In November 2011, the Curry Coastal Pilot published a seven-part series of stories about Curry County’s financial crises. One of those stories focused on potential cuts to public services, including law enforcement if a reliable, long-term funding wasn’t found.
At that time Sheriff John Bishop painted a dire picture of the future that included the early release of prisoners and less deputies patrolling our communities.
Today, nearly one year later, that prediction has become a reality. The details are in today’s lead story.
For the last year there has been little progress – by state and county officials – to resolve the crisis. This has left Bishop no choice but to release inmates and pull road and parole deputies from street patrols and into the overcrowded jail.
While some residents will be surprised by this turn of events, we are not. We saw it coming, thus our multiple efforts to make Curry County residents and officials aware of the crisis and possible consequences.
Behind all this is the loss of federal timber payments, which Curry and many of Oregon’s rural counties have depended on for decades. To their credit, a delegation of Oregon’s congressional leaders have successfully obtained extensions of the timber money in recent years, but there’s no getting around the fact that money is or will soon be gone for good.
Also, we now have two lame duck county commissioners in office, no plans to ask voters to approve a public safety tax, and the results of efforts under way at the state and federal level are several years off.
Residents have every right to be worried.
And let us not forget the impact that the perception of lawlessness in Curry County will have on tourism and new business recruitment.
The truth is, Curry County is lost in the wilderness, and Bishop’s announcement this week offers little hope that help of any kind is on its way.