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OR: Rugged times for the timber counties

Early results are showing results sure to make a lot of local government people – and a lot of business people, civic leaders and others too – cringe:

The public safety levy in Josephine County is failing, decisively, with 57% of the vote.

We wrote about this one in a post on May 11, and why this is more than just another local tax levy. Briefly, Josephine (the seat is Grants Pass) is one of those counties heavily reliant on federal timber money which is now, largely, gone. Several other counties nearby, including Curry and Coos, are in a similar boat.

Josephine (and Curry, and Coos) do have the lowest property tax rates in Oregon, so that might suggest where some replacement revenue might come from. Josephine backers put it in a frame that would seem to be hard to resist. County law enforcement would be cut to almost nothing without new revenue; the jail could hold hardly any prisoners. Not some liberal group but a conservative Republican state legislator (Wally Hicks) and local Republican elected officials were helping lead the effort to pass a small-scale tax increase that would be dedicated exclusively to law enforcement. Quite a bit of the local business community, and other activists, seem to have signed on.

But 57% thought otherwise. Might be interesting to see what they think, say a year from now, about what their decision has wrought – not only for themselves but also, likely, for Curry and Coos.

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