It is time for an updated structure of Jackson County government – one that works for all of its residents. The status quo practically guarantees the election of a non-representative governing body. The outdated system is not working for many of the residents who live and work in Jackson County. The voters can change that through ballot initiatives.
What do we propose?
Filing day - Al Densmore,
Dr. Denise Krause, Dr. Dave Gilmour
Ballot Measure #1 Jackson County Commissioners to be Non-Partisan
Change the position of Jackson County commissioner from partisan to non-partisan.
Presently, the Commissioner position is our only local elected office that is partisan. County Clerk, Assessor, District Attorney, Justice of the Peace, Sheriff, and Surveyor are all non-partisan, as are all city council members, mayors, school board members, and board members of all special districts.
This will also allow non-affiliated voters, who comprise the largest segment of Jackson County voters, to participate in the primary election. All taxpayers pay for primary elections, but many cannot vote in them because they are non-affiliated or don’t belong to major parties that run candidates. With primaries no longer held along party lines, winning candidates will feel more accountable to all voters.
Ballot Measure #2 Increase the Number of Jackson County Commissioners
Increase the number of commissioners from three to five. Jackson County has had three elected commissioners since before 1900, when its population was 13,698. The current population is 223,259!
In 1978, Home Rule added an appointed County Administrator to manage the day-to-day operations of running our county. Our County Commissioners now set policy, act in a "quasi judicial" role in land use matters, and act as intermediaries between their constituents and the County government.
For the average citizen, the third role is by far the most important. By increasing the number of Commissioners from three to five, it will be much easier to connect with a Commissioner by phone, online or in person. It will also be easier to find a Commissioner who may become your advocate when you have issues with our County.
The effectiveness of a three-member governing board is further reduced because of Oregon Public Meetings Law. Since two members are considered a quorum, commissioners cannot meet with one another to discuss County business and must rely on the non-elected County Administrator to act as intermediary.
Ballot Measure #3 Decrease the Salaries of Jackson County Commissioners
Jackson County commissioners are the highest paid commissioners in Oregon. They make more than the Commissioners of the six Oregon counties that have a population greater than ours. They even make more than Oregon's Governor!
Yet every year their salaries increase by both Cost of Living and by years of service while few of the people they serve have such generous increase in salaries or wages.
To fix this, we recommend that the current total salaries of the present three commissioners be divided five ways for the proposed five commissioner positions. Our citizens will get five for the price of three! Commissioner salaries will go down significantly, but their salaries will become more comparable to the salaries of Commissioners in other Oregon counties with similar demographics.
To prevent future "wage creep," we recommend that future increases (or decreases) be indexed to average wages within Jackson County.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is Jackson County Commissioner a partisan position?
Currently, it is a partisan position, although, over three-quarters of Oregon counties have already changed to non-partisan positions, including Douglas, Klamath, and most recently, Deschutes Counties. In Jackson County, every other elected office is elected on a nonpartisan ballot – Assessor, County Clerk, District Attorney, Justice of the Peace, Sheriff, and Surveyor.
When would this appear on the ballot?
If all the signatures are obtained and delivered according to election guidelines, these ballot measures will appear on the November 2024 ballot.
What do current Jackson County commissioners do?
They approve the county budget and the sheriff’s budget. They attend other board and commission meetings and they serve the ceremonial functions of the County. The day-to-day operations and management of the County is handled by the County Administrator, with oversight by the County Commissioners. Because of Oregon’s Public Meetings Law, communications between individual commissioners is limited, making their oversight ineffective.
What should the Jackson County commissioners do?
In the past, Jackson County commissioners were responsible for overseeing the county’s management and administration, but in 1980, Jackson County Commissioners hired a County Administrator and passed those responsibilities to the County Administrator, making their jobs significantly easier, thus no longer justifying being the highest paid county commissioners in Oregon.
What limits the effectiveness of the Board of Commissioners?
Current commissioners have served 23 years between them with no term limits. Under the current partisan system, they are not accountable to a majority of Jackson County voters, and they are supported by corporate interests through political action committees (PACs). As a result, they have little incentive to work for many of the people of Jackson County, who they are elected to represent.
Why is this a problem?
Residents of Jackson County who cannot vote in our partisan primary election (non-affiliated voters) have no representation by elected officials. Without accountability to the citizenry, commissioners have missed opportunities that would benefit Jackson County. With the security and longevity of the current office holders, it has become easy for them to be reluctant to take on challenges that could make a meaningful difference for our County.
Why do we need more county commissioners?
The population of Jackson County has grown significantly enough to warrant expanding the Board to five commissioners. Most city councils and other boards have five or seven members. This matters because of Oregon's Public Meetings Law. Under this Law, with only three commissioners, they cannot legally talk with each other about county business. Two commissioners talking is considered a quorum. This reduces the effectiveness of the Board. Having five commissioners would allow commissioners to communicate with one another and not be solely reliant on the County Administrator as intermediary.
What does it take for this campaign to be successful?
We need to collect about 10,000 signatures of Jackson County residents, ages 18 and older. The State of Oregon allows TWO years to collect signatures for citizens’ initiatives. Jackson County tightened that law to require signatures be turned in within ONE year. Ballot measures can be put on the ballot directly by the commissioners. Otherwise, the alternative is to pursue this as initiative petitions and deliver the signatures within the given time period.
These measures are supported by the following former Jackson County Commissioners:
John Rachor 2011-2015
Dave Gilmour 2003-2011
Sue Kupillas 1989-2005
Jeff Golden 1987-1991
Peter Sage 1981-1985
Carol N. Doty 1977-1979
Jon Deason 1973-1977 and 1979-1983