Friday, April 12, 2024

Downsizing someone else's stuff

"To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under Heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose"
      Pete Seeger, 1955. A Byrds hit in 1965

The New Yorker
Many Americans had deferred baby-making during the Depression and World War II. They made up for it in the decade after 1945. Thereby, the Baby Boom, and I am in it. Our generation is in our 70s now. We have been slow to give up political power. We have been slow, too, to give up material wealth. Stuff. 

Look at that refrigerator in the garage. It was probably too good to throw away, but not good enough to use. It is in that no man's land where you store things you cannot use. Maybe someday the owner could take it apart and find out why the compressor motor squeaks. Maybe it could be made into a smoker for BBQ ribs. Maybe some young family could use a gift of an unreliable refrigerator. In the meantime, store it. 

Tony Farrell is a college classmate who has written several guest posts about branding and politics. He had a long, successful career in marketing for The Sharper Image, The Nature Company, and The Gap. Tony Farrell had a rich downsizing experience. 

Guest Post by Tony Farrell


My sister-in-law died recently. Not from Covid, but in this time of Covid, I’ve discovered a way to manage my grief, and I’ll share it.

What you do is, you spend three days a week driving 150 miles, round-trip, for five months, to claw through the dust-covered detritus of a shopaholic hoarder with three hairy dogs crammed into an impassably small house whose only clean space was inside the oven -- because it had never been used. 

Grief is replaced with simmering resentment that such mind-numbing tasks were implicitly assigned to you by the dearly departed because (quite rationally) they didn’t want to do it themselves. 

In this way, grief absolutely evaporates. You’re welcome. 

When my sister-in-law passed, I was obligated to sort through an obscene quantity of shoes, boots and slippers; buckets of earrings; 70 never-used designer purses; dozens of memento totes and soft briefcases from obscure conventions and trade shows; ancient America Online printouts of emailed jokes; so many keyboards, mice and backup discs for long-forgotten software; yellowing issues of People magazine memorializing Lady Di and JFK Jr., and even Patrick Swayze.

Everywhere, I confronted more lame-brained mottos, aphorisms, proverbs, adages, axioms, maxims, dictums and platitudes than you can imagine. Perhaps ironically, an uncomfortable number involved St. Peter at the Pearly Gates: “A Cowboy’s Prayer,” “The Rainbow Bridge,” “The Dog’s Prayer.”

On four different objects were inscribed, “It’s not the number of breaths you take, but the number of moments that take your breath away”—which, I gotta say, took my breath away. 

From a woman who never exercised, we inherited four huge fitness machines—two still banded in shipping cartons. And what to do with the worst pop CD collection ever? (How much Manilow can one own?) Last month, at Black Bear Diner, I sat too close to their gift shop with shelves full of souvenir mugs; ball caps; sweatshirts; key fobs; tee shirts; earrings and phone cases. I’ll exaggerate and say I started to shake and sweat—a kind of PTSD (or Post Traumatic Stuff Disorder) brought on by my many months of drowning in piles of useless crap. 

I’ve become afflicted with a near-pathological revulsion to stuff. Thank God this didn’t happen earlier in my life: For 35 years, my career was devoted to creating and selling stuff. Now, I have only a bleak vision of where all stuff ends—like gazing at a face and seeing only a skull. 

I don’t want any more stuff in my life. It’s over. My wife Kathy and I recently celebrated her birthday and our anniversary with zero gifts. It’s fine. We’re fine.





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Thursday, April 11, 2024

The "field-sign" message

If you like Donald Trump, you will love Randy Sparacino.

Randy Sparacino is a Republican candidate for Jackson County commissioner. Currently the office is partisan. 

It should be nonpartisan.

The placement of "field signs," those four-by-eight sheets of plywood on arterial streets, tell an unmistakable story of political affiliation. The signs in the photos below are placed on Biddle Road opposite the Rogue Valley International Airport, a county-owned facility. 



Opponents of the ballot measure that would make the county commissioner job nonpartisan have only a single sentence explaining their reasoning at their website:

"Nonpartisan status decreases transparency, allowing candidates to hide their political beliefs and intent during campaigns."

I agree with that statement. Party labels do give voters a snapshot of the political associations of a candidate. Voters see a party label and make deductions. 

My own sense is that this is a net-negative, a reason not to have partisanship. I prefer local candidates for offices that have negligible relationship to state and national issues be nonpartisan. I prefer that campaigns reveal the individual brand of the candidate established around discussion of local issues. I would prefer that local campaigns not involve us in the fights that consume Washington, D.C. 

Partisanship has advantages, though. It gives a candidate instant friends and an institution for raising money and getting one's name in front of the public. That comes with a price, the "transparency" of being attached to a nationally-known brand, with all its warts and wrinkles. Trump's brand eclipses everything. It bleeds out onto the people sharing his party label. Sparacino is being transparent. He stands with Trump. 

The local GOP circled the wagons in opposition to the three ballot issues updating the county charter. These signs below are along Crater Lake Highway near Vilas Road. Bentz is the Republican U.S. representative. He endorsed Trump over Nikki Haley. 

In the back is a sign for Alyssa Bartholomew, a woman running for the nonpartisan district attorney office. She is running a "whisper-Republican" campaign, with signs clustered among GOP candidates. I believe that this will hurt her election chances. People do not want a district attorney to be wearing a partisan jersey. We want crime prosecution to reflect fairness and even-handedness. She should not be a Republican DA. She should be the DA representing the whole of the people. The more she continues her whisper campaign in association with a party, the worse for her. But Bartholomew and Sparacino have made their choices and will need to live with the consequences.

This one is off Foothills Road, inside Medford. 

I think Sparacino would be a more electable candidate, and a better commissioner if elected, if he didn't associate himself with Trump. Sparacino had a long career in law enforcement. That implies to voters that he respects district attorneys and judges, that he cares about law and order, and that he would not appreciate tirades of the kind Trump is now publishing daily. Trump organized fake electors and his campaign lawyers urged them to swear falsely that they were "duly elected." He summoned Proud Boys to the Capitol to intimidate the Congress and vice president. He praises Capitol rioters. I realize that that was Trump, not Sparacino, but Sparacino's signs share the field with Trump's, publicly linking them. It is transparent who he is comfortable with.

"If you like Donald Trump, you will love Randy Sparacino," is the downside of partisan transparency. If Sparacino were smart, he would never allow his signs to be placed adjacent to a Trump sign. I have given Sparacino campaign advice in the past when he ran for state Senate, and he ignored it. He spent $1.1 million of Republican donors’ money persuading people he was the wrong person for the job. It was crazy. I suggested he reverse course. He ignored me and lost an easily-winnable race. Once again he is letting his political party manage his reputation. So here we are: Sparacino linked to Trump. Trump linked to Sparacino. I don't expect him to take my advice today, either. Call me Cassandra.

What is Sparacino's actual, deep-down "intent and belief?" Who knows? But he has signs next to Trump's, so we draw our conclusions.




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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

RFK Jr.'s target is Biden.

     "The Kennedy voter and the Trump voter -- the mutual enemy is Biden. . . . Why wouldn't we put our vote to Bobby and at least get rid of Biden. . . . 
If you don't get to 270,. . . Congress picks the president. They'll pick Trump. So we're rid of Biden either way. Does everybody follow that?"
       
  New York State Director of RFK Jr.'s campaign.

Click Here

There is a reason Republican billionaires are donating to the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. campaign. He takes votes from Biden.  

RFK Jr. is hard to define politically. He isn't a centrist. He is eccentric. He is "some kind of weirdo fringe," in the words of Matthew Bennett, a leader in the left-center Third Way think tank. The problem for Democrats is that some of the "weirdo fringe" things he says sound about right to a lot of people on both the left and the right.

In this political era shaped by Trump, Democrats and Joe Biden represent the party of normalDemocrats are the party that can govern. A Democratic House caucus could pass legislation. The Democratic president supports longstanding bipartisan positions on NATO, on Israel, on trade, on public health.  

The GOP under Trump is the party of tear-it-down. At its best it could be considered the "creative destruction" of progress and renewal, but its primary focus now is negation. Shut down the government. Stop majorities. Stop border legislation. Stop abortion. Its presidential candidate is a proud hooligan, vandalizing old norms. He flagrantly connived to overthrow an election and justifies it. He is proud of it. He tweets crazy things in the middle of the night. Trump is the chaos candidate -- the foil and opposite of Biden. 

There are people who prefer where Trump is on that axis of normal and chaos. There is yet another salient axis today: It is conspiracy-friendly/conspiracy-resistant. 

Trump -- like RFK Jr. -- appeals to those Amerivan with conspiratorial instincts. Trump says that elections are not what they appear to be. Don't believe the so-called "evidence" or audits or re-counts. The news is fake. The health care system is lying. Vaccines are dangerous. The deep-state-controlled government is fake. Government investigators are fake; prosecutors are fake; judges are fake.

The left has its own conspiracies. Some of the largest hotbeds of vaccination resistance are in leftist schools and communities. There is widespread leftist conspiracy thinking regarding adulterated and artificial ingredients in food, and in corruption in big business, in the CIA, FBI, and local police. It is the left that worries most about the military-industrial complex and secret money in politics. 

RFK Jr. is best known for his vaccination skepticism, but he also says that Sirhan Sirhan did not assassinate his father and that the CIA assassinated his uncle, JFK. He says he doubts that the January 6 attack on the Capitol was part of a Trump-led effort to stop the vote count. He has said that Wi-Fi causes cancer, that anti-depressants cause school shootings, that chemicals in water cause kids to become transgender, that AIDS isn't caused by HIV, that Republicans stole the 2004 election, and that 5G networks are used for mass surveillance. 

RFK Jr. currently polls around 15% in three-way contests. When RFK Jr. is included in current polls, Biden's support drops more than does Trump's. RFK Jr.'s brand is Democratic and environmentalist. With Democratic voters crowded into their blue corner, and people restless for new Democratic faces, Biden's "status quo normal" vibe seems blind and tone-deaf to people who believe that dark forces are ruining America. I can imagine people on the left thinking: RFK Jr. is a little bit crazy, but at least he isn't a Republican and he's right about _________. And here is where they can fill in the blank. The JFK assassination? The FBI sabotaging Martin Luther King? Cell phones tracking us?  Distrusting big pharma? There is always reason to question authority. 

Urban and out-of-area readers may under-estimate the strength and in-your-face belligerence of some of Trump's voters in rural America. Trump has locked down his base. The conspiracy-minded among them won't be tempted by RFK Jr. They have their man. The lawn signs are up on rural roads. "Trump won." Yesterday I parked behind a pickup truck with this home-made modification. 

I have never seen anything equivalent from a Biden supporter. I don't see people driving Priuses bedecked with flags and Biden signs. If there is partisan erosion to a conspiratorial third party candidate, I expect more of it to come from Biden. 

The Democratic national campaign will attempt to disqualify RFK Jr. by citing his kookiest ideas. But some of those will have an air of truth about them to Democrats. This is an era of widespread distrust of institutions. I expect Democrats to deal with the RFK Jr. threat with a simple message that re-affirms partisanship -- in this case negative partisanship. The message will be "A vote for RFK Jr. is a vote for Trump." Full stop. Democrats know what they don't like.


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Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Another up close view of the Animal Shelter.

"You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim."

            Jim Croce, 1972

Jackson County is messing with the Animal Shelter

Few elements of county government stir up citizen passions like the Animal Control Department. Most of the county departments are relatively uncontroversial. The issues that filled up the auditorium with motivated citizens involved animals. When I was a county commissioner we would pass a $50 million Road Department budget without any public comment, but the budget item of $10,000 to hire a person to trap and kill cougars that had developed a taste for lambs brought multiple hours of impassioned, informed testimony from farmers, wildlife experts, and engaged citizens. The county had far more unwanted and stray dogs and cats than could be found homes. Many were euthanized. That policy, too, filled the auditorium. The Animal Control Department's facility drew hundreds of volunteers, some doing the least pleasant parts of animal care, tending very sick animals and cleaning cages.

Lisa James has been leading educational, cultural, environmental, and animal welfare organizations for 35 years, sometimes as an executive director, sometimes as a fundraising consultant, sometimes as a marketing strategist. She said she read yesterday's post and was reminded of her tenure in 2020-2021 leading the Friends of the Animal Shelter with its active volunteer group of over 300 active members. She said she wrote this guest post in one burst of emotion.

Lisa James

Guest Post by Lisa James

As a former Executive Director of the nonprofit Friends of the Animal(s) Shelter -- FOTAS -- I can attest to the huge and impactful role FOTAS played in operating the shelter.

It paid for two volunteer coordinators; it provided daily care and food for the animals; it paid for the foster coordinator; and it paid for considerable veterinary costs. FOTAS spent over $200,000 to buy and equip a veterinary trailer sited at the Animal Shelter. It subsidized spay-neuter vet bills. It called every veterinary, and it coordinated volunteers to shuttle animals all over the valley for care they needed, but were not receiving from county management. 

Furthermore, FOTAS created other animal welfare services and subsidized their costs. It provided volunteers to operate and subsidize professional clinics -- including monthly vaccination clinics. They bought all the chips to offer at new microchip clinics. FOTAS sponsored "Street Dogs" outreach and care to the companion animals of Jackson County's unhoused human population. It developed and operated the "Working Cats" program which placed feral cats all over the valley at vineyards, farms, and anywhere requested and appropriate. FOTAS bought animal housing, food, and supplies, and taught the new placement owners how to maintain their working cats. We partnered with other small rescue groups. Volunteers walked dogs on a schedule every day, helped with adoption counseling. They cleaned the cat rooms and kennels! 

When FOTAS published a plea to the community to donate dog food because their warehouse donations had dwindled, County Administrator Danny Jordan threw a fit and demanded they take the ad down. But did he offer a budget to buy dog food?? NO! When the fires scorched the building and burned the yard and fence down, who rebuilt it??? FOTAS DID! When the pavement was too hot to walk dogs on, who bought carpets and misting lines to cool their path to the tiny yard? FOTAS did! 

These are dedicated volunteers who give their time, talent, and treasures, and open their homes repeatedly to care for, train, and socialize animals until adopted. They helped the shelter not only survive, but reach no-kill shelter status. FOTAS coordinated TV spots and delivery of animals, adoption events at PetSmart and other retailers. Danny Jordan and the Board of Commissioners only see dollar signs, so they rudely kick out FOTAS after decades of service and support. Then they pump up the costs so they can justify a new tax bond, something I predicted over three years ago! That shelter was built in the early 1960s when the population of Jackson County was 80,000 people. It's also where Animal Control dumps every deer carcass and everything else that would stink up the workspace. 

These “leaders” don’t care about the animals. They only see a new option to persuade the people to give them more taxpayer dollars, when they already have $200 million in savings. Demand a proper shelter and say no to new taxes! 




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Monday, April 8, 2024

Jackson County Animal Shelter

Today's Guest Post leads with these words:

     "We are in shock and grief after learning Thursday that the Jackson County animal shelter is killing dogs to reduce inventory. This is terrible news for all animal lovers in our community."

Laura Ahearn

Denise Krause


Laura Ahearn and Denise Krause wrote today's guest post. Both are engaged citizens who have spent countless hours at the Jackson County animal shelter. 


Laura Ahearn has worked in animal welfare for over two decades in six countries. She managed a shelter in Borneo. She started volunteering at the Jackson County shelter in 2018 as a dog walker and ultimately on “Holding Crew” with dogs that need extra attention to be deemed “adoptable.” She has made numerous appearances before the Animal Control Advisory Committee, the county commissioners, and the budget committee to urge better management and expedited replacement of the outdated, overflowing shelter.


Denise Krause is a familiar name to Southern Oregon residents as a leader of the citizen-led petition drive to update the county charter. Denise serves as a “dog runner” volunteer at the Jackson County animal shelter. She said the dilapidated condition and unsatisfactory management of this facility are two of the problems that motivated her to run for county commissioner. She says she hopes her ideas for immediate action and sensible long-range planning can be heard and implemented.


Guest Post by Laura Ahern and Denise Krause

We are in shock and grief after learning Thursday that the Jackson County animal shelter is killing dogs to reduce inventory. This is terrible news for all animal lovers in our community. 

Photo: Rogue Valley Times
Because the county has pushed things to the brink, shunning consultation and cooperation with concerned citizens and rescue groups, a community forum will be held at the Medford library on Tuesday, April 23, at 5:30 p.m. to launch a meaningful process to develop the best, most cost-effective solution to meet needs now and into the future. [Note that this event is in the library, but it is neither sponsored nor endorsed by it.]
Why are we at this crisis point? The county administrator has repeatedly acknowledged that a new animal shelter has been on his capital projects list for eighteen years. Funds to get started have never been budgeted. In this same time frame the county completed over $300 million in other capital projects. Why was the shelter pushed to the bottom of the list?

No, we aren't facing some unforeseen increase in unwanted dogs due to the pandemic; look at the long-term trend:

 About two years ago the county started changing the way it manages the shelter and treats volunteers. The scheme was labeled a “feasibility study” with the evident goal of boosting costs on the county's accounts to calculate “the ask”: A ballot proposal to create a local service district – a new layer of big-government bureaucracy – with a new tax levy and debt. Volunteers were sidelined, even terminated, for what they thought was protected, private speech. Half of the cat area was converted to a conference room; now the county has stopped accepting cats due to lack of capacity. The pool of jail trustees to clean, feed the animals, and do the laundry dwindled with Measure 110, and the county staffed up with new hires. When drug possession becomes a crime in September, the pool of trustees who can provide community service will be replenished. The county is not planning to take this opportunity to reduce costs. 

On February 29, the county administrator briefed commissioners on overdue capital projects. He said, “I've talked with each of you, you know, a lot over the last several years, about all of the capital projects we're working. Obviously, most of those have not been forward-facing, not out in the public.” In the case of the animal shelter, the county administrator and commissioners actively opposed efforts by citizens to receive information and provide input.

On March 26, the county administrator unveiled a last-minute proposal for a local service district, a new tax, and $14,850,000 in debt to support the animal shelter. A service district would raise taxes by further expanding county bureaucracy, while keeping control of the shelter with county administration. County management has repeatedly shown that animal welfare is not a priority. The Animal Control Advisory Committee was never consulted. There was no public input. Only one of several alternatives was put on paper. There are several other alternatives that need to be considered. 

Teams of county administrators and commissioners are now visiting city councils, seeking buy-in for their proposal. Talent voted “no further action,” Jacksonville tabled the matter. We have been appearing before these councils to present our concerns about the county's scheme, and to show that there is a better way to proceed. There are inexplicable numbers and assumptions in the county's presentation:

 

- - -A new, modern, efficiently-designed shelter should automatically reduce costs. To support a higher tax-grab, the county is instead forecasting a shocking explosion in personnel costs: from $760,921 in FY21-22 to almost $3 million in FY28-29! Why build the animal shelter in the compound for a new jail if you aren't going to reduce costs by using trustees?

- - - Construction costs are based on a design providing 108, possibly 120 kennels. When county officials presented their proposal in Jacksonville and Talent on April 2 and 3, they did not disclose that there were already 122 dogs in the shelter! Inadequate as conceived, and certainly inadequate when their long-delayed shelter would come online in 2028, much less years down the road. The size is grossly inadequate unless county leaders have made a silent commitment to implement an aggressive spay/neuter program. California's Fresno County made such a commitment last month with funding of $500,000.

 

- - - In 2028, the county expects to find homes for only half the number of dogs as last year. In 2023, 453 dogs were adopted. The pro forma presented to support the new tax predicts only 231 adoptions, and that number will be even lower if the county continues to increase adoption fees.

 

- - - Law enforcement agencies use the shelter for free to house animals seized as “evidence.” According to the county administrator, this unrecovered cost is “a few hundred thousand dollars” per year. What if they paid their fair share? The sheriff's department is probably the largest burden. It would be an easy accounting step, a fund transfer, for the county to properly offset this shelter expense with revenue to Animal Services and thereby close the gap.

We could go on to dissect the county's sparse dossier, but our energies need to be dedicated to expediting a positive way forward to find the best solution and involve and respect all stakeholders. County administration has refused even to discuss the successful models in Deschutes, Douglas and Klamath Counties where nonprofits handle shelter operations at greatly reduced costs. County heads ignore the special district option which would take power and money out of their hands and entrust governance to an elected board of citizens who serve for free because of their dedication and expertise. Even if county heads execute their threat to drastically shrink services if they don't have their way, the voters have the final say. Let's look at options to meet needs fully on a much shorter timeline.

 

The issues are complex, but not nearly as complicated as the county administrator and commissioners portray them. They made no attempt to educate the public, involve stakeholders or build broad support for a sensible way forward. So we are starting that process now. Please attend the community forum on April 23. If you live in an incorporated area, urge your city representatives to participate, too. We all know we need a new shelter and together we can find a better way.




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Sunday, April 7, 2024

Easy Sunday: False Witness

Trump's "God Bless America Bible" has an edit in Exodus 20:16. 
Trump's version reads:
     "Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor, unless he's a political opponent. Then it's OK."
That's a joke. I'm confident he left the Bible unchanged. Is Trump familiar enough with the Bible to get that joke? Maybe. He says the Bible is his favorite book and he reads it all the time.

We have entered an era when there is little shame or political cost attached to outright, four-Pinocchio lies.  
Trump doesn't correct misrepresentation. He doubles down on it He says he had proof that Obama was born in Kenya. He says he didn't just win the 2020 election; he won in a landslide. He says he had every right to keep confidential documents and hide them from the court. And January 6 was a peaceful protest.


Apparently a majority of Republican partisans believe it hook, line, and sinker. That means that wiser, more cynical Republican candidates and officeholders must pretend to believe it as well. Otherwise, they are RINOs. They tolerate the lies.

So far local opponents of the Jackson County measures haven't changed their website. 
Murphy,  at his granddaughter's high school graduation

Gerald Murphy is a retired high school English teacher. He has written dozens of plays and musicals with productions in over forty countries, mostly in schools, churches, and community theaters. Sometimes writes lighthearted parodies, which get him in trouble if readers don't recognize a tall tale when they read it. Murphy read my post from yesterday about the over-the-top objections cited by opponents of the local charter-update measures. Murphy wanted to join in with his own inventions.

Guest Post by Gerald Murphy


Although both Speaker of the House Mike Johnson and Senator Ted Cruz deny they spent their Easter vacations in Havana, Cuba, photographs show both men with arms around nude dancers at the Grand Theater of Havana. “That wasn’t us,” complained Johnson. “I am deeply committed to my wife and the Lord. Those pictures were photoshopped! My record on abortion shows I don’t even like women! Meanwhile, Senator Cruz claimed he had an ironclad alibi. “Everyone knows I spend every Easter in Cancun!”  
 
Perhaps the biggest surprise of this political season was Margorie Taylor Greene admitting she was currently dating Fred “Mackie” Jackson, head of Jacksonville’s Black Live Matter Movement. “Lots of people are furious at me for this,” Marjorie complained. “MAGA hates me. The Klan issues death threats daily. And Tucker Carlson is now calling me ‘Aunt Jemima Greene.’ I swear, I never realized how bigoted my party is!”

Tickets for eclipse viewing are now going for as much $5,000 for seats at Trump-owned North Dallas Golf Resort where Donald Trump promises he will stare into the sun "without any aid, without blinking, and without any fear during the eclipse. I didn’t get to be where I am by shying away from the spotlight. All that stuff about hurting the eyes is just fake news." Several of his aides promise to provide Trump with binoculars or a telescope if he needs further help viewing this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Visiting the New York subway system to highlight crime in the Big Apple under Democratic leadership, Representative Matt Gaetz caused a mass exodus by subway commuters. “It was strange,” said one conductor who witnessed the event, “as soon as Gaetz entered the train it became obvious that no New Yorker, not even one drugged-out homeless guy, was willing to share a seat with the Representative from Florida’s 1st congressional district. Disappointed with his failed political stunt, Gaetz was last seen visiting a middle school in lower Manhattan.


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Saturday, April 6, 2024

Political misinformation

Mis-information isn't harmless.
     "Peter, you said that the outright lies made by the opponents of the charter changes were so preposterous as to be "harmless." No. Misinformation matters. People remember the lie, and pass it on. You should correct lies immediately."
        Comment I received yesterday

Yesterday I cited the political advertisement asserting that proposed changes to the Jackson County charter would "import Portland" and be a "total transformation" of Jackson County. 

I used the assertion by charter change opponents as a way to illustrate the current reputation of Portland. I didn't take it seriously as a reflection on the ballot issues. It was an example of cynical political arguments pulled out of the air. I thought their argument laughably ridiculous. No one would take it seriously. 

I wrote that if charter-update opponents thought it more effective to accuse the initiative proponents of seeking communism or socialism or pedophilia, they might have chosen that. Anything to scare people. Instead, they said it would make us like Portland. The horror!

My critics are right, though. Errors matter. 

The Rogue Valley Times newspaper published a letter by a charter change opponent who was either careless or dishonest. He asserted that the 200 people who gathered signatures were paid. The idea was to diminish the initiatives' credibility as a grass-roots public concern. But the signature gatherers were not paid. All were self-motivated volunteers. The newspaper immediately ran a retraction. Good for them. 

Did you hear???  Perk of a commissioner's job -- a new one every year, and theirs to keep.

Vivid, mentally sticky ideas and images are more likely to be passed around than boring truths. Lies make good stories. Suppose I were to write that each Jackson County commissioner received as an untaxed perk a new Dodge Ram 3500 Limited Crew Cab, valued at about $85,000, for the purpose of driving around the county. Moreover, they each got to sell the car back to the Lithia dealer at the end of each year, and keep the proceeds as extra secret compensation. It would be untrue. But the story is vivid and specific enough to have social media "legs." It might get spread around, with some people saying it was true; others saying it was untrue. Some people might clarify saying it is a Ford 150 Lightning EV, not a Dodge Ram, and some people might say the commissioners hate getting the EV Lightning; they prefer the Ram, especially Colleen Roberts. But David Dotterer, who lives in Ashland, prefers the EV. Who knows what is true? There's all that talk and rumor. If there is smoke there must be fire. The whole idea and controversy might motivate some people to vote in favor of the ballot measures. They get free trucks? Yeah, I heard something about that. Stop the steal! Vote yes.

Again, I just made that up. They don't get free trucks. But it's a good story.

I think the ballot changes will improve county government in some small but meaningful ways. Whatever else, they won't transform this county into Portland.

Kevin Stine is a Medford city council member, first elected in 2014. He is a Navy reservist, a teacher, and a husband and father. He studied political science at Southern Oregon University. He was one of several people who said I should correct the record on the charter change. Medford has eight city council members and a mayor. All are unpaid.



Guest Post by Kevin Stine




Elections are similar to TV advertisements. An ad for a restaurant will show an attractive person eating a cheeseburger and describe to you how good the burger tastes. They are not going to tell you that the cheeseburger is 1,200 calories. In a similar way, a political campaign is going to tell you the good stuff they are promoting and hope you don’t find out the missing information.

I hadn’t heard about the “Stop Bigger Government PAC” until Peter wrote about it yesterday. The premise they make is that everything with the County is great, and no changes should happen, because if they do, then it will be chaos. They are presenting the County like a restaurant would present a cheeseburger. They are opposed to any Jackson County charter changes, but reading their website I see loads of misleading or outright false information.

Peter wrote yesterday about the PAC’s misrepresentation comparing the potential changes that would make Jackson County “exactly the same” as Multnomah County. I’ll add that the elected chair of the Multnomah County commission operates as the CEO of the county, which is far different than how Jackson County operates, with their county administrator.

                     
Add two commissioners, going from three to five

Ballot Measure 15-224: The argument against, is that the Commissioners would somehow have the ability to violate the State public meeting laws. I am unsure how they came to that conclusion. Moving from three positions to five positions does not allow them to violate State law.   

                                  
Nonpartisan primary elections

Ballot Measure 15-225: Two claims are made here, and I’ll address both.

First off, they write that the November election would be essentially eliminated. Not true. This is not an automatic part of how the system would run, and it would actually be rare. A candidate would need 50%+ in a May election to be the winner. In the likely event the top vote getter receives less than 50%, then the top two would be on the ballot in November.

I looked at Josephine County, because they are the next-door county, and they have nonpartisan commissioners. Of the 15 elections for county commissioners over the past 20 years, exactly one of those elections resulted in a candidate getting the 50%+ which avoids the general election. That was Herman Baertschiger in 2020. The other 14 all went to a November election. The history is that 93% of the time the Josephine Commissioner election gets decided in November.
Secondly, the voter turnout numbers the PAC presented of 18% and 80% are way off. The PAC gives false numbers that there are four times as many votes cast in May than in November. Commissioners are elected in even number years, so I’ll look up the last 4 election cycles.

2016 Primary – 53.6% -- 2016 General – 77.4%

2018 Primary – 34.2% -- 2018 General – 67.5%

2020 Primary – 47.5% -- 2020 General – 79.5%

2022 Primary – 32.7% -- 2022 General – 66%

Primary Average 42% -- General Average 72.6%

There’s also no reasoning given why we need party labels for that office, or why we should deny the large number of nonpartisan or Independent Party voters the ability to vote, or potentially be candidates themselves, in May.  That is mostly because there isn’t a good reason. 

              
Reduce salary to county average

Ballot Measure 15-226: The argument is hardly a prevailing argument at all. If someone believes $75,000 is not a large enough salary to be a county commissioner, then I don’t want that person to be a county commissioner anyway. As far as the cost of a new commissioner, I suggest putting a partition in two of the offices. For the meeting room where they vote, I suggest a table with two chairs and a microphone. These two ideas would save hundreds of thousands of dollars compared to the estimates.

Just a nugget of information, during her initial campaign in 2014, Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts made a pledge to only accept around $70,000, instead of the close-to-$100,000 she could have received. She even said this in 2016, “When your elected officials make three or four times the average salary of the working person supporting it, it kind of takes away some of the feel of being the elected representative.”  KOBI-5
That was then, this is now. She no longer supports lowering salaries and takes the maximum she can get.

The campaign by opponents of the ballot measures will roll on, and apparently they will be well-funded. As we see, they aren't telling us the whole story or the true one. They are hoping the good people of Jackson County eat it up anyway.




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