BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS'

REGULAR MEETING

October 21, 2008

9:00 a.m.

Commissionersí Conference Room

APPROVED 11/25/2008

 

Commissioner Faye Stewart presided with Commissioner Bill Dwyer, Bill Fleenor, Bobby Green, Sr. and Peter Sorenson present.  Bill Dwyer arrived at 10:40 a.m.  Peter Sorenson left the meeting at 10:45 a.m. and returned at 11:11 a.m.  County Administrator Jeff Spartz, County Counsel Liane Richardson and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present.

 

1. ADJUSTMENTS TO THE AGENDA

 

None.

 

2. PUBLIC COMMENTS

 

Mike Taylo, Springfield, raised a question on what the Sheriffís daily cost is for jailing someone.  He thought the real number was about $105 per day.  He wanted to see real numbers and the understanding of what value he gets for his money.

 

Carol Berg Caldwell, Eugene, believed the allocation of Secure Rural Schools money should be spent on prevention instead of jail beds.  She thought that was more humane.

 

3. COMMISSIONERS' REMONSTRANCE

 

None.

 

4. COMMISSIONERS' BUSINESS

 

a. DISCUSSION/Lane County Public Safety Needs.

 

Mary Ann Beardon, Judge, explained that from a Courtís perspective, they have many concerns about the situation as it exists today.  She indicated that they cannot comply with laws from the legislature for pre-trial releases because of overcrowding due to the layoffs from July 1.  She added that it is difficult for staff on a daily basis to release people into the community who are of a substantial danger.  She commented that the number of domestic violence felons is staggering.  She added that there is an explosion of domestic violence homicides.  She stated that there is a legal risk to the County if funding is not restored for jail beds.  She commented that there is no accountability in sentences and the shortage of beds cause all alternative programs to fail.  She stated that it is a grave legal risk to the County for risk management.

 

Beardon indicated that what they are getting from treatment providers is that the offenders wonít go into treatment because the word on the street is clear; there is no accountability and nothing will happen to them.  She said the violent crime rates are up 15 percent in this area this year.  She said the reason is they canít hold violent felons pre-trial because they donít have a full range of options at the jail up to and including hard jail beds.  She commented that Drug Court only works if a jail bed is there for sanctions. She stated that none of their alternative treatment programs work unless they have a full range of alternatives to back them up, otherwise there are no incentives.  She recalled that due to failure of capacity, 1,703 people in the months of June, July, August and September were released into the community.  She said it was a waste of everyoneís resources.  She said they spend County resources holding the same people over until they can get something done to get the person into a program.  She noted that some of the federal timber money has been restored and if a good chunk doesnít go back to public safety so they can deal with the some of the issues; there is a serious risk to the community and a liability to the County. 

 

Beardon said they have to deal with the moral issue about innocent people being hurt and sexual predators preying on children.  She stated that they canít run the system at the current level.   She indicated that they were in triage mode a year ago and they are currently in chaos in the legal system because of the capacity issue.  She said when they are talking about sentenced offenders in Lane County who are not going to the Department of Corrections; they are going to jail and will be released the same day, because of the shortage of resources in the District Attorneyís office.

 

Fleenor asked how they justify a society that doesnít provide public safety.  He commented that the only thing higher than public safety is maintaining the highest level of fiscal responsibility.  He said that any government that becomes bankrupt as a result of bad fiscal policies cannot provide public safety under any circumstances.  He stated that they needed to be careful to maintain the balance between fiscal responsibility and providing public safety.  He asked if the limited resources available are being appropriately spent on the publicís behalf.  He asked if every dollar they were putting into public safety was increasing public safety to the system.  He commented that over the past 20 years crime has been going down.  He said they need to find a solution with a perspective of historical data and the resources available now and in the future.  He said they have $177 million in debt of which $133 million is a PERS bond and retiree medical obligations that is costing the County about $5 million per year in interest only.  He asked how much public safety they could buy with $5 million per year for the next 40 years where the bonds would remain active.  He said these are questions they have to answer in the context of how much money should they put into public safety and what should they expect as a society. 

Sorenson asked what sources of information Beardon could recommend to help them make a good decision.

 

Beardon responded that statistics are controlled by the filing of cases from the District Attorneyís office.  She added that the District Attorney has cut back on misdemeanor cases.  She said the workload has not slowed down because the misdemeanor cases they are filing cause all the work (domestic cases and DUII cases). 

 

Sorenson asked about the workload and the challenges the Circuit Court faces.

 

Beardon noted the types of felony cases being filed are the ones that scare people the most:  armed intruder burglaries, sex crimes and homicides.  She added that they have had more homicides in the last year.

 

Liz Rambo, Circuit Court, explained that the court numbers are driven by what the District Attorney is able to file and what portion of sentences are able to be served.  She added that all statistics are driven by different agencies and case filings.

 

Sorenson stated that they have three years of money and they have a structural deficit.  He asked what amount of money should be put in the prevention side for the long term stability of the public safety system over the next eight years.

 

Beardon said she tries to enforce laws and she canít enforce laws now because of the lack of capacity.  She said it is frustrating because they know the criminals need treatment.  She hoped the Board could find a way to restore enough capacity at all levels with beds so they can run the system at a rate that is barely functional.  She commented that currently they are not barely functioning, they are broken.  She stated that they need enough credibility in the system to address some of the needs of the people and they donít have it.  She thought they would lose valuable treatment programs because people are not going to volunteer to go into treatment.

 

Fleenor asked why the United States has three million people incarcerated, more than any other country in the world.  He commented that they are creating laws that are making people criminals and putting them in jail.

 

Beardon said they could work in Salem with the state legislators.   She said the sex abuse of children should be criminalized as well as driving under the influence of intoxicants.  She added that criminals who commit serious domestic violence crimes, armed burglaries and rape, are not incarcerated for a lot of those crimes but citizens think they are.

 

Fleenor was more interested in getting a bang for his dollar.  He asked if they put more money into the criminal justice system and law enforcement if the citizens would be safer.  He thought that was a dialogue that was needed with citizens at the local level.  He believed in states rights and local control.  He commented that Salem can dictate all they want but Lane County has a limited amount of resources to carry out the mandates from the federal and state government. 

 

Alex Gardner, Assistant District Attorney, commented that they are scrambling to mitigate the damage being caused.  He said they are not bringing back criminals from other jurisdictions, contrary to their obligations under an interstate compact.  He said the governorís office covers the cost of bringing back all of the most serious felons.  He said they call Lane County to see if they could hold the person, but most of the time they say no and the governorís office wonít pay.  He added even if the governorís office will pay, the person will come back and be bounced out of the jail and burglarize the community more.  He said it is not a net benefit to the community.  He added that their warrant value has increased.  He said there used to be about 900 warrants per month and they are down to 500 per month.  He stated they are doing everything they can to reduce the stress on the community and the jail by focusing on the people who are the most dangerous.

 

Gardner said if the Sheriffís Office had the staff to investigate the 2,000 property crimes a year that get no response and if the District Attorney goes back to using the Grand Jury the way it is used in every other jurisdiction in Oregon and enforcing probation violations, it would mean nothing in Lane County because people wonít pay restitution and there will be an order from the Court they canít enforce.  He indicated that judges wonít violate someone for non-payment and even if they did, there would be no sanction for it, it would be bounced out of the jail without consequence.  He was asked what they do when the jail is overflowing with people who are victimizing the citizens in the community.  He stated that violent people are being let out of the jail.  He said in spite of the fact the system is dysfunctional, (and the demographic in the country is driving crime rates down) the average of the three largest metro areas in Oregon is dropping, but Eugeneís crime rate is rising because they arenít doing anything they are supposed to do.  He commented that they are not doing the absolute basics that any responsible society does.  He understands the County canít do everything but he said there is $10 million per year from the general fund that could be applied to public safety.  He commented that if that money is applied to the Sheriffís Office, they would have more safety.  He thought every dollar that goes into public safety would have a greater benefit than putting it toward the Extension Service or LCAS.  He commented that if the number one priority is financial stability and the number two priority is public safety, then they are at the end of their rope.

 

Fleenor commented that putting $10 million into public safety is a temporary solution to a long term problem.  He said taking care of the structural deficit is important.  He wanted to start paying down the debt and stop incurring more debt.  He said they have to look at how they are running their society.  He said that Salem needs to help bail Lane County out.

 

Gardner commented that the thought of Fleenor contemplating not wanting to buy something other than protecting the society for four years, brings anxiety.

 

Fleenor said the future Lane County citizens need to think about this one time last timber payment.

 

Jerry Smith, Springfield Police Department, reported that Springfield is building a jail and they shouldnít be in the jail business because it is not their responsibility.  He commented that the failure to appear problem is hurting them.  He noted that the failure to appear cost for local law enforcement is $4.5 million per year, half of his budget.  He indicated that 1,703 people didnít show up to appear in court.  He commented that the pressure is tremendous on local officers to not arrest them because they wonít show up.  He noted that 10 percent of the officersí time in the field is spent serving warrants.  He added that didnít count staff time required in the other components of the system that could be recovered if they repair the failure to appear problem.  He noted that five municipalities in Lane County have jails and they shouldnít have them.  His expectation is that two years from now, the City of Springfield will experience a huge up tick in crime.  He added that there is a lot of under reported crime because people have given up and wonít report it.  He commented that there will be a false sense in Springfield that once the jail is up and running they will have some sense of hope and might start reporting again.  He didnít think that all of the social programs they have could have any affect unless there is enough capacity at the jail.  He asked for the County to bring the jail back on board to help them.

 

Fleenor said he was told that peopleís sense of safety is based upon the newspaper they read that day.  He thought it had little to do with the feeling of being unsafe.  He said it is a perception they get from the media.  He commented that it is a mass promotion of sensationalism.  He noted that for every crime he reads about he gets panicky about his personal safety.  He didnít think that was the measure they should determine whether their public safety system is functioning correctly from the perspective of the citizens.  He asked if any polls have been issued to the citizens of Lane County asking them what it really means to be safe.  He asked if the Lane County public safety system is delivering what it is to be safe.  He commented that a lot of people are not victims of crime.  He said there is a perception by the citizens at large as to what it means to be safe. 

 

Smith indicated they do a safety survey annually in Springfield.  He recalled Lane County had focus groups in the past discussing these issues.  He agreed that safety is closer to home to the individual.  He thought feeling safe was different for each individual.  He said it is widely known with the criminal element in Lane County that the system is a joke and it is failing.

 

Rich Stronach, Eugene Police Department, stated that last Friday he sent e-mails to his supervisors asking about the problems with the jail beds being closed down.  He said indicated that the downtown corridor is experiencing problems with criminal activity and drugs.  He added there are also assaults and unsavory elements.  He commented that they are attracting people to the County, but for the wrong reason.  He reiterated there are no consequences for peopleís actions.   He noted in 85 percent of the cases, they issue a citation for people to appear in court in lieu of taking them to jail.  He said in the downtown area, whenever they are forced to make an arrest, there is a crowd of people.  He commented that a lot of the crimes downtown are low level crime unless someone is the victim.  He stated that it is demoralizing for an officer that the work they are doing is for not.  He said they put a person in jail and before they are done with the paperwork, the bad guy is back on the street.  He indicated what has been difficult for them is to get their officers to continue to do the job they are paid to do and do it right and not cut corners.  He said they have to keep their employees pumped up wanting to do their job and it has been difficult.  He said the people they work for expect them to try to do something to fix the problem.

 

Doug Harcleroad, District Attorney, recalled in 1995 the criminal justice system was analyzed and violent crime was down in Oregon.  He said they could argue that Measure 11 had affected the criminal justice system.  He commented that when people are in prison, they are not victimizing citizens.  He indicated that they need to consider what happens on November 4 with ballot measures.

 

Green asked what the average number of police officers per capita there are at the City of Eugene.

 

Stronach said there are 1.9 to 2 officers per thousand for Oregon, one of the lowest in the nation.  He added that Eugene is at 1.2 per thousand and are at the lowest of the spectrum.

 

Green asked if the City of Eugene in its last budget cycle increased officers.

 

Stronach indicated that they had authorization to add four officers.  He said they have the authorization but with the Hynix issue they will end up having to freeze the positions and they wonít realize the gains.

 

Green was concerned about the system.  He said they have worked so hard since 1995 on SB 1145 to add a system in place that would give accountability with the other components.  He asked how they restore the publicís confidence in the public safety system.  He said they have to address the structural deficit and they do that when there is stable revenue. He thought they could approach it incrementally.  He recalled since 1995 he has been working with the sixth police chief and the sixth city manager.  He indicated that they try to work on public safety issues intergovernmentally.  He said they are not approaching an assemblance of accountability.  He commented that they restore the public confidence by holding the people accountable for what they do.  He said they need a tool that says it is not okay to commit crimes.  He said he hears the system is failing and until they get a grip on it, the public will reject what the Board does.  He said the public is looking at the Countyís strapped budget and they are also looking for the Countyís priorities.  He commented that if they donít make public safety a priority, they will continue to lose the citizensí confidence.

 

Mike Grover, Cottage Grove Police Department, recalled that 23 years ago they opened up the municipal jail because they were running into the same problem they have today.  He said they were not holding people accountable for the crimes they were committing, no matter how small or large.  He said they had the ability to take felonies to Lane County and they were prosecuted.  He stated that they donít have that ability anymore.  He said all cities have municipal jails they hold people in because of the same problem with the jails and holding people accountable for what they do.  He said if they donít take care of the small crimes, the big crimes will come after the small crimes.  He said Cottage Grove has accepted the responsibility to put the people in jail and they have an exclusionary rule for parks. He commented that bad guys donít commit crimes if they are in jail.   He stated that by Lane County not providing adequate jail space, they are defeating the purpose of law enforcement.  He commented that the people of Lane County need to realize that with crime there are certain responsibilities and if they want to be safe, they have to pay for it.

 

(Dwyer arrived at 10:45 a.m.) (Sorenson left at 10:45 a.m. and returned at 11:11 a.m.)

 

Dwyer indicated that without federal payments, the citizens want security and he thought at some point they will be able to understand that someone has to pay for it and it is going to be them.  He commented that whenever they get an infusion of cash they create dissention because they have other responsibilities besides public safety.  He didnít think Congress allocated the money to reserve it.  He said Congress gave them money to meet the pressing needs of the community and unless they meet those needs, they will never be able to go to Congress again.  He said they need to reserve some money.  He said historically the Sheriff had been funded by serial levies.  He thought levies in the future were a way to get as close to parity as they can depending on how people feel about their safety.  He agreed that without sanctions, they have nothing.  He didnít think they would ever reach an optimum level, but they have to do better.  He said they have to spread the money around and balance public safety to get the best bang for the buck with what they have for the longest period and have some reserve for the future.

 

With regard to the timber payments, Fleenor had a difference of opinion.  He doesnít think paying down their debt will be a reflection of bad intent.  He said when it comes to local levels; they have every obligation to act properly and if that means paying down debt that is what they should do.

 

State Police Officer Hinkle, Oregon State Police, explained that the current system to state police and their resources in the Springfield office puts three to four troopers per shift, two shifts per day on the road.  He indicated that it resulted between 10 and 15 DUII arrests per week.  He said the trend they are seeing is getting more warrant arrests than DUII arrests.  He said the troopers are now spending an inordinate amount of time processing the warrants instead of removing the intoxicated drivers from the roadways.  He commented that doesnít enhance transportation safety for OSP.  He indicated that people are out there to re-commit crimes.

 

Russ Burger, Sheriff, said everyone has heard how dysfunctional Lane Countyís public safety system is.  He understands the fiscal reality with the short term bailout from the federal timber payments.  He commented that every dollar put into corrections capacity where they currently are, translates into increased public safety.  He said they will get to the point that as they add capacity to the correction system, people arenít as dangerous to the community, but they are below the threshold and everyone they are releasing should not be released into the community.  He commented that things will be bad for awhile even if they add a little capacity back.  He said the system will not be whole.  He said they need to find a long term solution to a problem that is long term.  He commented that it is 40 years of different variables creating a problem.  He said collectively he asked that the Board, the county administrator, the District Attorney and he try to find a solution that will be long term.  He said they are all in this together and they need to find a solution.

 

Dwyer said they have to be prudent about how they spend the money.  He recalled that the last time they received the money they had Title II and Title III funds.  He added that they were allowed to use Title II and Title III to fund the Forest Work Camp, the Dunes deputy, search and rescue and the timber deputy.  He recalled when they didnítí get the money, those things went away.  He said now that they have the money, they are not allowed to do the same thing.   He stated that people in his district want safety and that when someone commits a crime that the police will arrive and there will be sanctions.  He was not committed to spending all of the money.

 

Fleenor asked if every dollar invested will produce a proportionate reduction in crime or if they reach a point of diminishing returns.  He asked the Sheriff and others in law enforcement to come back with a new vision.  He asked what they could do if they came back to the citizens of Lane County with a vision and a whole new courthouse and correctional facility properly designed that was state of the art.  He asked how much they would save. He wanted to explore operations.  He stated they could do a better job with the system they have.  He wanted a new vision as they move forward.

 

Dwyer indicated that people donít want to pay for the current system they have.  He didnít think they could develop a vision that encompasses a new courthouse and a jail they can afford to pay for.

 

Stewart stated that he has been on the Public Safety Coordinating Council for the past four years and he hears the conversations are getting worse.  He thought it was important to bring these people together to give the Board the knowledge about what is taking place.  He recalled they drastically reduced their budget July 1 that had an affect on the system and they have witnessed four months of operations at the lower level.  He wanted to have a conversation about moving forward.

 

 

5 COMMISSIONERS' ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

None.

 

6. CORRESPONDENCE TO THE BOARD

 

None.

 

7. COMMISSIONERS' BUSINESS

 

None.

 

8. EMERGENCY BUSINESS

 

None.

 

Commissioner Stewart recessed the meeting into Executive Session at 11:30 a.m.

 

 

Melissa Zimmer

Recording Secretary