Andre Bay

Everyone agrees Curry County doesn’t have a spending problem, but a revenue problem. What realistic, long-term, permanent solutions do you propose to backfill a typical $1 million shortfall in the general fund?

I would urge revisiting funds allocated to our districts and encourage long-term tax or fee options that don’t put the responsibility solely on property owners. I once heard an idea to tax toilet paper — certainly worthy of discussion. Everyone uses it and it doesn’t alienate. Bring back the transient lodging tax and afford the citizens a few town halls so that they understand such a tax would not be a burden to their already-strapped budgets.

What about Airbnb? Another untapped revenue potential. Maybe a higher property tax for property owners with second homes in Curry County that reside out of state or county. I believe diversifying where those funds come from makes us less reliant on one source.

We have not had consistent economic development efforts for a couple of years now. That needs to be stabilized, consistent and kept in house.

We need to look at land-use policies and responsibly plan long-term to engage developers and entrepreneurs in a sustainable market for tourism, recreation and rural development. You cannot build a healthy community without alleviating poverty, building macroeconomic stability, environmental management, governance and institution.

If we work together to stabilize our workforce, infrastructure, governance and law enforcement, the outcome would surely produce a benefit of social reform. I believe we need to have stable representation of Curry County at the state level to advocate for our unique and rural area. I have seen firsthand, what our communities are capable of when we come together for the greater good of the citizens of Curry County and make hard decisions that benefit our livelihood.

This is an important question, as it will require a commissioner to have boots on the ground, listening to the people with an open mind and taking action. Not just talking about it or waiting for the latest scientific study to be published.

If none of these work, where do you propose cuts be made? Be specific.

The first cuts that should be made are the massive waves of outsourcing that have left us disconnected and broke.

Other than that, I don’t support cuts. In fact, we should be expanding on services. The citizens of Curry County deserve to have commissioners in place that proactively ensure cuts to critical services are not made. That is their number one responsibility. When we elect commissioners whose priorities are not in the best interest of the taxpayers in maintaining services and income, we sink.

Then it takes the attention of the governor to throw the life raft of a letter, encouraging the use of road funds to sustain law enforcement. Initially, I was opposed to using road funds to support the dire financial situation of Curry County. However, Gov. (Kate) Brown has made it clear that it is necessary.

It may be our only option until we can elect the candidate that will be proactive in working with other commissioners to financially stabilize Curry County.

What should be done in the face of the upcoming fire season? Talking with the Forest Service ends up being a federal discussion, District Ranger Tina Lanier is leaving the area and science regarding mega-fire behavior is in flux. What can be done immediately?

The county government, as a whole, should collaborate with the local fire service designations, Emergency Services, law enforcement agencies and vested environmental groups, to name a few, to spearhead the support of consistent efforts to streamline a plan of action.

For too long now, we’ve given up the management of the forests in our backyard to a higher governance that doesn’t take pride or ownership of such an incredible, sustainable resource.

Our forests are where we work, play and live and grow. We need to take a stand and reclaim responsibility for our lands, wholly. The state and national resources should be in place to support the local front line, not swoop in, take over and let her burn.

Very few issues have been addressed in the past several years at the county level. Which ones do you think need top priority in the next five years? The economy? Homelessness? Crime? Economic development? Tourism?

The economy, law enforcement, social stability and economic development are all top priority. The citizens are very vocal in what they would like to see prioritized. A few years back, a countywide survey was published in an effort to understand the priorities of our citizens at a deeper level. To understand some priorities were higher than others. Citizens quit sharing their ideas when leaders refuse to listen. It’s a wasted effort, if the citizens number one priority is law enforcement through the sheriff’s office and a year later, we stand status quo. It is time to listen to our neighbors, our children and our elders to steer our decisions in the direction of our best interest.

What are your thoughts about consolidation of departments countywide, i.e.: police departments into one county-wide agency or library, school, fire and other districts into one large agency? How would you go about accomplishing this, if you think it’s the way to go?

I would encourage the development of a study group of stakeholders to analyze and disseminate why any consolidations would be of benefit. It is amazing to me when agencies come to the table, unpack what resources and tools they have to work with and how much benefit comes from sharing with others doing the same. If the agencies or districts involved, along with the services required for the citizens found it would be a fiscal and uniform benefit, it should be considered and the decision taken to the citizens of Curry County.

Having these discussions may also bring an unexpected, yet greatly anticipated result of collaboration, unity and teamwork. For too long now, the public has repeatedly begged for changes in the focus of priorities of the current board of commissioners as a whole. It is time to give the power and voice of reason back to those that ultimately matter most — the citizens of Curry County; in honor of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Jan Barbas

Everyone agrees Curry County doesn’t have a spending problem, but a revenue problem. What realistic, long-term, permanent solutions do you propose to backfill a typical $1 million shortfall in the general fund?

I favor using a number of small measures.

Let’s start by giving our voters the option to approve a revised transient lodging tax (hotel bed tax). Although state law requires that 70 percent go to tourism promotion or tourism related facilities, the other 30 percent could fund two or three deputies for the sheriff. I will lobby in Salem for counties to get a share of all new state revenues.

Additionally, we need to go to Salem to work for relief from restrictions on the ways we can raise revenue, how we can use our revenues and other one-size fits all regulations.

With hard work, great communication and teamwork we can stabilize this budget.

If none of these work, where do you propose cuts be made? Be specific.

It’s not necessarily a choice between permanent long-term solutions and immediate catastrophic cuts. We just got word that two years of federal SRS funding are coming, the governor is advocating use of the road fund, and there are any number of other temporary solutions that can forestall a disaster.

We need to use the time we have to think outside the box. We need to fund more services, not less. For example, 24/7 sheriff services.

It is too early to say precisely what we would need to do if we are confronted by the horrible reality of needing to make more severe cuts. I am hoping we are at least two years from that point. Should it ever come to pass, if the situation hasn’t changed much, it will likely be a choice between the jail or everything else. This is because the jail is essentially an all or none operation that consumes well over $1 million a year.

What should be done in the face of the upcoming fire season? Talking with the Forest Service ends up being a federal discussion, District Ranger Tina Lanier is leaving the area and science regarding mega-fire behavior is in flux. What can be done immediately?

We need to start working on science-based solutions to produce healthier, more fire-resistant forests that support clean water, salmon and wildlife.

The recently passed federal budget puts an end to “fire-borrowing,” which was the practice of diverting the forest management budget to fight fires. Now, the forest service will have funds to resume management practices. But, remediating our neglected forests will take time.

The most effective immediate steps are those we take ourselves to ensure that we are Firewise. This means taking care of vulnerabilities in our homes and on our property.

In the longer term, we should look at programs like the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative that operates cooperative projects like the one featured in The Pilot on Feb. 27, regarding Ashland. The collaborative is working to thin and perform controlled burning on a million acres of the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest.

We should also consider enhancing voluntary programs to ensure homes and other structures are located and built for fire resistance.

Very few issues have been addressed in the past several years at the county level. Which ones do you think need top priority in the next five years? The economy? Homelessness? Crime? Economic development? Tourism?

We need real living-wage jobs, affordable housing, stable county government with 24/7 sheriff’s patrol, safer and healthier forest and better health care. Each of these is a pillar without which our communities crumble, so we need to work on them all — and we can’t afford to fail.

We need good jobs. Too many of our working-age people are struggling. I want to see the county kick-start its economic development efforts and get the Curry County Enterprise Zone in place, along with other economic incentives.

We need better and more affordable homes. The price of housing is rising and outpacing wages. Our working-age families are being forced out. We need to work with our community partners such as ORCCA, Neighborworks Umpqua, the Curry Homeless Coalition, the tribes and our cities to improve access to sound housing. The county and cities can help by approving accessory dwelling units and tiny houses.

We need to stabilize the county’s budget to ensure that we can continue to deliver the bedrock services on which you depend. I am speaking of public safety, recording, elections and roads. General fund revenues have been falling for two decades.

We need better protection from forest fires. I want to see science-based approaches to forest management that improve fire resilience and improve habitat for our wildlife and salmon. We also need to consider building our homes and maintaining our properties to a higher standard of fire resistance.

We need to solve our health care crisis. We need a hospital that can deliver a baby and a health network that can provide maternity care. We need an emergency room in Brookings.

We need to serve our veterans better, and we need better mental health care.

What are your thoughts about consolidation of departments countywide, i.e.: police departments into one countywide agency or library, school, fire and other districts into one large agency? How would you go about accomplishing this, if you think it’s the way to go?

We have a lot of districts and my thoughts have evolved as I have come to learn more about the way they operate.

It’s easy to say that they would be more efficient as fewer and larger entities, but I haven’t seen any studies or backup to suggest that this is true. Sometimes big organizations become unwieldy. It is likely there would be more effective community oversight of fewer districts, and the difficulty of recruiting board members would be reduced. These were my first thoughts when I learned that about 94 percent of our property tax goes to districts and cities.

On the other hand, each of these entities was created by an act of the voters to serve a specific purpose. Many are uniquely crafted to serve a very local need. Would a county-wide library district have built branches in Langlois or Agness, for instance? Would a county-wide port district operate a harbor with no moorage in Port Orford? Yet, to their communities these are incredibly important enterprises. So, with respect to the districts, I have come to respect that these are local decisions and not a matter for the county.

Sheriff Ward and the city of Brookings continue to work on a 911 consolidation that could save significant money that could then go towards much-needed tower replacement. I support their efforts.

It is also possible that the combination of police and sheriff forces could have value. It would be a very difficult undertaking and require significant study and negotiation.

All five of our libraries have already joined a coastal consortium and are sharing resources and lending in a near-seamless manner.

Jeri Lynn Thompson

Everyone agrees Curry County doesn’t have a spending problem, but a revenue problem. What realistic, long-term, permanent solutions do you propose to backfill a typical $1 million shortfall in the general fund?

First of all, let’s take a look at where our tax money goes. The reality is much of what homeowners pay on their tax bill doesn’t make it to the county. Why? There are dozens of special tax districts in Curry County; many have been “on the books” for decades.

Are they getting money that could be used elsewhere? So, short-term I’d look at the legal options regarding special districts, which again, take the largest components of property taxes and reallocate some of those funds. And let’s look to programs that we can consolidate replicate.

The City of Brookings generates hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for the city by a tax on lodging within the city limits. This tax is something I think we should implement in the county. I think of it as a Tourist Tax.

The city of Brookings also generates hundreds of thousands of dollars with four-cent per gallon tax on fuel. This is something we should also consider for the county.

There are other possibilities, including combining services when possible. We have three separate school districts serving roughly 2,000 students. Can we combine the districts, saving salaries and fringe benefits?

How about federal and state dollars? There are many programs available which aren’t even on the county radar which could mean a huge difference to our citizens. I believe the road fund should be used only in dire emergency.

So there really isn’t one “permanent” solution to our budget shortfall, but if we work together and start thinking outside of the traditional “box” we can meet and reach both short-term and long-term goals, as well as increase revenue from sources other than Curry County property owners.

If none of these work, where do you propose cuts be made? Be specific.

I don’t propose cuts. We’ve cut down to the proverbial bone.

We need creative ways to generate money, and ways to reallocate the money the county collects. We want a way to generate money that doesn’t increase costs to the homeowners in this county. It’s not fair to them.

I believe we can and should share the burden of running Curry County with the people who use our resources with a program I call “a dime on the dollar.” A 10 percent tax on restaurant meals has already been successfully implemented in other cities. Tourists eat multiple meals per day while visiting here. I strongly believe we are not taking advantage of our tourism resources and believe we can raise significant dollars for Curry County without raising taxes on our residents.

What should be done in the face of the upcoming fire season? Talking with the Forest Service ends up being a federal discussion, District Ranger Tina Lanier is leaving the area and science regarding mega-fire behavior is in flux. What can be done immediately?

The Chetco Bar Fire made a violent impact on me and my family. We were directly in its path; we lost buildings and memories, and it affected us, not just during that terrible month but I see the results of the mistakes made in the Chetco Bar Fire every single day.

The drive to my home is along miles of charred trees, scarred hillsides and dead forest. The fire is still very much on the top of my mind. That’s why the very first call I made after the flames were out was to Alan Vandiver, a forest service veteran with 44 fire seasons under his belt.

I wanted to know why certain decisions were made, why our local people were not listened to, and how we can make changes now that will help reduce the chances of another fire like this one.

The federal government has a place, but I believe in local power, and that’s why I want to gather experts, stakeholders and people with traditional knowledge to work together to find a way that works the best for our community. We need science-based, not emotionally-based decisions here.

We also need to listen to the past. Before fires, the native population traditionally cleared brush, reducing the fuel and opportunity for fires to grow. Thoughtful examination of the how and why of the Chetco Bar Fire, including ways to bring the forest back to its health and helping the Chetco River to recover is my plan.

Very few issues have been addressed in the past several years at the county level. Which ones do you think need top priority in the next five years? The economy? Homelessness? Crime? Economic development? Tourism?

I believe that cost-effective, quality health care is Curry County’s biggest issue. We can’t and don’t heal our own sick. What’s more, you can trace a myriad of public issues to an absence of healthcare.

People are foreclosed on because of medical bills; that creates a homeless population. Many homeless people suffer from mental health issues, substance abuse issues and physical health problems.

Some 75 percent of the crime here in Curry County, including domestic violence and child neglect/abuse can be related to alcohol and drug abuse. That’s a public health issue.

Literally everything is impacted by health care. It interrelates with with tourism and crime. Many people who could be looking to Curry County for investment and development projects won’t come here without quality, cost effective, accessible health care. A good, reliable health care system is one of the basic building blocks of a community. It’s a basic requirement for folks who live here and who want to live here.

I have been a member of the South Curry Healthcare Alliance for years, and am committed to bringing quality, affordable healthcare to all of Curry County.

What are your thoughts about consolidation of departments countywide, i.e.: police departments into one county-wide agency or library, school, fire and other districts into one large agency? How would you go about accomplishing this, if you think it’s the way to go?

I believe in consolidation and collaboration between departments.

We need to be creative and think outside of the box. I believe the school districts need consolidation, but the school boards should maintain geographic representation. We need representatives from each area of the county in multiple agencies and we need to examine new alternatives.

The way we’ve done things in the past is not working for us today, especially when it comes to law enforcement. We have multiple agencies operating within the county and I’m not sure how much coordination there is within these entities.

We sometimes create barriers where none exist. Is it possible to have a “liaison” officer who coordinates among between the different law enforcement agencies? That way each contributes to that officer’s salary, saving dollars.

How about public/private partnerships? I also believe we need more collaboration between the tribal government and the county. Two governmental agencies who care about the people who live here can work together to make life better for all of us who live in Curry County.

Christopher Paasch

Everyone agrees Curry County doesn’t have a spending problem, but a revenue problem. What realistic, long-term, permanent solutions do you propose to backfill a typical $1 million shortfall in the general fund?

It’s not one easy fix here. It will be a series of small fixes. I won’t stand for the people who invested their money in homes and business in this county to bear the burden alone. Everyone who comes to Curry County uses the resources of the county and everyone should share in the cost to meet the financial shortfall. Some ideas might be retry the lodging tax or a gas tax that everyone contributes to. Bringing back economic development to bring business and jobs to the county is imperative to a healthy and vibrant economy. Continue to beat the drum for federal dollars to mitigate the losses from timber and the damage to the economy and local businesses from the Chetco Bar Fire.

If none of these work, where do you propose cuts be made? Be specific.

I don’t know how many more cuts the county can sustain without rendering itself a useless government. The sheriff’s office isn’t even a 24-hour manned service to the county anymore. Do we think the crooks don’t know there is no one at the border eight hours a day?

What should be done in the face of the upcoming fire season? Talking with the Forest Service ends up being a federal discussion, District Ranger Tina Lanier is leaving the area and science regarding mega-fire behavior is in flux. What can be done immediately?

I along with a group of citizens including Commissioner Court Boice and Jeri Thompson to name a few started a group called Curry Wildfire Prevention several months ago to begin the process to deal with that very issue. We hope to get a seat at the table on how the next fire will be fought and have a sheriff that will along with commissioners and knowledgeable local citizens who will help craft those policies. There are unique circumstances here with the Chetco winds and humidity that the people who don’t live here don’t understand and in my opinion came about one day, if the winds didn’t change, from costing the City of Brookings/Harbor and its citizens dearly.

Very few issues have been addressed in the past several years at the county level. Which ones do you think need top priority in the next five years? The economy? Homelessness? Crime? Economic development? Tourism?

All of the above. Firstly, you need capital to pay bills. Without economic development and a solid job infrastructure it all collapses. That creates homelessness. Most people are only a month or so of unemployment from being unable to pay their bills. That leads to ways to pay those bills re: crime and drugs. We need to secure good jobs in the county through economic development and bringing jobs to the county. Developing our ports into thriving businesses. Making our parks, world class rivers, fishing and tourism the first page of everyone’s to-do list. We need to find affordable housing and look to remove some of the stifling restrictions to build more of that housing here in Curry. I spoke with someone a few weeks ago to bring a 30- to 40-job business here to Curry County and about all the tax savings that would save them and their answer was “there isn’t anywhere to house their families.” That is a problem you can’t get them over.

What are your thoughts about consolidation of departments countywide, i.e.: police departments into one county-wide agency or library, school, fire and other districts into one large agency? How would you go about accomplishing this, if you think it’s the way to go?

Consolidation in a county like Curry would be very difficult. The county is very long. Providing good service to everyone would be more expensive that continuing it on a more local level. I continue to voice my opinion that leaders are beating the wrong drum. There aren’t too many departments and yes overstaffing is a waste. First we need to make sure we have the needed departments to make the county succeed. We need to make sure the people hired in their respective departments are the best qualified for that job and are given the resources to do that job. Part of our job as commissioners is to make sure the people in their respective departments are doing their jobs to the fullest. Curry County can and will rise out of this and be the vibrant shining star it once was.

Voting deadlines

Last day to register: April 24. Register online at www.co.curry.or.us/government/county_clerk/forms_and_publications.php

First ballots mailed: April 25

Election Day: May 15

Editor’s Note: Four candidates have filed for Curry County Commmissioner Position 1, currently held by Tom Huxley. Each candidate was presented with the same five questions and asked to email their responses. All answers are their replies.

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