Truth Vs Fearmongering -- JJ Scofield at Rally

Please note that JJ Scofield was speaking as a private citizen.

After hearing the extremists from the Robinson Republican Headquarters across the street from the County Courthouse scream, yell insults and call our Republicans “RINOS” former Josephine County HR Director JJ Scofield addressed those attending the Measure 17-116 Rally on May 11th.

Here is his speach.

Why are they doing this? Facts are not “sexy” but scary is and it moves the needle. We need to combat with the truth. Truth should win out.

Current Charter... So what are the actual changes in the proposed charter? Not what the yard barkers say. One-third of the current charter is weird stuff not typically in a charter – we say it’s legally non-defensible. An example: there is a provision that says you can’t have strip clubs next to parks. That is a very smart and wise land use code. It doesn’t belong in a charter because its an administrative function and you’re not allowed to have an administrative function in a legislative document. So that means it’s legally not enforceable. There’s a provision that says county commissioners’ salaries can only be $36,000 a year. That was challenged in 1992 and found to be unenforceable. So a lot of the charter is a bunch of this stuff that sounds good but is unenforceable.

So why do we have a bunch of stuff that’s not legal in the charter? Some of the provisions in the charter are full-on unconstitutional. The current charter mandates any time a department head changes over the budget committee is supposed to do a review of the department manager. Doing so could potentially violate the liberty rights under the Constitution for employees. Putting that in is potentially unconstitutional. So a lot of the changes in the current charter are simply getting rid of that.

So are we destroying the fabric of the county? No, no, we are simply recommending getting rid of stuff that is not legal. Why would we have a charter filled with stuff that’s not legal?

So when people say platitudes, start with the facts – now what is changing?

From my perspective I used to be the HR Director of the county. I worked with various county commissioners for 10 years, some of which were amazing and terrific, some of which are currently on the board. So what actually changes? From my perspective, there are three major changes that the new charter is recommending. In order of importance I’ll go over them and say what are they, why are they potentially good and then we can have discussions about whether they are good or not, based on facts and not upon scary, emotional words and yelling in the street.

So, the first change – it is recommended the Board of Commissioners move to a part-time position. Now they’re not calling it “salaries” and that’s important because if they just said we’re going to lower the salary, that’s already been found to be non-enforceable. They’re calling it a stipend. Other elected bodies around the state pay their elected officials via a stipend and that practice in the past is legal – for now, it hasn’t been in court yet. It could be that structure will not hold up but it’s the best and most likely terminology to execute the goal of reducing salaries. Calling it a stipend and tying it to an outside body. Why is that a good thing? Well….

I worked with the commissioners. If I go into their office any week…they’re not working full time. Herman Baertschiger works maybe 15 or 20 hours a week…maybe. When Darin Fowler was on he worked maybe 10 hours a week at a $90,000 a year salary, for 10 hours a week. These aren’t my opinions. These are facts. I watched them do it. Why would we pay our elected officials a professional salary of $90,000 a year if they’re not going to do the work. If they’re not going to do the work don’t pay them for it. Reduce their salary down to something more reasonable. Save the county some money and use that money to make the county better. That’s the first change. Get the salary down and call it a stipend.

Next change – this is controversial. From three commissioners to five commissioners and tie them to districts. Why is that potentially good? It has the potential to have a greater diversity of viewpoints. By having districts you have someone from where you live represent you. We have, in the past, had three commissioners that all lived in Grants Pass. Those three were generally decent commissioners but if you live out in Williams you say “I have a voice, what’s important in Williams is important to me and it should be important to you.” By having districts it will mandate you will have someone who lives where you live.

And…this is a real big one. Currently you have two commissioners that treat the county as their own little plaything. They have illegal meetings all the time. I’ve personally witnessed them. I’ve filed an ethics complaint on illegal meetings. By moving it to five a quorum is now three people and not two, so if you get two people that are not great they can’t single-handedly do whatever the heck they want. Having two you increase the likelihood of abuse of position. It’s less likely you will have commissioners that violate state law on a weekly basis and scorn anyone who tries to hold them accountable. That’s what its about.

Lastly, to me, this is the most important thing, this county is a $150 million business and you have three people running it who have never, ever, ever, ever run a business like that. If I ran a business I wouldn’t hire them. I wouldn’t even interview them. They’re not qualified. I hire people for a living.

They are qualified to be commissioners. What does a commissioner do? They set policy, they coordinate with state agencies, they go out into the community and find out what you people want and then give the county manager that edit and say this is what the citizens of our community want – make it happen. That’s what they should do but the don’t. They try to run the county and I’m being harsh, but they’re just not equipped. I’ve had many commissioners over the years. Some are great. None of them were qualified to be a county manager. They don’t have the skills.

And the most important thing, even really good commissioners lack long-term strategic planning. In Josephine County we tend not to re-elect commissioners. We’ve only had three or four in 20 years that went more than one term. The effect of that is they think about “what do I need to do today” not tomorrow, not five years from now, not ten years from now. Today. For example, I worried that we had this $20 million property, they can’t find a buyer, so “oh here’s a church, I’ll give it to them for $9 million.” That’s a great decision for today but not for 20 years from now if you gave property away at half its market value. I like the church and what they are going to do but now no taxes will ever be collected on that. That’s a perfect example of “its good for today but it’s bad for tomorrow.” When you have a county administrator, they can think long-term. They can think about setting policy, setting practices to run the county for a long time.

So I would advocate we talk about the facts. We talk about what’s going on and when people yell in the street strange, bizarre things like we’re hearing, don’t yell at them back. Engage and say, hey, let’s talk about the facts. Is it really in the charter? Is it legal to have? Is it really in our new proposal? Let’s have a discussion and see if we can make some real change.