New Property Tax Levy Burns on Sheriffís Lap
John Taft Investigative Reporter Ed/Op
Grants Pass, OREGON (11-7-04) -- On November 2nd, Josephine County (JoCo) voters turned out in large numbers to defeat another attempt to place a new property tax on family homes. Over 61 percent of the voters gave a resounding slap in the face to the elected officials of the JoCo Criminal Justice System and an appointed undersheriff, telling them not to molest their family homes. These elected men and one appointed signed a voterís pamphlet argument without using their official titles. The public has a right to know what official positions these men hold in Josephine County. These individuals are now exposed and listed as follows: 1. Clay Johnson is district attorney. 2. Dave Daniel is the sheriff. James W. Riddle is a county commissioner. 4. Brian Anderson is the newly appointed undershirt (undersheriff) for Josephine County. Each gave his endorsement of this new property tax without calling for any oversight of the Criminal Justice Systemís (CJS) methods and sentencing guidelines for prosecuting and jailing individuals. This issue was brought to their attention at a meeting of law enforcement, city, and county officials by a public defender (LIPSIC). So these men knew what they should have done, but gambled on a spin of the lazy wheel of chance. They ignored the problems resident in the CJS , and came out looking like bungling amateurs running a multimillion dollar CJS. The numbers back this statement up. The voters have spoken to Sheriff Daniel, DA Johnson, and Commissioner Riddle.
Air bag of Arrogance
A Political Action Committee named Friends Protecting Family Homes had an opposing argument against the proposed property tax in the voterís pamphlet. Their article stated, "We donít need more jail beds, we need a more efficient criminal justice system." This article will present a case history of jail sentencing showing flaws in the CJS. The fact is, we have arrogant judges in Josephine County that hide behind black robes, black hearts, and blackout information. These same judges gladly trip over their robes in order to promote a self-serving agenda. Judge Gerald Neufeld doesnít return phone calls unless you can scratch his back. The soon to be new District Attorney, Stephen Campbell, is also a coward in this respect. The criminal justice system in Josephine County is built on an airbag of arrogance and disrespect for the people.
Pro Tax Commissioner Candidates Lose Election
Friends Protecting Family Homes also stated that, "Any commissioner candidate that supports a jail tax levy that taxes your home doesnít deserve your vote." Voters appeared to take this statement to heart. Four candidates ran for the office of commissioner on November 2nd. Commissioner Jim Brock endorsed a jail property tax and lost. Sheryl Walker endorsed the tax on family homes and lost. Dwight Ellis said he would not vote for the jail tax and won. Jim Raffenburg who said he would personally support the tax but would not ask others to do so also won election. Commissioner James Riddle, not up for election, voted to place the jail tax on the ballot and supported the tax. Friends Protecting Family Homes believes that Riddle is not user friendly to family home ownership, renters, the retired, and those on fixed incomes. Families have a right to be secure in their homes without additional property taxation and the ever-present threat of foreclosure. Riddle should be working to oil the rusting squeaky tin men in the criminal justice system with no hearts. Riddle and others fail to speak out when they see whatís wrong in the CJS. Previous commissioners have had this same malady.
Inept Criminal Justice System takes Blame for Crime not Voters
If there are problems that develop in the jail, or due to the early release of those accused and convicted of crimes against society, then let it be known that the fault will not lie with the voters of Josephine County for rebuking the jail tax. The fault and full responsibility will be the burden of an inept Criminal Justice System. Improper prosecution and sentencing are two problems that need a quick remedy. The Daily Courier often carriers a section called Josephine County courts. This includes the criminal courts, the convictions, and the sentences the judges hand down. The inequity of the judgesí sentencing leaps out at the reader like seeing Brittany Spears at a nunĎs convention. There seems to be no logic attached to the number of days of jail time given. Itís also highly doubtful the courthouse judges can defend this practice, hence their inaccessibility.
The following Five cases from the Josephine County Courts dated October 25th, and 28th, will illustrated this point.
Case number one is our benchmark. He received 90 days jail time for driving with a suspended license. This will cost taxpayers $5,850 for jail time. Is 90 days an efficient use of jail space for this crime?
Case number two a man received 55 days in the calaboose for a charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants and driving with a suspended license. The cost is $3,575 for jail time. Compare 55 days for under the influence to 90 days for being sober.
Case number three involves a fellow that got 45 days in the slammer for driving under the influence of intoxicants and two counts of reckless endangerment. Cost $2,925 for jail time.
Case number four did not contest a charge of second-degree sex abuse. Sentencing included 30 days in the pokey. Interestingly, he was also assessed $5,000 to cover counseling costs for the victim. Jail time costs are $1,950.
Case number five was sentenced to 60 days in the jug for supplying contraband. Jail time cost is $3,900. Whatever the contraband may have been it appears not to be as bad as driving without a license.
The Most Heinous Crime
Now, there is a tremendous disparity of jail time for the various crimes. Are the judges all off in the land of the boobies? Itís all there in the local paper for anyone to read. The most heinous crime in Josephine County from those listed is, judging by jail time is driving with a suspended license, that was 90 days. This was probably a repeat offender. But no matter, itís still jail time costing the taxpayer. Letís hope the legislature doesnít invoke the death penalty for this crime. In Josephine County driving without a drivers license is a far worse crime than second-degree sex abuse where the defendant only got 30 days in jail and was ordered to pay $5,000 for victim counseling. Could there be extenuating circumstances? If there are, DA Stephen Campbell and Judge Gerald Neufeld certainly donít want to talk about these issues. The public has a right to know. Every time the judgeís gives an ill thought out emotional sentence heís punishing the taxpayer as well as the convicted. Local judges are now being tracked on their sentencing habits, and will be exposed and named in the future as being bad judges for irrational sentencing. The judges in the Josephine County Courthouse have done as they pleased without accountability for far too many years.
Commissioners Fail to Lead the County
Whoís looking after the publicís interest in the CJS? The unsettling fact is no one. Those in the CJS wonít publicly blow the whistle on another public employee. Their attitude is us against them, them being the citizen taxpayer. They all like their steady incomes, expensive benefit packages, and cushy retirement programs. Their motto seems to be, " Go along to get along." Thatís the way itís done in Josephine County. The commissioners have failed to take the initiative in this area. All they can think to do is ask for more money by taxing family homes, and this is no longer acceptable to the voters. They are more interested in their $5,000 monthly paycheck and $20,000 annual benefit package than in an efficiently run county government.
If the two new commissioners taking office in January have what it takes, and donít bend to the hot air from the Criminal Justice System, then conditions may change for the better. And perhaps Commissioner Riddle can redeem himself from the label of being a patsy for the CJS.
John Taft can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org