Mayors' history plea to county gets hearing but no action

Jackson County Commissioner Jack Walker fired back at eight mayors today after they urged the county to renew its financial support for local historical societies.

"We proved it twice in court that, no, the county doesn't owe them anything," he said.

At the same time, Walker said the county is working toward a solution that might prevent the Southern Oregon Historical Society from becoming history itself.

Mayors from Medford, Ashland, Eagle Point, Phoenix, Talent, Gold Hill and Jacksonville wrote letters to the Board of Commissioners requesting financial support for the dozen local historical societies operating in Jackson County.

George Kramer, a local historian and chairman of the Oregon Heritage Commission, presented the letters at a commissioners' meeting today and urged the body to devote to the historical societies 5 to 10 cents of every $1,000 in assessed valuation it collects.

Walker said that if the mayors are so concerned the cities should find the money to support historical buildings in their own communities. He said cities would have an easier time finding money than the county, which is still recovering from financial turmoil three years ago.

"You have not done what is fair and equitable by way of the historical societies of Jackson County," Kramer said.

The Historical Society relied on a 1948 levy that set aside property taxes to preserve Jackson County's history. The county maintains that the historical society lost its entitlement to that money with the passage of state ballot measures 47 and 50, which led to the consolidation of levies in 1997. The county won the court battles, but ultimately settled with the historical society to provide temporary funding to SOHS.

— Damian Mann

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