Know more about your county government

Know more about your county government

Josephine County , OR. —Democracy only functions when citizens have sufficient information about their government. Yet knowing what is going on in the government is far easier said than done. Even informed citizens who try hard to get an accurate picture might only manage to get a fraction of the whole story. Plus, many information sources such as television, newspapers, radio, the internet, social media and word of mouth are pushing a political agenda.

When it comes to your county government, there is far more to the story than just politics. Here are a few examples of things that your county government has done in the last few months. Whether or not you feel this information is important, chances are after reading it you will know more about your county government than someone who only pays attention to controversial topics.

Animal Protection:

Your county government runs the Animal Protection program. This includes officers who enforce laws regarding animal safety. The county also administers the animal shelter which cares for and adopts out stray, neglected or abused animals. In 2014 the voters approved a levy to pay for the program. A short video about how your county government is spending that money is located here.

Animal Control Officers are not limited to working on cases that will lead to prosecution. The November 18, 2015 edition of The Daily Courier reported on how a black lab became dangerously tangled in blackberries next to a 15-foot vertical drop above an irrigation canal. The distraught owner called Animal Protection, which quickly sent an officer. The officer assembled a harness and helped pull the dog to safety. Due to the officer’s action, the dog was unharmed.

Also, last month (December, 2015) the County cut adoption fees in half for cats and dogs aged seven years or more in an effort to encourage people to adopt older animals. And military veterans now get a 50% discount when they adopt animals who need a home.

Stepping Up Initiative:

America’s criminal justice system is poorly equipped to handle offenders with acute mental illnesses. Many people wind up in jail not because they knowingly set out to commit a crime, but rather because something in their brain is physically imbalanced and they have sincerely lost touch with reality. Of course, the government needs to protect the community from all violent offenders. But most of the non-violent mental illness sufferers are dangerous principally to themselves. They are also dangerous to the public treasury. Let there be no doubt: inmates with acute mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are the most expensive kind. Even worse, you get the least return for your tax dollars because they are beyond traditional rehabilitation.

In December, 2015, your county joined hundreds of other counties across the state and nation in the Stepping Up Initiative. The project is designed to coordinate governmental efforts with those of private citizens and organizations who work on treating persons who suffer from acute mental illness. The specific aim is to keep such affected citizens on their meds and out of county jails. Locally the program is being led by the Circuit Court judge who oversees the Mental Health Court. The cost to the county is zero, but the savings over time could potentially be great, and the project could free up some needed jail beds.

Fire Suppression:

When the forest catches on fire – which happens often these days – your county is essential to the fire suppression effort. Interestingly, Josephine County is the only county in Oregon which owns and operates two airports. Firefighting helicopters use the Grants Pass and Illinois Valley Airports as a base for their operations. Your county has been providing this service to firefighters for many decades.

Currently, the county is negotiating with the U.S. Forest Service about building better helipads at each airport. The newer helipads would improve the Forest Service’s ability to fight dangerous wildfires. To stay updated on the latest developments surrounding this project, go to an Airport Advisory Board meeting. They occur monthly in the evenings and are open to the public.

Scandal sells, but responsible citizenship requires learning about the “rest of the story.” Feel good that you have done some of that today.

© 2016 Wally Hicks – All Rights Reserved

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Wally Hicks
Author Email: WHicks@co.josephine.or.us

Wally Hicks was sworn-in as Josephine County’s elected Legal Counsel on January 5, 2015. Prior to that he represented most of Josephine County in the Oregon House of Representatives for two terms. He has worked as a Deputy District Attorney for Josephine County and in private practice. He lives in Grants Pass with his family. E-Mail: WHicks@co.josephine.or.us


Author Email: WHicks@co.josephine.or.us