By Court Boice
Most people don’t expect news agencies, writers and the media in general to be perfect, and instead recognize that we are all human and as such are prone to occasional error. My experience with the Curry Coastal Pilot is good and I have consistently sensed their efforts to be genuine and typically accurate. When mistakes do occur they quickly address. I find Commissioner Thomas Huxley’s complaints about the Pilot to be unfortunate.
But rather than use this valuable space to fire back at Huxley and continue what has proven to be a useless exchange, I’ll choose to keep my attention on the important matters at hand for Curry County.
Of course I’m disappointed and disheartened because as a board of commissioners we have accomplished virtually nothing in the more than 18 months since I took office. Why? Because I have but one vote, and my fellow board members choose not to help.
I am not giving up however, and as I stated on Aug. 1 at the BOC general meeting, I believe we can still start anew and salvage at least part of this year and a half that has been wasted. As has been the norm, to date that offer has been met with no response.
Nonetheless, county business goes on, and I will continue to ask my fellow board members to help. Our jobs are to push problem solving, not push paper, policies, procedures, and political punishments:
Curry Citizens, the following are the 12 most critical issues I’ve been working on since January 2017. Our list is much longer of course but these are in my view the most important. It remains to be seen if the other two commissioners will work with me on these long standing issues:
•Lobster Creek fire destruction — We must help and position our county to fiercely defend and recover appropriate damages. To work with the Oregon Department of Forestry, Coos Forest Protective Association and fire investigators. Facts must be gathered and liability determined regarding this fire that occurred while the camp was occupied by The Next Generation Climate Justice Action Group sponsored by the Civil Liberties Defense Center.
•Communication towers — We must find funding for the crucial repair, maintenance and long term replacement of our horribly outdated towers. We simply cannot accept a future with any compromised radio dispatch.
•South county emergency room — We must work to find the $1.2-to-$1.4 million needed for our Curry Health Network. This simply requires funding to finally get this open. Brookings is currently the largest city in Oregon without an emergency room service facility and that is unacceptable.
•Veteran services — We must focus on Medical care, mental health care, and the respect our vets deserve. We need to work, honor and dig deep to understand their needs and our full responsibilities to them. A concerted effort to tackle these problems are opportunities to honor those who sacrificed so much and also to help bring our communities together in the process.
•Sudden Oak Death disease — We must work to find critical funding, even for a small Curry contribution. After 18 years, SOD is still spreading. In Oregon, it is still contained just in Curry County, but we simply have to keep it isolated here and stop the slow progression north into the Rogue River basin and potentially beyond.
•Federal forest and public land management changes — We must work to help amend current firefighting policies and the tragic litigation from environmental activists. It is devastating to our county and is terribly detrimental to our air and water quality, and our fish and wildlife habitat. These are among the special reasons we live here. We must fiercely protect our environment and forests, and use them as intended — for the benefit of the people, while simultaneously guarding the resources.
•Invasive species — We must do everything we can to help deal with the dreadful acceleration and spread of numerous non-native plants, including, but not limited to Pampas Grass, Himalayan Blackberries, Scotch Broom, and Gorse.
•Travel policy amendment — We must amend our current overly rigid policy and certainly add provisions for emergency situations.
•Negative Curry reputation throughout Oregon — We must work hard to repair the Curry dysfunctional image around the state and become known as a great place to work and live. Failure to do so will impede our ability to both fill key service positions, and retain valuable county employees.
•Economic development strategies — We must work to overcome the fact that we have the highest unemployment rate of all 36 Oregon Counties. We’re obligated to create a favorable atmosphere to attract new business and retain those established here and that call Curry County home.
•Respect for our employees — We must do everything possible to be reasonable and fair to both sides in any labor negotiations. We just avoided the first employee strike in Curry County history. We have to demonstrate to our staff that they have great value to us. At the same time, I’ll be responsible to remove any uncommitted and unproductive employees. Stable county services are serious business. We have lost now 92 employees since January of 2015. No company can survive that exodus long term. It’s time for new management principles, ethics and an understanding of how we got here — never to repeat.
Additional county revenue — A key element to solving most of the issues above is to secure stable and consistent fiscal resources without raising property taxes. This is our best opportunity to improve our public safety, security, quality of life and other critical issues for Curry.
I’ll roll up my sleeves and make sure the critical tasks get accomplished and that everything else is prioritized with appropriate management oversight. All of our county departments are making very good efforts and deserve support. We have 46 different taxing districts in Curry that are counting on us to be very vigilant.
If anyone has read this far and has expertise in any of the above mentioned categories, would you consider volunteering and offer your help? Please contact me at your earliest convenience at 541-247-6229.
Court Boice is a Curry County commissioner.