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IS SOUTHERN OREGON GOING BROKE?

April 12, 2013

I’ve developed literally hundreds of cooperative marketing programs since 1984 for the Southern Oregon Visitors Association (SOVA). They all create a positive brand image of the region (six counties). Back in the 80s people used to “drive through” Southern Oregon on their way to someplace else. Now they spend three or more days in the area. That’s good news for local businesses. A new cooperative marketing effort I’m spearheading, Crater Lake Country, should continue to help local businesses grow.

But what is disturbing is a 2012 audit by the Secretary of State’s Office that identified eight counties racked by acute financial pressures. Five are part of the Southern Oregon brand (Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, and Klamath). Unfortunately, while the visitor industry was bringing fresh dollars to the local economy, residents were saving their dollars by not investing in public safety, libraries, health and welfare services, etc. (visitors seldom access or use these services).

Representative Dennis Richardson believes that rural Oregon counties have been hit hard by the recession, a decline in timber revenues from the federal government and increased expenses for PERS (Public Employee Retirement System). All very true. But here’s another truth. People living in rural Oregon simply haven’t been willing to pay for government services.

Bottom-line: The majority of visitor industry businesses are small, owned by local people. They are willing to invest in building their businesses. Local residents also seem willing to spend money to enjoy things that couldn’t exist if it was not for visitors (numerous restaurants, live theater, jetboat trips, wineries, etc.) But when everyone goes home at night, few seem willing to write a check to ensure their county can provide essential services to people who are less prosperous. Very sad. I guess our elected officials are happy to ask the state (House Bill 3453) to bail us all out when our counties go bankrupt.

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3 comments

  1. Another factor seldom considered: at what level can any of us protest what appears to be an enormous waste of tax expenditures at all level? We can’t not pay federal or state taxes but we do have a say on our property taxes by withholding approval of added levies.

    All local levies (property taxes) that I’m familiar with already have an automatic 3% per year escalation anyway. When property values take a hit due to a souring economy, local governments need to tighten their belts just like its residents have to do. We can’t seem to make that clear to our state or federal legislators.

    BTW, unfunded or underfunded state pensions are a much bigger problem than most want to admit. When many state’s pension funds are still targeting a return in the 7% neighborhood but investment markets are paying far less than half, you have a recipe for disaster.

    And don’t even get me started on the mess in Stockton, California.


  2. Hi, Mark. Personally, I think we pay way more for government services nowadays than they are worth. Overreach in mission. Overreach in costs. We needed to move the health department downtown for a cost of nearly $30 million? In this economy?

    We need to remodel our kitchen. Badly. Not gonna happen.

    I worry that Danny Jordan is Jackson County’s Alan Greenspan.

    I sent a letter to the editor today in response to a writer’s “satire” of the meeting between Skundrick, Briedenthal and Rachor. We’ll see if it is published. It may well be.

    I found this piece by seeing your comment on their editorial. No one ever comments on their editorials. You may be the first in five years.

    Is Skundrick’s proposal a property-tax surcharge or a poll tax? I cannot tell. I do not support it. That has nothing to do with the letter I sent.

    Sally S.


    • Sally, I can certainly agree with you that the county is far from perfect and I also questioned the need for a $30 million health center. But on balance, I think Jackson County is far more responsible than other Southern Oregon counties that simply want to say no to everything. Yes, it would certainly help if we all trusted government more to spend our money wisely. I don’t know the details of Don’s plan, I just agreed with the editorial that we need to look at options to maintain core services. Yes, not sure anyone has every commented on an editorial in the Trib. Nice to know someone noticed it.



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