Change your county... change your Charter!    

Get true local representation for your area

Stop the recall & appointment 'madness'

Just say "no" to candidates you don't like & "yes" to the ones you do

Don't let people without property vote to tax your property away

Get your property rights back & give them to your children

Get real manager skills for county operations, with an elected Public Works Director

Do away with outrageous permit charges & fees

Make your local public servants live on less - you do

Insure your right to speak out publicly on matters of concern to you

A Better Choice for County Government!  

            The form and powers of government in Josephine County are defined by its home-rule charter. Not many people have seen a copy, let alone read it. If you contrast the current charter's underlying philosophy with that of the Declaration of Independence and our state and national constitutions, the need to revise the County Charter will be obvious, and you will want to help qualify this better choice for the ballot.

            Those previously attempting to rein in the excesses of county government by adding amendment after amendment to the charter overlooked something crucial: the voters had given county government in general, and the Board of County Commissioners in particular, a blank check when they approved the current charter in 1980.  They provided in Sections 5, 6, & 7 that, "Except as this charter provides to the contrary, the county has authority over matters of county concern to the fullest extent now or hereafter granted or allowed by the constitutions and laws of the United States and the State of Oregon... The charter shall be liberally construed... The county has all powers necessary or convenient for the conduct of its affairs, including all powers that counties may now or hereafter assume under the home rule provisions of the constitution and laws of Oregon... Except as this charter provides to the contrary... all other powers of the county not vested by this charter elsewhere are vested in the Board of County Commissioners..."

                The particular matters in the current charter needing revision fall into six distinct areas: (1) restricting the powers of county government; (2) creating regional representation on the Board of County Commissioners that cannot be dominated by the population center of the county; (3) changing the electoral process to allow "yes" and "no" votes on candidates; (4) changing the taxing, budgeting, and ordinance-making process and subjecting the salary and benefit-setting process for elected officials to the ordinance making process; (5) safeguarding of personal liberties and property rights with a qualified bill of rights; and (6) a glossary of terms to prevent misinterpretation.

            First, let us consider restricting the powers of county government: Our current situation is like having a dog inside a fence constructed a section at a time with many gaps in it, instead of having the dog on a strong, well-anchored chain of specific length. (A mad bull on the open range would be an even better illustration!)

            As we have already shown, our county charter presently grants wide, undefined powers to the Board of County Commissioners in Sections 5, 6, & 7. Please note that this is like King John's government in England after he signed the Magna Carta. He could do anything he wanted, except what was specifically prohibited. With a blank check like this is it any wonder that charter amendments have failed to fence in the commissioners?! They just walk around any limitations that the voters enact as single subject amendments to the charter. By simply redefining terms they can and do avoid and evade the clear intent of the voters. 

            Can we stop this by putting more specific, single-subject restrictions into the charter as various ones have done through the years? No!  We must take back the blank check. Our Founders declared that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. We must withdraw the "consent of the governed" that sanctions their current unbridled power and institute a new guard to our future security.  The proposed revision does that in Article II, in total contrast to the current grant of powers to the Board of County Commissioners, when it says,  "We the voters of this county hereby declare with the Framers of the Oregon Constitution that all men, when they form a social compact are equal in right: that all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded upon their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; and they have at all times a right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper.  We furthermore declare that all rights of mankind issue forth from the three primary rights with which they are endowed by their Creator, namely:  the right to life, the right to property, and the right to choose according to their conscience how they will live that life and use that property.  In conclusion we declare that only those powers voluntarily and temporarily specifically delegated or assigned by the people to civil government are subject to exercise by that civil government. We give our consent to this charter that:  (1) our inalienable rights will be protected by just administration of law and order, and (2) our common properties will be administrated in an efficient and impartial way to the benefit of all the residents of this county. We therefore herein delegate certain specific powers and duties for the government of this county and reserve to the people all powers and duties not so delegated."  The content of this Article is drawn from the following sources: Article I, Section 1 of the Oregon Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Preamble and Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

            Secondly, we must make the people's representation reflect the different perspectives of different areas of this county and make them more accountable. This will be accomplished by the seven-district system of election for the Board of County Commissioners contained in Article IV.

            You would see as you read it, that the districting process has been designed to prevent what happened when a three-district system of election was used previously for the Board of County Commissioners. Last time the Illinois Valley and the Williams-Provolt-Murphy areas ended up in the same district; this time they could not. Last time the city of Grants Pass had a substantial number of voters in the majority of the districts; this time they would not. 'Secret' meetings and hanky-panky is more prevalent the smaller the size of the governing body. The advantages would far outweigh the incidental cost of four additional county commissioners, and besides, we would reduce their salaries under the revised charter so that seven at $30K each with no benefits really would cost us less than three do now w/ $70K each wages before benefits.  

            If you were dissatisfied with the policies and practices of the current Board of County Commissioners, what could you do? If you recall one of them, the other two appoint his replacement. Would this alter the current situation? It would merely be blowing off steam. But, if the current three commissioners (or a different three if one or more of the positions change hands in the November elections) were to become merely three out of seven commissioners, each accountable to a geographic district, that would alter the current situation. If one, two, three or even four of those seven were subsequently recalled, the remaining commissioners would have a quorum to do business, while vacancies would be filled by special elections in their districts.

            The third ingredient in this All-American apple pie is in Article VI, which gives us the privilege of saying an unqualified "no" to a candidate we don't like. We will also be able to express our approval for more than one candidate in the same race for a given office. Currently we only vote "no" by voting for someone else whom we also may not like. How often have you had to say "no" to someone by saying, "yes" to someone else? How often have you agonized over which was your best choice to vote for in a race that was fragmented by multiple candidates, more than one of them good?  This procedure would make that a thing of the past!

            Next, we deal with money management.  We all feel that the employer has the right to set the salary for his employees, but our public servants have attempted to evade this right, even in the face of a vote of the people. There is a way around a good-old-boy local judge's decision that budgetary matters were administrative and not subject to the legislative process. By saying in Article X that the Board shall adopt by ordinance a consolidated budget for this county, we declare it to be a legislative process, and by further saying that the salary and benefits received by all elected officials of this county, not just the commissioners, shall be subject to the ordinance-making power of the people, we further assert our rights to determine these matters. Under this revision, the county's budget can be referred to the people for their approval or rejection in the absence of a levy.

            Article VIII would give Voter-approved ordinances higher standing than Board-approved ordinances, requiring a unanimous vote of the seven commissioners for their modification.

            Under Article IX, all taxation would require voter-approval. Permits cannot be required unless voter-approved, and their cost is limited to the cost of the permit process. 

            Finally, If this proposed revision were to be adopted, we would have a coherent statement of the powers delegated to county government and its duties, coupled with a partial enumeration of the rights of the people. Unlisted rights are also protected. Property rights are particularly protected by a provision on land use planning contained in Article XI. The concept of innocent until proven guilty would be upheld; the division of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government would be reinforced; and it would take enforcement out of the hands of the bureaucrats. A bill of rights provision would restrict voting on levies to those who are going to pay the tax. Juries would be instructed in their right to judge both the law and the facts. In short, there is a great deal to commend it. If you read nothing else in my proposed revision, you should read Article XII, entitled Declaration of Rights and Restrictions.

            In conclusion, there is a comprehensive glossary in Article XIII giving the meaning of key terms used in the proposed revision so that those enforcing it cannot misconstrue them.

            Please contact me for a petition to sign or to volunteer for gathering of signatures to qualify the proposed revision for the ballot. We need a minimum of 2664 signatures to place this on the ballot. We have until February 28, 2014 to gather them, but we would like to get them by August 8, 2012.

            Contributions to ABC PAC would also be helpful for the printing and mailing expenses that this campaign will incur. (Be sure to include a statement of occupation or employer with any contributions sent.) You are entitled under the current tax and election laws of this state to take a tax credit of up to $50 each year for contributions made to support measures and qualified candidates that will appear on the ballot in the State of Oregon, and couples filing jointly can take a tax credit of up to $100. 

 

ABC PAC, 745 NE 12th Street, Grants Pass 97526 jackbrown@jackbrown.org (541)659-4313

Proposed Revised Josephine County Charter  *  (my home page) *  Current Josephine County Charter

promo materials to download and print:

3 handouts.pdf         Trifold.pdf