Candidates respond to some of the major issues
Position 3, Republican primary
Question 1: Most people would agree Jackson County has done a good job of shoring up its finances during a difficult economic time. If more belt-tightening were needed, where would you look for savings?
Question 2: What can Jackson County do to help create and retain living-wage jobs in the area?
Question 3: Do you believe Jackson County should help ensure the survival of the Southern Oregon Historical Society? Why? If your answer is yes, what steps should the county take?
Question 4: Several of Jackson County's decisions on land-use laws have been overturned by the state in recent years. How would you balance property owners' rights against the state's interpretation of land-use law?
Question 5: Concerns have been raised over the starting salary for commissioners of $90,000, a substantial increase from two years ago. What are your thoughts?
1. I would go directly and respectfully to all 47 department heads. Everyone in our county likely will have to "do more with less." We may need to combine smaller departments someday. Use administrative software to help departments become more automated. Diligently look for unnecessary payroll, duplicate expenses and travel expenses. (We have a huge motor pool that could be trimmed way back). Structure a policy that would fast-track developments through planning.
2. We can create an atmosphere in which our entrepreneurs, not government, will figure out where and how to create jobs. I will fight to find burdensome restrictions and eliminate them. If we can help business be profitable, results will be individual profitability. Not suggesting we should ignore our Rogue Valley quality-of-life treasures, but in these times, a job is worth a thousand spotted owls. I propose three new austere, but aggressive county departments: Jobs, Water Supply and Lands.
3. I am a history buff, so saying "no" is not easy, but we have a long-term revenue problem within our county. SOHS was started by caring people who kept it private, but it is no longer as high a priority. We may have to preserve historical artifacts in storage for now (hopefully only temporarily), at least until the economy recovers. Our historical budgets have been poorly run at times in the past; so another option is private company management.
4. I would vigorously fight to guide our county toward 100 percent local control. In the meantime, I think we may need to move the arguments into federal court, where the influences of Oregon politics have less impact. We are tired of Portland being in charge — they run the courts, teachers unions, etc. You can not fight them in their own arenas. Rural Oregonians also have a right to prosperity and commerce, and I intend to fiercely push that point.
5. I intend (if elected) to try and persuade my fellow commissioners to immediately accept a 20 percent pay cut. Regardless, I will voluntarily commit to that reduction. As an honored public servant, I am an innovator, not a politician. As county officials, we must send a consistent message to the people we represent: We are there to serve them, a commitment to hard work and with a humble attitude of sacrificing our own personal interests.
1. I agree that Jackson County has done a good job of shoring up its finances. If necessary more can be done. Each department would need to conduct an internal assessment in relation to its systems and programs and then cut expenses by a percentage — without considering a reduction in personnel. Non-essential services should be prioritized based on significant factors, with appropriate cuts being made as needed.
2. Broaden the education base by partnering with the college and university for the expansion of higher technology programs. The development of new educational opportunities results in a more competent, diverse workforce in traded sector industries, which is what creates wealth. We also need to promote and draw clean business to the area by modifying ordinances, correcting mis-zoned properties, lowering business-associated fees and promoting the region's cost-saving attributes.
3. Yes. Our history is important in retaining Jackson County's identity, provides a clear vision to our future and allows us to move forward in more focused ways. To fund the historical society, we can rent the historical buildings to businesses, encourage them to do period renovations and promote their business in conjunction with the historic value of the structure. Revenues generated from rent go back to the historical society. This stimulates the economy and creates jobs.
4. We need to exercise our rights created under the U.S. code and establish coordinated planning strategies with all federal land management agencies who operate under the National Forest Management, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Wild & Scenic Rivers Act and others. County land-use regulations must be less restrictive than the state. Once that is established, we have will have the ability to manage our land at a local level with our economy in mind.
5. I would accept a reduced salary as Jackson County commissioner. This would be a demonstration of strong, effective leadership. I don't believe in outsourcing services or reducing staff while management gets a salary increase. If cuts need to be made, they should be made at all levels. There will be a time when our local economy is restored. That is when the people can reward the commissioners, with a higher salary, for a job well done.
Residence: Central Point
1. First, I would look at a centralized county purchasing program for all office equipment and supplies, including office machine agreements. Sounds small, but in an organization the size of the county, savings can be had. Second, I would consider contracting of services as has been done successfully with the library system, such as janitorial, grounds keeping, etc. Inmates are used for different jobs, including Bear Creek Greenway clean-up, the animal shelter and out at the Expo.
2. The private sector creates jobs. The county needs to provide the opportunities, such as reducing some system development charges and other fees, streamlining the permitting process and working on land-use policies that give clear guidelines. Working for rail spur-intermodel freight transportation will benefit current business such as Amy's Kitchen and will help encourage new businesses. Working with local banks for small business start-ups and those with cash-flow challenges also will help.
3. Yes, we need the historical society. We can help them inventory all their assets, keeping essentials related to the county and disposing of others. I believe the society is already headed this way.
4. Private property rights are important for the economy. Land-use laws should be determined locally using guidelines from the state. Land-use law is now being interpreted by lawsuit or threat of lawsuit. This is nonproductive for all involved. The Regional Problem Solving process will help our valley settle a lot of these issues.
5. Salary should be rolled back to where it was two years ago or even less. This is a full-time job but it is a leadership job. If you are asking others to sacrifice, you should, too.
Craig L. Prewitt
1. Public safety and public health remain our No. 1 priorities, and should be funded first, above all else. Community focus groups should be utilized, in conjunction with the budget committee, to assure the county is listening to the population about what is really important. I am sure that the voters will not be reluctant to let their opinions be known.
2. I propose the creation of an Office of Business and Marketing Development. The purpose will be to seek out businesses to relocate to Southern Oregon, and to retain businesses in Southern Oregon. Tax breaks for new organizations should be utilized and heavily marketed to prospective "clients" all over the country.
3. Absolutely. An effective historical society is a key component of a vital tourism industry in our area. Immediately, up to seven figures should be provided to SOHS from the sale of the hotel in Jacksonville, and county help should be provided to establish a new bond/tax levy to sustain the society for the long term.
4. Local is always better. Most of our land-use concerns have occurred since the inception of the alphabet soup of agencies we now have in Salem (LUBA, LCDC, etc.), and no one knows our issues here in Southern Oregon better than the people who live here. If local judicial activism is necessary to regain local control of land-use issues, then we should be judicially active.
5. The starting salary is appropriate for someone responsible for a $300 million operation, given that the commissioner is willing to devote full-time to the job and has a combination of business and government leadership skills. The new commissioner should have enough knowledge of county operations, community contacts and experience to be effective on the job from day one. Ninety thousand dollars per year is too much to allow someone to learn on the job.
Residence: Central Point
1. I see many areas in the current county operations where there are opportunities for more efficient operations, such as more use of shared equipment between different departments. An example, is it is less expensive for the sheriff's department to rent an outside dump truck to haul confiscated drugs than to request the road department to provide one?
2. I feel we have a great opportunity to collect excess forest fuel and convert it to electrical power through the biomass process. At this time it is not economically feasible without federal subsidies, but a cleaner, healthier forest is less prone to devastating fires, which also cost millions to control. The cost to subsidise the process may be offset by the money saved by not having to battle large, fast-moving fires.
3. I don't think it is Jackson County's responsibility to ensure SOHS survives, but I feel they can help them generate income to ensure their own survival through a program I would develop called "Jackson County Volunteers," where people could volunteer in one department with the savings directed (by them) to other areas, such as the library system or the historical society.
4: I have always believed "A man's home is his castle" and he should be allowed to enjoy his property with as much freedom as possible. Obviously some controls are necessary, such as preventing hog farms from operating in urban areas. We have taken this much too far and I feel the local planning department could do more by resisting over-restrictive land-use laws instead of just telling the citizens "it's a state issue and out of our control."
5. "You get what you pay for." This is a business position and most corporations with a $325 million budget will have executives at this salary or more. I'm sure some people would offer to do the job for much less or for no salary at all, but you need to attract very qualified people, with as much business experience as possible, to this position.