Our Opinion: Cheers and jeers
Cheers — to Jackson County voters, nearly 52 percent of whom cast ballots in Tuesday's election — not as big as the turnout should be in a democracy, but still a strong showing for a primary election. The high-profile battle over banning GMOs was the reason for the turnout, proving that voters will respond when there is an issue on the ballot they care strongly about.
Participation in the rest of the state was pathetic by comparison. Just more than 32 percent of voters cast ballots — the lowest turnout in recent history.
If the anti-GMO forces succeed in transferring their momentum to an effort to put a statewide GMO labeling measure on the general election ballot, Jackson County could lead the rest of Oregon to a big turnout in November.
Jeers — to rural Josephine County voters, who not only rejected a public safety levy for the third time in two years but did so by a wider margin than the last time around. A proposed levy of $1.48 per $1,000 in assessed value failed in 2013 by only about 500 votes. This year's measure, which would have levied $1.19 per $1,000, went down by 1,381 votes.
Of course, voters have every right to refuse to raise their own taxes. But we wonder how long they expect to continue without sheriff's patrols or enough jail space to lock up criminal defendants.
Residents of Grants Pass, which still has a functioning police force, have tended to support public the safety levies, while rural residents have formed vigilante patrols rather than pay for professional police protection. This latest levy proposal would have expanded county jail capacity, reopened the Juvenile Justice Center and freed up money to restore rural patrols. Now, the 100 beds still available at the county jail likely will drop to 70 at the end of June. That's when a contract of up to $1 million with the city of Grants Pass for up to 30 beds expires.
Cheers — to a new park featuring trails and swimming holes where Elk Creek Lake once was planned. More than 3,000 acres of public land stretch behind what was to be Elk Creek Dam, a project that was demolished before it was completed. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has replaced dilapidated, unsafe vehicle bridges with new footbridges and added parking lots with restrooms and picnic tables. It's nice to see the land restored and open to the public for recreation.
Cheers — to Basil and Berries, operated by Gilded Rogue Enterprises, one of the first "B corporations" created under a new state classification that allows businesses that blend for-profit and nonprofit operations to benefit the community. The eatery in the Rogue Valley Mall food court not only offers locally sourced meals, supporting local agriculture, but a portion of sales proceeds benefit ACCESS as well.