Appalachia in Oregon

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

In Curry and Josephine counties, things are getting dismal.

When the local county sheriff says "move someplace else" if you need a restraining order against an abusive ex, you know things are bad.

When the 911 operator says "I don't have anyone to send" when that abusive ex is pounding at the door, you know things are bad.

And when "get a shotgun" is commonly accepted as the best advice available to local residents, you know things are bad.

Last week, despite all that, property tax levies in Curry and Josephine counties failed. Again.

So, Governor Kitzhaber - along with legislative leaders in both parties - is considering legislation (HB 3453) that would allow the Governor and legislative leaders to declare a "public safety fiscal emergency" and impose a local income tax.

And Senator Wyden is working up legislation that would provide more federal aid to those counties that are taking responsibility for public services - and less aid to those that shirk that responsibility.

Both sound like reasonable solutions.

I'd add a third suggestion to the mix: It's time to start merging counties. After all, the reason we have counties that are the size that they are is so that every resident can ride - on a horse - to the county seat in one day's time.

By merging counties, we can shift resources from administrative overhead to direct services. It's hardly a complete solution, but it seems to me a reasonable part of the solution -- especially in places where local voters can't be bothered to take responsibility for governing themselves.

Update: It occurred to me to look up the populations of these counties. Curry County has just 22,246 residents; while Josephine has just 82,987 residents. It makes no sense to have entire county governments for populations of this size.

If I were the one making the call, I'd merge Curry with Coos County and Josephine with Jackson. (Merging Curry with Josephine makes no sense, since the most direct land route between the two involves driving south to Crescent City, California.)

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