At a forum on August 19 hosted by Jackson County Republican Women, the two Republican candidates for Jackson County Commissioner, John Rachor and Don Skundrick, showed they had their own ideas on how they would run the county if elected. Both agreed, however, jobs are what are needed to get the economy going.
During opening statements, both candidates said they are businessmen who have the knowledge to run the county. Rachor revealed he recently sold his Burger King franchises to devote all of his time to the position of commissioner which he will run like a business. Skundrick said he partially disagreed with Rachor’s position. He feels the job is also about giving back to the community and not just about business.
A buzzword in government circles is transparency and a discussion of open meeting laws found both candidates expressing the pros and cons of Oregon law. Skundrick said that commissioners have been put into straight jackets. On non-agenda items the commissioners can take input but cannot carry on a conversation with the speaker so there is no dialog. As a result public input has almost been silenced. The only subjects that can be discussed at public meetings are items on the agenda.
Rachor feels Jackson County does a good job with public input of five minutes per speaker. He has a problem, however, with executive sessions during commissioner work sessions. He would like to see candidates allowed to sit in those sessions to learn the issues so they are prepared when they take office.
Both candidates agreed on the status quo of three commissioners rather than upping the number to five or seven as has been suggested by citizens. Three makes for easy assembling of a quorum and there is less dissension. In a discussion about elected officials such as county clerk, surveyor and sheriff, Skundrick expressed concern those officials do not answer to their budgets but rather to voters.
Jobs were on the minds of Rachor and Skundrick and both would like to see a business friendly valley. The commissioners have a tremendous impact in setting the course of where the county is going and can set public sentiment, said Skundrick. Rachor is pushing for development of Biomass and would like to see a sustainable valley. He would also like to draw Chinese tourists to Jackson County to boost the economy.
Rather than concentrating on bringing new businesses to Jackson County, Skundrick would like to see expansion of current businesses. This could be done through the creation of tax incentives and enterprise zones to encourage expansions. Agreeing with Skundrick and adding his opinion, Rachor said, “Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.” He cited Measure 67 that increased business taxation.
In answer to a question from the audience, both men feel there is a future in the exportation of finished lumber products. Rachor said we are in the front of a turnaround and that even those against logging are changing. Skundrick said when the lumber industry slowed, the middle class was lost. He would like to rebuild the industry and replicate the middle class. He warned the audience the lumber industry will never be what it was.
When it comes to the economy, Rachor said recovery is not going to be quick. He wishes that stimulus funds had been used to help people keep their houses instead of losing them to foreclosure. Building consumer and business confidence is the biggest challenge ahead, he said. Consumer confidence creates spending, with more jobs and a healthier economy as a result.
Skundrick who used the phrase, “jobs, jobs, jobs” several times during the forum said job loss is shrinking the county’s tax base. He added that stable funding to meet the needs of fellow citizens is the long term challenge.
When it comes to Regional Problem Solving, Skundrick and Rachor again had a difference of opinion. Skundrick believes in RPS. He would like to see Senate Bill 100 repealed or massaged to give the county greater control over its land. He said he believes in job growth and land is needed to create sustainable jobs.
Rachor sees RPS coming to a deadlock. When something is approved, he said, 1,000 Friends of Oregon are sitting there ready to sue. His concern is that RPS is taking good farmland and converting it to other uses. And open areas used for a buffer zone between cities is locking up even more land.
And of course when it comes to business someone had to ask when Medford will get a Trader Joe’s. Not anytime soon was the answer. However, Skundrick left the audience with some hope, however, when he said his sources tell him the next Trader Joe’s will be built in Medford. The only question is—when?
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent