COUNTY COMMISSIONERS WON'T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER
By Investigative Reporter
June 2, 2007
GRANTS PASS, Or –Voters gave black eyes to county commissioners, and they can take a bow in the defeat of a particularly vicious tax on family homes. Besides Josephine County, Coos and Jackson Counties turned down new property taxes on their family homes. Josephine County (JoCo) elected officials are out of touch with the voters including Commissioners Ellis, Toler, and Raffenburg. The voters have consistently said no to new property taxes for libraries and the sheriff's department over the past several years. Yet county commissioners supported and placed this new tax measure on the ballot. This time the intensity of the tax levy reached the point of a psychological crisis fanned by county commissioners and their friends.
Unable to fund the large budgets for the Josephine County Criminal Justice System (CJS) after federal O&C funds ($12- $15 million annually) were terminated, commissioners resorted to attempting to pressure voters into taxing their own home and their neighbors' homes to pay for these services. This wasn't a case of placing a measure on the ballot to let the voters decide; these commissioners actively participated in promoting this tax on family homes, using what influence they had to accomplish this end. They have an out of touch agenda representing themselves, the CJS, the yes voters, and not the 62 % who voted. The 62% of the voters who refused to be intimidated by these men have no representatives in county government protecting their right to be secure in their homes. This property tax decision places the commissioners in the position of wandering in the dark in political quicksand, as I shall later point out.
Tax on Home, Dirty Money
Let's take a look at what's so bad about a property tax each of the county commissioners embraced with hugs and smooches. As County Commissioner Dwight Ellis said when former commissioner candidate Cheryl Walker voiced her support for a library property tax during a commissioners' public meeting, "God Speed." Ellis is still after the family home to pay for his social agenda. A property tax places an unregistered lien on each home in Josephine County. Public officials have no concern for the financial ability of citizens to pay this additional penalty tax for living in a home. Low income residents, medical disability, seniors, large house payments and rent have no effect upon these commissioners' consciences. The property tax is also a social architectural tool used by elected officials to drive low income wage earners out of a community due to the high cost of property taxes. At the present time there is an excessive number of foreclosures in Josephine County and the rest of the nation. And property taxes can be the deciding factor of a home going on the auction block.
The property tax is not like a gasoline tax. If you don't want to pay the gas tax, you don't have to buy the gasoline, and no one is going to place a lien on your vehicle and then confiscate it for nonpayment of the lien. Yet this is what happens when a property tax is approved by the voters; a lien is placed on your home. If you fail to make your annual payments for a certain amount of time, the county will confiscate your home, and police can be used if you fail to agree that they have a right to confiscate your home. In other words, the county takes your home and there is nothing you can do unless you pay up. The property tax is not a user friendly tax; it can bring out the thugs in your local government. Anyone who proposes a tax on your home is not the type of person you want for a friend.
The Future from the Past Is Now
Josephine County has had a long succession of incompetent commissioners who have lacked vision in preparing for the seven bad years. And now financial distress appears to be beginning for Josephine County residents and several other Oregon counties that have depended on the so called O&C funds. These millions of dollars were passed out to the timber counties from the sale of federal timber. That is a thing of the past, while the Feds still control over 70% of the land in Josephine County. This land is now basically non revenue producing. This is due to protectionism of the spotted owl and other extreme environmental actions by the courts. In Oregon the forests are shut down, and the timber rots when it falls. The environmentalists like that. People still build homes, but most of the lumber comes from Canada and other nations. In years past the O&C funds flowed into Josephine County like a never ending winning streak at the roulette wheel. And that's how the past commissioners treated these windfall funds, thinking these funds would never go away. There was lots of money to save for the future, but past commissioners had a grasshopper mentality choosing to spend it all on bigger government, with more employees, and special projects and save nothing for the future.
Commissioners Dangerous to Family Homes
The present JoCo commissioners are definitely dangerous to families and their homes. They lack the ability to find a source of revenue to fund necessary county government other than a tax on family homes. How much imagination does it take to put a property tax on the ballot? These men point a collective finger at the voters for the lack of money to fund the CJS. Their creativity seems to be at an infant's level. They must know that the state takes 7-9% of the income of county residents as income tax. The state of Oregon is a giant welfare state. Much of this money should be coming back to the counties to support law and order. The federal government taps the till of each family and then often returns part of these funds as pork projects to the states.
These pork spending allocations are generally quite useless to the average citizen. This is a problem that develops when politicians have too much confiscated revenue to spend. Even if the feds grant a part of the O&C funds the financial problems will only be delayed to be dealt with next year or the year after. Meanwhile JoCo still has Ellis, Toler, and Raffenburg. When the levy failed, Ellis was quoted in the Grants Pass Daily Courier as saying, "We've hit rock bottom. I didn't sign up for this when I signed up to be a commissioner ..." In other words, it's more than he can handle.
Toler's claim to fame is lack of vision and support of every property tax that comes along. Unfortunately he's now in the position to place these taxes on the ballot. The Daily Courier quotes Raffenburg as saying, "This is a dark day for Josephine County, but the people of the county have spoken." The people have spoken many times via the ballot box, but the commissioners have failed to listen. Raffenburg is a maverick in not going along with the other commissioners on important issues. During the AFSCME union contract negotiations he stood up to the unions while Commissioner Ellis and Riddle (now out of office) kowtowed to them when there were threats of violence. Ellis is too weak to be in public office. All three commissioners now have black eyes after the public's vote of no confidence in them and the criminal justice system, the public's refusal to tax homes, and their lack of creative ability. In the business world this would be grounds for termination.
JoCo Commissioners Hit With Vote of No Confidence by Voters
The 4th Amendment in the Bill of Rights says you have a right to be secure in your home. What is there about this that Ellis, Toler, and Raffenburg don't understand? In the November 2, 2004 election, a jail levy measure was defeated by 61% of the voters. During the same election, a number of candidates ran for the office of county commissioner. Each took a publicly stated position on the jail levy; Dwight Ellis said he wouldn't vote for the levy and was elected. Incumbent Jim Riddle said he supported the levy and lost. Jim Raffenburg said he would support the levy, but wouldn't ask any one else to and won. Cherryl Walker supported the jail levy and lost. In May, 2007, both Ellis and Raffenburg supported the CJS levy that targeted family homes.
Now the trio is talking about coming back in November with another property tax for a lesser amount. They seem to have learned nothing from their previous encounters with the voters. Just whom do these men represent? It's certainly not the homeowner in Josephine County. No one is talking about the fact that since the commissioners placed the levy on the ballot and lost by a large percentage, the three elected commissioners Ellis, Toler, and Raffenburg also received a vote of no confidence.
If they come back with another fall levy, they should be asked to resign or face a recall. They are out of touch with the voters. Place another measure to tax family homes on the ballot, commissioners, and you do so at your own political risk.