By Joseph Snook
To illustrate threatened small cities, I used a town populated with thirty-four thousand in the city limits and roughly seventy-five to eighty-five thousand (depending on the source) in its county – the city of Grants Pass, Oregon. The stats in this area are hard to miss, especially since this is the place I call home.
You know there’s a problem with schools when your fifth-grade child had less than ten spelling tests, ALL YEAR LONG. Next, with all of the budget cuts – you find yourself frequently asking: “Where’s my child going today, since there’s no school?” One would presume these to be indicators of a not-so top notch education.
Luckily, there was still enough funds for field trips. In fact, come to think of it, there was almost as many field trips as spelling tests throughout the year; 8 spelling tests – 5 field trips (estimated). How does that add up with budget cuts? Now, you might say this is only one school, one grade, one teacher and one class – So, let’s put the entire county into perspective. Of the County’s top twenty identified issues, these made the list: teen pregnancy, eighth grade drug use, high school drop-out rates, runaway and homeless youth, oh, and youth recidivism. I know this may be a little intense, but while driving around one day, the thought actually crossed my mind that this town could become…Pants Grass. Fortunately, my child can spell and has parents who are proactive in making sure he’s mentally stimulated, but that obviously doesn’t account for the whole population.
With an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent – possibly lower in the city limits, but who’s counting, (I mean, who CAN count?) It’s obvious that the job market isn’t flourishing in Grants Pass. According to Steve Dahl, from the Grants Pass Economic Development Dept. there is currently eight vacant business locations downtown which makes up a small portion of Grants Pass overall.
No worries though, being geographically located next to the West Coast’s largest freeway has its benefits. It is reported that between government subsidies (incentives to be poor) and low-income housing, one can make a decent living panhandling. Oh, and don’t worry about your dog, there’s actually a free shelter that will keep your pets while you work, I mean hold your “Give me money” sign.
With almost one out of every four- point something Oregonians (772,675) currently receiving S.N.A.P. (supplemental nutritional assistance program) formerly called food stamps, one can only assume that since we have nearly a three percent higher unemployment rate in Josephine County, than the rest of Oregon, we must have a higher percentage of SNAPPERS (supplemental nutrition assistance program personnel eagerly ruminating supper). Obviously people need to eat and I hope this isn’t taken the wrong way, but when government (you and I) become responsible to feed so many people, we have a “James and the Giant Peach” size problem.
Upon moving to Grants Pass, I frequently heard the phrase “you’re either retired or retarded if you live there.” I must now say that comment is – in part true. Retirees make up a large portion of this community, or was it retards? Not to get off the “why your town is doomed title, this title holds true to many communities – just bear with me… Our city population has increased over the past five years (34k), but the poverty rate has recently increased at a faster pace than the population… a double edged sword, right? Throw in other factors like people moving into the city limits for convenient access to resources, and you now have more land available (above the estimated 50% federally owned land in Josephine County) to either turn into the Siskiyou National Monument (Bureau of Land Management), or sell to Developers, The United States Forest Service (USFS) or, if all else fails…to China. Delegates from China have visited Southern Oregon to discuss business (purchasing property), or so I’ve been told.
Rep. Dennis Richardson and Fujian Province (China) visitors
To be politically correct, I must point out that “retarded” as defined by many today, is in no way meant to offend people who are born with a mental and/or physical handicap, it is meant to define those who expect something for nothing, or better yet, those who just don’t strive to better themselves.
Past reliance on Timber, Construction and housing-related manufacturing industries has proven to be an anchor weighing on the economic recovery in Grants Pass. Even some of the larger non-manufacturing employers have recently seen a substantial decrease in business. With gas prices higher than average, unemployment near record highs and more people closing down than opening up new businesses – it makes sense that this large summer tourist community is struggling. In the past year or so, Gottschalks (clothing retailer); Movies 6 (cinema); River Town Auto; Home Valley Bank and Trust (taken over by South Valley Bank and Trust); Liberty Bank (taken over by Home Federal Bank); and many other small mom and pop shops have closed. It’s not uncommon to often drive around town and see another business vacant. One local attorney recently stated that many of the smaller cities are becoming “government hubs along I-5. If it weren’t for welfare recipients or government employment, the small cities would be nothing more than ghost towns.”
On a more positive note, Home Depot has broken dirt in Grants Pass which should employ an estimated 100 people – hopefully the four other local home improvement stores will remain open after Home Depot arrives. These four other home improvement stores employ upwards of 250 people and are reportedly locally owned. Not so for the Wal Mart of Lumberyards… Your purchases from Home Depot will most likely go to investors and Georgia Billionaire Mark Blank, owner of Home Depot, also the owner of the Atlanta Falcons.
#5. Budget Cuts
-A suspected bank robber is arrested minutes after the robbery at a local Chase bank but the trouble doesn’t stop there – less than twenty-four hours later, he’s released until his court date.
-Libraries lose county funding, and are resurrected by volunteers.
-Schools have seen a sharp decline in funding, causing concerns for future costs.
Headlines make the picture evidently clear and common logic must be the driving force here, as funds aren’t available to keep these entities running smoothly, just as funds aren’t available to keep many local residents lives financially sound either.
The problem persists when people don’t know what to do – don’t act, don’t care, don’t have the knowledge or drive to figure out the basic, who, what, when, where and why’s – sounds like a problem only the fictitious “Conan the Barbarian” could fix? The real Conan that is…
#6. Government Salaries
Prepare yourself for a gravity defying ride – with a twist that will make the Jedi Mind Trick seem less interesting – if that’s possible?
When I think of government employees, their pay doesn’t come to mind first, it’s usally the benefits that stand out. Take into account the Wisconsin ordeal with Governor Scott Walker, also our Health Care or Obama Care bill that excludes all elite government officials from the same health care you and I have, if we have it? Pretty much pretend we are screwed…literally, hell, don’t pretend – just read.
Like the city of Bell California, you know… people in government making way more than they’re supposed to – well, Grants Pass city officials apparently took good notes.
Some local public officials (city manager) were making WAY more (140k) than what was acceptable, and when the “elected” City Councilors exposed this issue…They were recalled. Yup, kicked to the curb – by who you ask? The voters of Grants Pass – the same people who are, according to a local lawyer, part of the government hub on I-5. At least the old City Manager was fired, right? Well, David Frasher was his name and get this, he wrote his own severance package which was reportedly in the ball park of $200k! That’s a number two, with seven zero’s and a dollar sign in front… for being fired.
But wait, as if it couldn’t get more interesting – the new city council members who were appointed and made up of the same people who recalled the ones trying to save them some sweet moola, put (who cares about voting) someone named Laurel Samson in as the new city manager. Did I mention that Laurel has been employed by the City of Grants Pass since 1984? Sounds like a good deal, right?
Now… the twist that makes the Jedi Mind Trick less interesting…
Laurel Samson, the current Grants Pass City Manager is earning $183,191.00 annually, including benefits (verified by city – not currently on their website). She reportedly makes more than any Governor in the United States, more than any attorney general in the United States and almost as much as any two governors combined!
But let’s compare apples to apples as one person who stood up for Laurel said in an Ashland Daily Tidings blog… The Oregon Governor is basically responsible for all of Oregon, right? – 3.5 plus million people. Laurel is responsible for the 35k population of Grants Pass’ economic growth – so if I could compare those jobs, I’d basically have to divide… awe screw it, I don’t want to lose you… Just imagine a salary 100 times larger than Laurel’s for our next Governor.
Another interesting fact is that Laurel Samson and former City Manager David Frasher were reportedly found guilty of elections violations and fined.
“The City Manager and his staff administer and develop cost-effective and innovative ways to implement the prescribed goals of the City.”
– Grants Pass Oregon.gov
Maybe my fifth grade child can answer how cost effective a $183k salary is for a city manager? Keep in mind that the buck didn’t stop with Laurel Samson, there are many others in Grants Pass City Government making WAY more than what I would consider reasonable… But I’ll leave that answer for you to figure out.
While investigating, I contacted Tony Martin from the city’s HR dept. and when asked about the $180k + salary, she not only laughed, she guaranteed that Laurel did not make that much money. She said she would look into it and call me back. Unfortunatly, I never heard back from Martin, Fortunately, I called the finance department and was able to confirm that I was correct with the $180k+ figure.
What’s even scarier than the $183k salary is that Laurel wasn’t even elected – she was appointed. Is she really representing Grants Pass’ goals?
If you think this is happening in your small city, you’re probably right – look into it for yourself.
“The United States has become a cesspool of corruption, greed, debt and depravity. Everywhere you look there are signs of decline, and yet all our leaders come up with are more really bad ideas. Time is running out on this nation, and with each passing day there seems to be fewer reasons to be optimistic about the future. What are you going to do about this picture – if anything?”
– End of the American Dream
Authors Note: This is meant to inform the public in a way that will prompt action – humorous, insulting, reality whatever it may be, the truth is many other towns are just as bad. If people like you or I don’t do anything, we really are doomed. I hope by writing this, more of you will become active in your own community. Do something. Locally, you can attend WUA (Wake Up America) meetings.