Editor's note: This is one of two parts examining commissioner candidates' positions on issues important to Jackson County. The second part will run in Thursday's paper. Ballots for the primary election go out Friday and are due back to the Elections Office by 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 15. For more information on the candidates, visit www.mailtribune.com/politics.
What are your thoughts on the county charter amendments on the May ballot?
John Beatty, D: I respect that the citizens in our community want more freedom with regard to their property. However, these amendments will not accomplish this. In particular, Measure 15-111 attempts to re-establish parts of Measure 37, which already has been essentially repealed at the state level by the passage of Measure 49. I feel strongly that these amendments will only amount to a lot of legal wrangling, at the expense of Jackson County and its taxpayers.
Doug Breidenthal, R: It is my belief it is time we make a stand and reaffirm our commitment for localized land-use laws. I believe it is important for the county to fight to restore local control of our land and our resources. The residents of Jackson County know best how to use their land and resources. This is why I support these ballot measures.
Kay Harrison, R: 15-110 would give Jackson County more of a voice over local land-use decisions. This ensures outside interests are less likely to impact our ability to live, work and prosper as a county. Measure 15-111 in many instances restores the right of landowners to use their property or be fairly compensated for the loss of its use. Both amendments restore local land-use rights. Property rights are what healthy economies are based on.
Joel Ockunzzi, R: As a Jackson County planning commissioner for the past four years, I have vigorously defended private property rights. Unfortunately, passage of measures 15-110 and 15-111 would create unfunded liability to the county and costly appeals. Higher courts have overruled lower court findings. The Board of Commissioners should revise the policies in the charter as well as amend the Comprehensive Plan for greater local control to correct zoning and provide expanded uses for rural property owners.
Colleen Roberts, R: These are citizen initiatives that I gathered signatures for. We need leadership that understands what the people want and what the Constitution provides. It is unfortunate that hard-working people have had to fight this battle where, once again, our elected officials have dropped the ball. I am in favor of both citizen initiatives 15-110 and 15-111. They are founded and supported by our U.S. and Oregon Constitution.
Jeff Scroggin, D: The first measure is only advisory; nevertheless, I do not support it. The second isn't advisory, but clearly no Oregon county can simply "opt out" of state mandated law — especially that upheld in court and by a vote of the people. I understand that what works in the Willamette Valley doesn't necessarily work in the Rogue Valley; however, this is not the remedy. The only jobs this measure will create are for lawyers.
Mark Soderstrom, D: The amendments are not to the overall advantage of the citizens of Jackson County. They would put an undue burden on an already financially stressed county budget. They may be unconstitutional. I hope they do not pass, but if they do, I would do my best as a county commissioner to enact them.
If O&C funds come through this year, do you think they should be put in the rainy-day fund or spent on improving services? Please explain.
Beatty: If O&C funds materialize, they should go toward keeping necessary services at appropriate levels until the local economy improves or services can be sustained on their own. The rainy-day fund should be used as a temporary means to fund county services in times of economic difficulty. It's good we have a rainy-day fund, but I also think it's been "raining" for several years. This is not the time to stockpile "extra" funds.
Breidenthal: These funds are uncertain and unpredictable. The responsible thing to do is to put it in the rainy-day fund. It is irresponsible to establish a budget on unpredictable federal funds. The real answer is to re-establish local control of our natural resources. This is the only way we can confidently stabilize and secure our future budgets without increased taxation.
Harrison: At this time it would be most prudent to hold on to these funds. The economic downturn is not over yet. We cannot be dependent on the federal government. All O&C counties need to work together to get the forestlands back into the local tax base. The O&C Trust Act is a compromise that may not make anyone happy. We should be insisting that the existing laws be followed.
Ockunzzi: These O&C timber payments, known as the Secure Rural Schools Act, expired in 2011. At this time the proposed extension is for one year only. I would recommend these funds be set aside for capital projects to provide or improve infrastructure, such as the post office acquisition and upgrade. This action would avoid putting a potential financial burden on already strapped taxpayers by eliminating the need to pass a bond measure to fund these projects.
Roberts: Both, but only after we do our due-diligence. As any household does first, we need to pay the bills and balance the budget. This is priority one. The county budget is more than $5 million short without these O&C funds. That said, I am equally concerned for the strength of our private sector economy; taxes and fees have become burdensome for many of our local citizens.
Scroggin: A portion should be used to augment our current rainy-day fund, thereby ensuring stability in essential county services during future economic downturns. The remaining should be used to leverage county dollars to bring in outside funds for infrastructure upgrades for rail lines, etc. Infrastructure improvements create jobs for today and tomorrow; indeed, businesses want to locate and remain where citizens invest in themselves. It demonstrates a commitment to quality of life and business.
Soderstrom: According to County Administrator Danny Jordan, the O&C funds will only be about $1 million this coming year. I would put them in the rainy-day fund to help reduce the deficit of already budgeted items. Maybe some deputy sheriff positions could be filled.