Money is running out for O & C counties. County Commissioner Doug Robertson of Douglas County, led the press conference at the Jackson County Courthouse on August 22, seeking support for HR 1526, currently in the house and expected to pass to the senate in September. HR 1526 would, according to information released from Rep. Greg Walden, create jobs, provide revenues to failing Oregon counties, help sustain the local manufacturing base, save the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars, and protect water, fish, and old growth timber.
The plan was approved by the House Natural Resources committee as part of a larger forestry bill, the Restoring Healthy Forests For Healthy Communities Act (H. R. 1526). The bill renews the federal government’s commitment to manage federal forests for the benefit of rural communities, improves forest health, and helps prevent catastrophic wildfires like the ones burning around Oregon.
Robertson introduced commissioners from Jackson County (John Rachor), Josephine County (Simon Hare), District Attorneys from the counties and the sheriff of the affected counties; each of the latter telling stories of their inability to prosecute criminals because of lack of funds.
Each of the sheriffs told a tale of having no deputies to adequately police their territory; with Josephine County’s storied lack of funds and deputies to handle calls. Particularly sad is the story of crime victims having to wait while a deputy must travel between 50 and 100 miles to answer a call, because they are the closest vehicle to the scene.
Law enforcement activities make up the majority of the counties expenditures, and when cuts happen there, it is not criminals that suffer, but the public, the victims of the crimes.
Commissioner Hare of Josephine County perhaps nailed it when he said that these counties are not looking for a welfare check. His county is suffering from a 12 percent unemployment rate, meaning that one of every eight workers is without a job. Those figures are skewed because many have given up looking and therefore are not counted in the statistic.
Hare said that there are currently more trees than at any time in the history of the State of Oregon and the objective should be to manage timber for harvest and for healthy forests. He said, “We don’t have another two years to find a solution. H. R. 1526 is a step in the right direction.”