporter or editors…we need to get our word out without being filtered through editorial staff,” said DeYoung.
Baertschiger talked about using the grant to show people they can do other things to slow the spread of COVID, like washing their hands.
Finance Director Sandy Novak reminded Commissioners the grant is for promoting and encouraging the vaccine. County Attorney reminded Commissioners they need to be careful about giving too many assurances as that can be libelous.
DeYoung continued his SOREDI praise, took a swipe at Grants Pass Mayor Sarah Bristol for expecting to get money designated for counties because the paperwork would be too much to allocate it to every city, then revealed he was sick last week so went out and bought a self-COVID test to see if he needed to quarantine himself. The test was negative, he said, so he felt free to go out and spread whatever it was he had. He claimed he’d just “run myself ragged” and needed to rest.
Commissioners’ meeting on the first day of September opened with a public hearing quickly closed by a hoarse Chairman Dan DeYoung who recommended postponing the hearing until they can spend more time getting input from concerned citizens. The hearing was to be the first reading of amendments to the county code beefing up search warrants and citation authority. Several people waiting on phone lines to speak, including local Republican Party Chair Holly Morton, were disappointed but said they would wait to comment until the full public hearing is held.
Commissioners also approved an emergency drought declaration, allowing people to use well water for irrigating crops. They assured people listening that people can’t just go out and dig wells to use. They have to have rights to water no longer flowing and apply for a permit to use well water.
Public Comment time was conducted by phone as Commissioners are meeting by Zoom again because of the governor’s mask requirements indoors. Comment regular Judy Hinkle, who talks about vaccines being the vehicle the government is using to turn everyone into transhumans, said Bill Gates has included in the vaccines digital birth control with a remote connected to the 5G system which is blanketing Medford, Rogue River, Grants Pass and is creeping toward Illinois Valley. Her husband got on the phone to take up another three minutes with his ramblings, ending by saying people calling them conspiracy theorists don’t know they are well researched and just ahead of everybody else.
When Joseph Rice got on the phone he chastised the sheriff’s department for doing nothing about a big party out in Wilderville involving a “cartel grow.” He said there were about 1,000 rowdy people out there threatening residents who complained. He said they were told to shelter in place because the sheriff couldn’t do anything about the gathering. He also chastised the Planning Department for making someone tear down a fence, said masks cause respiratory issues, economic development causes economic collapse and described Afghanistan as a “fiasco.”
The next phone call in was from Katherine Austin who’s cheery “good morning Commissioners” devolved into a rant about vaccines, a lack of alternative therapies like Ivermectin, the doctors who spoke before the board, Public Health Director Michael Weber and how the hospital is getting paid by the ventilator. She said her People’s Rights organization was holding a rally at 6 pm in front of the hospital to support staff that won’t get vaccinated. She recommended people stock up on supplies after mumbling something about medical tyranny and manufactured lockdowns.
Holly Morton, who called in to comment on the code amendments, said she’d make an appointment to talk to Commissioners individually. An elderly woman called in worried that the drought declaration would make her neighbors’ wells run dry and Jay Meredith called in to urge Commissioners to take legal action against Senator Ron Wyden and others trying to pass the River Democracy Act. Commissioners told him they don’t have the money do that. Meredith said he could come up with financial support. He also ripped the Daily Courier for not covering his appearance last week with several people who spoke against Wyden’s legislation and not printing a letter to the editor he wrote about his situation. The last caller called Governor Brown the “Salem witch” for her mask mandate.
Commissioner Darin Fowler interjected with a lame joke about Bill Gates’ “666” plan, saying it wasn’t wise to align with the devil. He said Weber was a good man but facts are hard to pin down. About the doctors who appeared Aug. 17 to appraise the board of the dire situation at the hospital from a huge spike in COVID “some of us took them with a grain of salt.” DeYoung reminded him to save his comments until all callers voiced theirs.
During Commissioners’ comments Fowler didn’t have much more to add but Commissioner Herman Baertschiger said he’d been talking for hours on the phone with Congressman Cliff Bentz who advised county Commissioners who opposed Wyden’s legislation to write a collective letter opposing the bill, to show that not everyone in Oregon is for it. DeYoung talked about wells and how “leaky old irrigation ditches” replenish the groundwater. He complained about getting hate mail regarding the board’s stance on COVID, claimed the letters to the Courier editor and comments he gets seem “boilerplate” and called Weber a “rubber band man” for having to balance what the state wants with what Commissioners want of him. They told Rice the sheriff doesn’t have the staff to deal with large gatherings because the people of Josephine County don’t want to pay for it.
A consent item involving road maintenance in the burn area south of Redwood Highway revealed the road to Happy Camp may not open “any time soon” because it’s still strewn with burnt trees and bordered by dangerous trees. After they groused about not being able to sell black timber because of lawsuits someone mentioned the timber had been put out to bid but no one wanted it.
During matters from Commissioners, Fowler said he met with the company doing an assessment for broadband services. He said Josephine County is working with Jackson County and will possibly include other neighboring counties as well as they seek to spend ARPA money to improve broadband in rural areas.
Commissioner’s September 2 meeting was again taken up with a discussion about spending the vaccine promotion money and ARPA funds. Apparently in allocating money for essential workers the county’s custodial staff got left out. DeYoung wanted to carve out money for them even though it didn’t meet the criteria they set for “tangible projects.” He said they were front and center during COVID, cleaning the jail during outbreaks and making sure everyone in the courthouse came to a sanitized workplace. They decided to put the item on the agenda for a vote during a later meeting. They decided their theme for the vaccine promotion would be “check with your doctor and make up your own mind.” Then they closed the meeting after complaining about all the negative emails and notes they get.