There are few instances when the choice in an election is so clear and the consequences so extreme as with the Criminal Justice Levy that the citizens of Josephine County are now being asked to pass. Those who say otherwise are kidding themselves. If the Criminal Justice Levy fails it will directly impact our quality of life, both in the short term and into the future. As Mayor, I fear that the residents of Grants Pass may think this is only a county problem, primarily focused on sheriff patrols. This is simply not true. City residents pay county taxes just like everyone else, and are dependent on county services in return. Without an adequate District Attorney’s office to prosecute cases and a jail to house offenders, it won’t just be rural areas that are threatened.
I cringe at the thought of 911 operators forced to prioritize calls with no one available to dispatch. I am distressed to think of prosecutors being asked to decide which cases to dismiss or plea-bargain because there simply aren’t enough staff or funding to prosecute them. I hate the idea of the jail supervisor having to weigh the risks of which dangerous offenders to release, because there aren’t nearly enough beds to hold all of them.
A jail three-fourths empty, with most of its former inmates back out on the streets because of insufficient funding, is unacceptable.
It makes me sad to see important juvenile justice services cut, knowing both that juveniles often commit “adult” crimes and that, unchecked and unhelped, they will continue down a path that only means trouble for them and their future victims.
No denying it, there is pain in paying higher taxes. But there is also pain in cutting critical services. Drug abuse will continue, with or without a levy. Failure of the levy won’t stop burglary, domestic abuse, drunk drivers or sexual predators. We will just have to deal with all of these challenges without the backing of a functioning criminal justice system.
I hear the home security system business is thriving these days. But when alarms go off and there is no one to respond, are we really any safer?
It is easy to overlook the inevitable secondary effects on our economic development and prosperity when the criminal justice infrastructure is lost. Simply put, businesses don’t locate, invest or expand in an area that chooses lawlessness. Professionals, skilled workers and retired people don’t move their families communities that don’t feel safe. Job growth suffers. So do property values.
Now, there are those who argue that the county should receive more federal support. That may or may not be true. But it doesn’t matter who is to blame for the ship sinking when the water is pouring in. Likewise it may or may not be true that we as a county should have set aside more money in years gone by. There will be time enough for history to sort out the wisdom of past choices. Our crisis is here today, and we can’t rely on anyone else to fix it.
This isn’t a problem we can put off onto the county commissioners or Congress, or solve by rewriting history. Ready or not the fiscal year starts on July 1st. In this case leadership must come from the source of all good government – the people. We need to take responsibility for our own welfare and that of our families. We need to support the levy and vote yes.