Josephine Co. commissioner race heating up as election day nears

JOSEPHINE COUNTY, Ore.– The commissioner race in Josephine continues to tighten as election day is only a week away.

Candidates John West and Brian DeLaGrange continue to make their case to voters.

They finished in the top-2 of the non-partisan race for commissioner back in May.

West and DeLaGrange have similar priorities on issues like law enforcement funding and illegal cannabis.

But how they each plan to fix those problems are very different.

On the topic of law enforcement funding, West said, “we need to solve this problem and quit kicking the can down the road.”

West is running for the only open seat on the Josephine County Board of Commissioners.

He said making sure the sheriff’s office is fully funded is his top priority.

“I support the sheriff 100% but I don’t support the sales tax,” he said, “the numbers are flawed. The system is messed up. It’s not going to fund the sheriff properly.”

The current board of commissioners is proposing a seasonal sales tax that the county could expand year-round.

West’s opponent, Grants Pass city councilor Brian DeLaGrange also doesn’t support the proposed tax.

He said the estimate of how much revenue the tax would generate… Is inflated.

DeLaGrange said, “if we have a recession or another economic downturn, the sheriff is going to keep running into the same funding issues he’s running into now, so I don’t see it as the best funding source for the sheriff.”

DeLaGrange said instituting an absentee property owner fee and a county lodging tax could help  cover around 20% of the necessary funding.

He said Josephine County residents would have to cover the rest.

“Part of the funding source is going to have to come from the citizens,” he said, “The issue here is that we have the lowest permanent tax rate in the state. We’re one third of the state average, which means we just don’t bring in the money for the sheriff that we need.”

West said he sees wasteful spending in the county’s budget that he would divert to law enforcement.

He claims he could fund 70 to 80% of the sheriff’s budget and residents would have to cover the rest.

“The commissioners office needs to do their job and cut all the waste and the spending and look at all the avenues we have available to us,” West said.

DeLaGrange said the issue he hears the most about as a city councilor is homelessness.

He said the population of homeless people living in the forests in the county create risks for wildfires.

“Every homeless situation is different so you can’t paint it with a broad brush,” he said, “But if we can partner with the municipalities to have some sort of pathway for people to move through to get out of homelessness, I think that would be a good step to take.”

West believes that creating more affordable housing would help solve the homelessness issue.

He said the Grants Pass City Council hasn’t done enough to help.

“We need to push them in the right direction and get this homeless thing solved,” he said, “They haven’t done it. In fact, they’ve been more of the problem, but we need to get it resolved and stop pointing fingers so much.”

Both republicans said they also want to focus on cracking down on illegal cannabis.

They said fully funding the sheriff’s office is the key to solving that issue.

NBC5 News reporter Derek Strom is from Renton, Washington. He recently graduated from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University with a degree in Broadcast News and a minor in Sports Management. He played in the drumline with the WSU marching band. These days, he plays the guitar and piano. Derek is a devoted fan of the Mariners, Seahawks, and Kraken.
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