WEEK OF MAY 31 – JUNE 4
Letters were Josephine County Commissioners’ main concern this week. On Wednesday, June 3 the discussion centered around their letter to every member of the US Senate opposing what they call “land grabs or land lockups” in several bills being passed on as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Commissioners had County Counsel Wally Hicks draft the letter but mining advocate Jay Meredith said the letter needed more “teeth” and suggested they include as reasons not to lock up the land as: increased fire risk, the preservation bills are contrary to executive orders on mineral extraction by Trump and Biden, and that we have rare and critical minerals here that need more research to find out how abundant they are. Commissioners appeared to agree with Meredith, especially about the lack of fire suppression on preserved land, but when they ended up approving the letter as originally presented by Hicks during Thursday’s session.. DeYoung said if they added too much to the letter it wouldn’t get read. Fowler said he contacted Klamath, Douglas, Curry and other counties affected by the “land grab” to get them to sign on to the letter but never heard from any of them on the matter. All three commissioners used the discussion to criticize Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley for “even bringing this up after last year’s fires.”
The next letter was one to Gov. Kate Brown stating that Josephine County would sue if the state requires children to be given the COVID vaccine. They used the excuse that the county charter prohibits requiring parents to vaccinate children. Fowler took the opportunity to say as the pandemic winds down the state government is “grasping at its last few control levers for as long as they can.” He said the “majority” in Josephine County is for “freedom of choice, self-responsibility and self-determination as explained in our Constitution of the United States and our Charter, so we reject this governor’s control mechanism…” In reality, the governor has not issued any order requiring children to be vaccinated or had any discussion about it.
The third letter Commissioners approved was in support of Grants Pass School District 7 educators who spoke out against allowing accommodations for transgender students. Assistant Principal Rachel Damiano and seventh-grade science teacher Katie Medart from North Middle School have become right-wing heroes after opposing a bill in the state legislature that would require the state to create an educational plan for students who identify as LGBTQ. Their district has said it doesn’t condone their message and put them on leave. Fowler bragged that he wrote the letter “with staff’s help” and thought it is a stifling of the educators’ free speech rights to not allow them to publicly comment on legislation that affects them. Commissioners unanimously approved sending Fowler’s letter to Grants Pass School District 7’s Board.
A fourth letter is now being considered by Commissioners after Baertschiger brought up Senate Bill 871 banning horse racing in Oregon, introduced by Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. He suggested they ask Hicks to draft a letter to send to state senators saying they support horse racing. Senate Bill 871, in a brief summary at the beginning, says it prohibits “person from holding, or entering equine in, exhibition of equine racing in this state subject to 364 days imprisonment, $6250 fine, or both. The bill was a surprise move by State Representative Courtney during a flurry of introduced bills as the state legislature winds to a close.
During Citizen Comments this week Guenter Ambron blustered about how everyone responsible for giving children COVID vaccines will be liable for all the deaths predicted by whatever source he gets anti-vax propaganda from and Jay Meredith was on the phone pushing the Commissioners to get nastier in their letter to US Senators opposing land preservation. During their response to comments, DeYoung warned that it’s best not to comment on Guenter’s diatribe because of the possibility of “potential litigation” if they do so they didn’t reply to him, but Fowler expressed his anger at Oregon’s law providing medical autonomy to 15-year-olds to seek medical attention without parental consent. He complained that teens can have abortions, take birth control and seek help to transition their gender without permission but are required to be 18 to buy cigarettes and 21 to buy alcohol. Baertschiger complained that kids can do this while the insurance pays for it. All three Commissioners accused state legislators and those putting measures on the ballot of twisting around the language so people didn’t know what they were voting for.
During Public Health Director Mike Weber’s weekly COVID report he said we currently have 122 COVID cases per 100,000 and need to get down around 100 per 100K to be in a moderate range. He said getting enough people vaccinated in order to drive the numbers down “is a challenge here” but we will continue to have community spread until the virus has no where to go anymore. Last week Comm. Herman Baertschiger requested the miscarriage rate in Josephine County. Weber presented a summary of his staff’s research and said there is no link “whatsoever between the vaccinations and miscarriages.” He said vaccines actually help keep infants safe because a vaccinated mother passes her immunity on to her baby when it’s born. Baertschiger remained unimpressed and called upon Webber “to keep an eye on this.”
Commissioners then asked if it’s possible for doctors “to cook the books” regarding COVID tests, making them come out positive when they are actually negative. Weber said he wished he had a nickel for every time someone accuses doctors of faking results, then, during a lengthy explanation, told Commissioners how difficult it would be to fake results since it is done electronically, and that any medical professional discovered trying to fake lab results would lose his or her license and livelihood. “There is no financial bump for faking results,” Weber said, telling Commissioners there is no incentive for anyone to fake a lab report. Baertschiger said people are distrustful of how the government has handled COVID so are questioning everything and brought up Dr. Fauci’s emails even though he couldn’t cite any particular revelation exposed in them.
After discussing how oppressed they’ve been by the government during the pandemic and how there’s no way Josephine County is going to get to a 70 percent vaccinated rate because of all the skepticism and mistrust here regarding the government, Fowler ranted that “COVID fatigue is real and most people here are done playing this game. It’s really frustrating that there seems to be no end to this tunnel.”
In other business during the two brief meetings this week, Emergency Manager Sara Rubrecht is leaving so Commissioners put her assistant in the job temporarily, Baertschiger defined drought as not so much a shortage of water but too much being grown. Webber was given the go-ahead to assist Curry County, which has eliminated it’s Public Health Department, to administer the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) food program for Curry as well as restaurant inspection as long as the state pays for it. Commissioners were told by Hicks that if they want a sheriff’s funding levy on the ballot in November they will have to start working on it in July. DeYoung anticipated “rocks will be thrown at us” but it has to be put out for a vote. US Forest Service officials, during a presentation, predicted this fire season would have higher than normal temperatures after lower than normal precipitation. There’s no snowpack at all now, and we’ve had drought since 2019 so expect the worst, they said.
Baertschiger on KMED’s The Bill Meyer Show Tuesday, June 1 Meyer and Baertschiger complained about taxes, called COVID relief money “enough to buy everyone’s silence for a while” and groused about inflation. They called increased money for education in this year’s state budget enabling more teaching of Marxism and whined about environmental legislation that they said will cause the cost of electricity to go up. Baertschiger added that he advises people unhappy with illegal cannabis grows to call the governor’s office because they created the mess Side note, cannabis was legalized in November of 2014 by the voters when Gov. Kitzhaber was still in office. He resigned in Feb. of 2015 when Kate Brown took over so Baertschiger is mistaken that Governor Brown created “the mess.”