Support Your Community
Securing Our Safety was formed in the summer of 2012 in the wake of the Josephine County budget challenges (federal timber dollars going away) that shut down a large part of our County’s criminal justice and public safety system. SOS was formed by local business owners, community leaders, parents, retirees, and other concerned citizens to explore any and all ideas that might help address the County’s long-term needs. The public safety situation facing the entire County is one of the largest public threats every resident of this County faces, whether you know it or not. It doesn’t matter whether you think you can protect yourself, your family, and your belongings 24/7/365 because the fallout of our situation is affecting the safety of our roads, insurance rates, quality of life, and more. The negative impact list goes on and on and this will eventually have an adverse effect on property values as well (if it hasn’t already). Time is limited and we cannot afford to put our heads in the sand and wait for this situation to work itself out.
SOS is a volunteer based non-profit organization that has explored a broad range of potential solutions to make Josephine County a safer, more stable, more sustainable community, to build the alliances across disparate community groups, and to seek to restore trust and communication between local citizens and their local government. Our mission statement is “A Citizen-voiced plan to provide for a secure, stable, and sustainable Josephine County.” SOS has been meeting on a weekly basis for almost two years now and has built up a large email list and volunteer list. We have been working very hard to achieve our mission because our situation is a critical one and we cannot afford to sit back and wait it out.
Of course, a “citizen-voiced plan” starts with the input from citizens and that’s exactly where we began – collecting surveys and listening to input from Josephine County residents. Not only have we found out what you want out of our local public safety systems but we found out what funding solutions you desire. It was clear we all want to restore our criminal justice services to not only where they were a few years ago but better. A statistical survey amounts to about 400-500 people, but we collected close to 1200 surveys of Josephine County residents quickly after our organization came together.
As we charted the course of potential solutions, it quickly became clear that there is no single or easy solution to get us back on our feet. It also became clear that this financial and safety crisis is not just a black and white financial issue. At its heart our challenge is a trust issue between the citizens of our great county and the local government that represents us. We set out not only to research potential solutions, but to follow the path charted by the voice of the people. As we began working on all the solutions that were favored by your input, we also decided a series of educational and awareness events were necessary. Thank you to so many of you that have joined our awareness events and keep your eye out for even more.
At a simple level, we have a hole in our County’s criminal justice system of at least $12 million per year due to dwindling “federal payments.” We have a revenue problem, plain and simple. There are of course folks out there who say that expenses need to be cut. What many people don’t know is the County has been reducing its total workforce just about every year for the last 10 years…little is left to cut and now we have a public safety crisis because there are no employees left to provide certain safety services. And the public safety crisis is affecting more than just the local public safety system as funds have been diverted from other programs over the many years of decline (such as the library system) to cover the County’s safety needs.
SOS is very proud of what the draft of the citizen voiced plan looks like today after much work and research. However, some of the solutions in the works will take time to implement (years in some cases). The citizen-voiced plan is an intentional mix of tax and non-tax solutions that will restore health to our County and our County’s public safety system and based on all the solutions favored by your input.
It was clear that the portion of the solution coming from local funding (in other words local taxes) needed to be smaller than what has been proposed before. The levy we will vote on in May 2014 will provide about $7.6 million in annual funding and that’s only temporary for 5 years. The levy rate of $1.19 is significantly more affordable than proposals we’ve voted in in recent years, and it’s a citizen generated initiative (not something proposed by the County). Federal payments may or may not continue, but even if they do the current level is only about $4 million per year (and many think that won’t continue). On County owned timber land, we expect to be able to sustain larger amounts of timber harvesting, contributing close to $0.5 million more per year to the bottom line.
The lottery initiative (see www.lotterylocalcontrol.com) was also born from our research and if successful will add at least $1-$2 million more per year to our County beyond what we’re receiving per year today in total (legal/appeal delays have moved that to 2016 and the funding would begin in 2017 if approved by vote). The SOS Hard Rock Mining Committee is charting a path to some amazing local economic development opportunities (stay tuned) and those efforts could also translate directly into the County’s bottom line because the County owns significant mineral properties. There are ways to significantly improve local economic conditions by pursuing mineral development efforts that do not affect our beautiful local natural environment, but again this is an area that will take years to develop. SOS has also performed or assisted with research on programs that could result in service enhancements or preventative measures such as a medically assisted treatment facility (drug & crime prevention), the Sobering Center (is now its own non-profit organization), and a Justice Court study is in the works.
Even if every one of these measures or programs is successful (add it up!), it’s clear that we still need the local contribution that the May 2014 levy would provide to the system. We are working on many fronts, and this vote will be the bridge that restores Josephine County to the path of health. We will continue working on all these programs after May of 2014 but we’re in trouble without the passage of this levy.
If there’s one thing we could ask of you to support your community, it would be to cast a vote this May. Nearly 50% of local registered voters have not cast a vote in recent elections. And if you allowed us a second request, it would be get involved in the solution and join our meetings and/or email list to help us work together as a community to keep this a great place to live. Please visit us at www.SecuringOurSafety.org.
Jay Meredith, President and Board Chair
Securing Our Safety