Narrative versus fact.

When you have an agenda, you need a narrative, and it helps to have an official sounding organization behind it, like Community Rights of Douglas County or DCPARC even if you are just self-appointed opinionists who really don’t advise anyone, on anything that matters anyway. For your narrative to get traction, it should sound like you know what you are talking about, at least to those who aren’t in the know.

These self-created organizations help drive phony narratives, and that is exactly what this accusation of Improper Use of Funds is. It has little to do with anything other than a few local’s attempts to stop the logging and to fight against those who continue to push for sensible forest management. One of them recently told me that they were looking forward to the day that trees had rights too. … The same man would rather have hazard trees left in county parks to fall on patrons than to see them removed, and God forbid they go to a lumber mill!

To understand Title III, part of the Secure Rural Schools program, you first have to understand that for many years, the federal government through the BLM on O&C timberlands and the Forest Service on national forest land, managed renewable resources for the good of the national treasury and the local communities. Not only were the forests healthy and fire resistant, so were the communities, healthy — and fire resistant. Then comes a change in the management plan which cripples rural economies and it’s the SRS program to the rescue. Well kinda.

The counties began being propped up by taxpayers instead of sharing in the revenues from a renewable resource and private timber lands were left to meet the growing wood products demand globally. The national debt spirals out of control as payments into the treasury are replaced by a larger tax burden and deficit spending to keep counties afloat. All while billions of dollars of resource is left on the ground to waste as forest fires continue to decimate the west.

The timber receipts from O&C Lands went to the county’s general fund where they could be used for just about anything. They paid for parks, libraries, landfills, senior and veteran’s services and more. Fifty percent of the Forest Service receipts were split between the county road fund and schools to aid in education. Road maintenance was performed on schedule and county bridges were replaced on a 50-year cycle, all 301 of them. Academic programs were healthy, school buildings were safe and sound, and after-school programs were robust and did not have to go door knocking for funds. Graduation rates were up, and jobs were plentiful. Now under SRS, the money is restricted to certain things. The rules continue to change and reauthorizations become less certain while allocations continue to shrink. County and school budgets have been cut, services and programs eliminated, graduation rates are down and bridges and roads are falling apart. The feds have tied the hands of local policy makers in regulatory red tape where the only option is to continue to cut the budget. So, counties continue to lobby for more changes in the law to allow broader uses of funds. Douglas County leads that charge, and somewhat successfully. The latest version of the farm bill included language that allowed funds for search and rescue to include “patrol, training, and equipment.” The grant to Douglas County Fire District No. 2 falls into this category. District No. 2 responds to federal and private land and assists search and rescue with swift water rescues and other missions. The changes added to the Wildfire Protection Plans included language that allow the funds to be used to “carry out” the plan, not just write it. Wildfire Protection Plans are all about creating fire resilient communities, which has proven to be an impossible task in recent years considering the mismanagement of the lands around them. Keeping bridges and road infrastructure in good repair both for getting firefighting equipment to these areas and keeping escape routes open for evacuees is paramount.

It is true that different iterations of Title III regulations, as written by the federal agencies, have been less than specific, have changed over time, and have different restrictions based upon which version of the law the funds were dispersed under, making understanding them difficult. It is also true that Douglas County is the largest recipient of these funds in the country. Conversely, Douglas County was at one point, the largest recipient of actual timber receipts from a renewable resource. Those funds were plentiful and mostly unrestricted, those were better times.

It is not true that Douglas County Commissioners, present, or past, have misused or inappropriately spent these funds and that is a fact, not a narrative.

Chris Boice is a Douglas County Commissioner currently serving in his second term. He was first elected to the position in 2014.

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(18) comments

Connerth

One gets the impression that their was not a lot of gifts under someone's tree today so they had too much time to commit on this guest column.

Connerth

This act expire last year. Of course Boice won't tell any one that. So the question is, where is this money coming from ? So Boice doesn't think trees deserve rights. But he's not too fond on people's rights, especially their 1st amendment rights !

NJ

And all that still sounds like the Commission needs to climb out of the trees and try to envision diversifying to new industry. Perhaps one fully explained by a Commissioner who's attitude is not quite so angry.

melrosereader

NJ this is the crux of the matter. But the question is, how do we attract new industries? I mean, it's not like commissioners, at least in the past, have not been trying.

NJ

Agreed, I find them very trying. That it is problematic for them to attract new industry/businesses is why I feel the commission needs to be revamped to include some fresh minds that represent more of the county as a whole. They could embrace the more innovative industry of cleaner forms of energy, wave and wind power. It takes willfully creating more time to connect with new ideas rather than remain bogged down in the waning returns of timber. There are always options.

Mike

I've told this story before when I heard Roseburg was trying to diversify its businesses. And I'm NOT buying it. A friend of mine decided to move his manufacturing business employing 75 people out of California. I tried to talk him in to moving his business to Roseburg. He set up meetings with the Chamber of Commerce folks in both Roseburg and Sutherlin. After his meetings, he told me the Sutherlin meeting went well but the Roseburg Chamber of Commerce meeting was disappointing, unhelpful. My friend was close to moving his business to Sutherlin but eventually moved it to Nevada instead. He now employs nearly 200 people.

Chris Boice

Wind and wave energy are both HIGHLY subsidised by the tax payers. Wood products resources are as renewable and anything, and releive the burden on the tax payer by generating revenue for the treasury... Sometimes the old way is the best way. The trees are going to grow. We have three choices, use them to provide essential services like libraries, parks and landfills (which was done in Douglas County for over 80 years), burn them, or let them die and rot. My vote is for the free libraries, parks and landfills.

Chris Boice

Exactly, and it will absolutely not solve the problem that we are trying to solve either!

Chris Boice

The entirety of the problem is this narrative that "timber is dead" and we need to diversify into new industry. Timber is not dead as wood products demand is higher than ever and we are burning up billions of dollars worth of resources and leaving it to waste annually. We could literally supply the wood products demand with DEAD TREES. Just so you know, the Counties share in revenues from trees sold into market. Those revenues REDUCE the tax burden to the citizens for proving important services. Why anyone would advocate for higher taxes while wasting a perfectly good resource is beyond me! "Alternative Industries" do absolutely nothing to solve County and School revenue problems aside from pay the same taxes as anyone else. At the current tax rates, there are not enough "alternative industries" to fill the gap. Aside from the fact that every "alternative industry" comes with it more people who use services, which makes the cost to deliver services higher. The model is upside down. I'm also not sure why people beleive the Commissioners should be responsible for economic development and creating these "alternative industries" out of thin air when the State has contol of the tax structure, the land use regulations, and everything else industry needs to be successful, yet we still work on this non-stop. Trying to create "alternative industry" when the ones we have are fleeing the state for more favorable business environments is a lot like hunting unicorns.

Mike

"Unicorn hunting" is where a heterosexual couple seek a bisexual woman to join their relationship. Is that the analogy you really wanted to use?

NJ

My comment was that the timber industry is waning. Statewide job projections indicate in the next ten years - 2019 to 2029, Oregon will lose 14,000 logging jobs. While timber is not dead, the prospect of a logging job for young men with no means for higher education, in our smaller, more rural county communities certainly does appear to be waning. Health Care jobs will be growing over the next 10 years and the County sports only 4 hospitals. So what comes first, the industry to the ability to attract the industry? Are we now in a Catch 22? We can't attract new industry because it's too expensive and we're past that point of having funding ideas to allow higher education for the young people in our smaller more rural communities who could innovate more diverse industry to the county? Are those blinders permanently affixed that can't offer newer ideas for a thriving county?

George Weston

Maybe we need to reduce government or raise taxes.

Mike

Commissioner Boice,

If it is NOT true that Douglas County Commissioners, present, or past, have misused or inappropriately spent federal money meant to fund public safety and educational programs as YOU claim, they why did both Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley find it necessary to introduce legislation one year ago to prohibit Douglas County from continuing to use federal safety net funding to pay for lobbying trips to Washington, D.C.? Are you saying you didn’t spend $75,000 on travel expenses as reported by The Oregonian? Are you saying you didn’t use that federal money meant to fund public safety and educational programs to instead lobby President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other federal leaders to increase logging?

Secure Rural Schools payments provide a much-needed lifeline for critical services ranging from schools to roads to public safety. It was never intended for Douglas County Commissioners as a private slush fund for their boondoggles. That, is also a fact and not a narrative.

https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2019/11/dc-lobbying-trips-paid-with-federal-safety-net-money-would-end-under-new-legislation-from-wyden-and-merkley.html

mworden

[thumbup] Thanks for providing that info, Mike. Commissioner Boice obviously believes he can provide Douglas County voters with whatever alternative facts he makes up and people will be stupid enough to believe him. Sorry, Chris, those days are going to end.

Chris Boice

Mworden, you have the names mixed up in your comments. I provided the facts and Mike provided the narrative, and no proof, and just becasue Wyden and Merkley proposed legislation, does not mean that it passed. Rest assured, every penny of SRS funds have been spent exactly according to the letter of the law. It has been audited over and over, my multiple agencies, and not a singe finding of wrong doing has been found. The only problem has been that there is some that don't like it, and that's ok. That's the business of policy making.

mworden

Chris, you do know that you submitted a written narrative to the N-R for publication, don't you? A narrative is a story, a written or spoken account of events. It can be fiction or non-fiction. A good non-fiction narrative has characters and a plot, you know, like Bad Guys who spin phony yarns and Good Guys leading the charge. Check and double check.

A fact is a thing that's known or proven to be true. I read your narrative. I see a lot of your opinions sprinkled with some fact-like statements. I don't know if anything you've said is true.

You seem to be saying that your story is factual and other people's stories are mere narratives and somehow that's supposed to be a denigrating way to say your story tops their story. I guess it's better than calling people liars, but it's a wiggle word distinction that doesn't make one bit of sense.

I do know when you make that kind of fake differentiation, it makes me not trust you. That's a personal opinion. Not much of a narrative, more of a feeling. Feelings are not facts. No matter how justified you feel in the lobbying actions of the commissioners, your feelings do not make your narrative factual.

It is a fact that Oregon's Senators introduced legislation to bar county commissioners from using SRS money for lobbying after Commissioner Freeman made multiple lobbying trips to Washington DC since 2015.

It is also a fact that our congressional delegation introduced legislation to reauthorize SRS payments to the counties. They've been doing it for years without help from Tim's trips. They're the ones doing the work.

My narrative says it's unfortunate if the legislation did not pass. It was enough that it brought about awareness of a long-standing problem. There appears to be wiggle room in the Byrd Amendment about the impropriety of using federal grant monies to lobby the feds regarding future grants. I haven't studied it in years so I don't know what applies now and what doesn't. However, it's clear that the intention, going all the way back to the original 1919 legislation and strengthened in the Byrd Amendment, has been to place restrictions on lobbying the feds with federal funds. If I recall correctly, state and local governments are specifically NOT exempt in FAR regulations.

I guess my main take-away from your narrative is that you don't want that wiggle room questioned, much less shut down.

Carisa Cegavske did a good job in this story:

https://www.nrtoday.com/news/government/douglas_county_government/congressmen-question-douglas-county-commissioners-use-of-safety-net-money-for-lobbying-trips/article_1c196a1e-9456-5f8d-927e-120a7e6f2b9c.html

NJ

[thumbup]

Chris Boice

Mike,

Thanks for proving my point. The two good Senators who are far more interested in political pandering than they are in finding actual solutions, proposed legislation to further restice the money because what we were doing with it was NOT against the rules.. If it were, there would be no need to introduce the legislation now would there?? IF it was congresses intent for the money to not be spent that way, then they should have written the rules to say so!!, but they didn't, and we used the money appropriately, and Douglas County has benefitted greatly. SRS is vital, and we are grateful for it, in an environment where the Feds have severed our lifeline (and thier own by the way) in thier infinite wisdom and instead, put on on life support. The whole thing is a cumulation of the dumbest decision making ever. After reading your baseless rants for months now, I'm not surprised at all that you disagree. By the way, why did your friend end up in Nevada?? I can promise you that it had far more to do with Nevada vs. Oregon corporate tax structure and employment laws than it did the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

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