Oregon emptying jails to terrorize citizens into paying higher taxes



In the old days the Mafia would send enforcers around to local businesses to demand protection money. Now local governments are doing nearly the same thing. They cry that they don't have enough taxpayer money, and when citizens don't agree to a tax increase, they release criminals to terrorize the population until they meet their demands.

The latest example of this is in a rural part of Oregon in Douglas, Curry, and Josephine Counties. The counties claim that because logging revenues are down, there is a budget shortfall and essential services must be cut. First they tried eliminating the town libraries. Then they reduce police response to crimes. Then when that doesn't work, they start releasing criminals from jail to terrorize the local population.

Douglas County residents voted down a ballot measure that would have added about $6 a month to the tax bill on a median-priced home and saved the libraries from a funding crisis. So this spring, it has been lights out, one by one, for the system’s 11 branches. The Roseburg central library here is the last to go.

A tax increase of only $6 a month! Or $72 a year! If you believe that.

If a crime is reported after midnight there, best not hold your breath for a response, since cuts to the sheriff’s budget have meant the end of round-the-clock staffing. Even conducting an election this fall could be beyond reach, said Reneé Kolen, the Curry County clerk, who has one full-time staff member left in her elections division, and is facing another possible 30 percent cut in funding this year in her budget.

If you don't agree to high taxes, the police will not respond, and no more elections will be held. It will be like living in the Palestinian territories. And then criminals will be released to terrorize you until you change your mind.

Just east of Curry in Josephine County, the jail has been defunded after nine consecutive defeats of public safety tax levies — there will be another try next week in a special election — leading to a policy of catch-and-release for nonviolent criminals.

So the county budgets must really be cut to the bone if they are releasing criminals! I decided to take a quick look at the budget of Josephine County. The county spends:

o six million dollars on mental health. Josephine County is a small rural county. That's crazy!

o nine million on "public works". Surely some of that can be trimmed before emptying jails.

o one million on "information technology".

o two million on "building operations and maintenance".

o nearly $700,000 on vehicles.

o over four million on "public health".

o nearly $1,800,000 on economic grants.

o $1,200,000 on "building safety".

o $700,000 on "fairgrounds". Fairgrounds are more important than jails?

o $1,300,000 on parks. Parks are more important than jails?

o $4,500,000 on "transit". For a rural community, a bus system should be a lower priority.

o nearly $3,000,000 on local airports. Local airports should be privatized.

o $13,500,000 more in reserve funds.

Surely some of these items could be cut before emptying jails. But cutting any of these would not cause as much distress to the local population as emptying the local jails, so that's what they do.

I could not find salary information for Josephine County, but I did find some information in nearby Douglas County. Department heads can make up to $140,000 a year, counting benefits. Deputy district attorneys can also make six figure salaries, and other workers working in unspecified positions can also make big money. If these were salaries for top employees in a major city, they would be normal; for a rural county with budget problems, they are extravagant.

But don't expect these counties to trim their salaries or expenses on fairgrounds before stopping police service and opening up the jails. That's how they get their tax increases passed.

[originally in AT]



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