A bleak future for rural Oregon

By Dave Gilmour of Central Point, Oregon. Gilmour is a Jackson County Commissioner and a practicing family physician.

I was saddened by the failure of Congress to extend the "Secure Rural Schools Act", which would have compensated Western Oregon counties for lost timber revenues on O&C lands.

The loss of revenues will have a profound impact on our counties. Public Health will be affected by the lack of maintenance and dust abatement on rural roads. Public Safety will be affected by the loss of Sheriff patrols in rural areas.

In Curry County, county government may literally cease to exist. Should that County default; the bond rating of our entire state may be in jeopardy, increasing the cost of money borrowed to build our schools, bridges, and roads.

The failure to pass was partly due to the political acrimony that now paralyzes Congress, which has split our own delegation down party lines. Greg Walden (R), who for several years has worked closely with Peter DeFazio (D) to renew the bill, sided with fellow Republicans to vote against county payments.

The anger in their statements revealed a rift that may very well doom any efforts to pass an extension of county payments this year. Walden cited a "trail of broken promises and broken process." DeFazio accused Walden of caving in to outside pressures.

The DeFazio bill would have been funded by requiring those who acquired leases from the Federal government to drill for offshore oil & gas to actually pay royalties for the leases. (An error in the writing of the lease agreement during the Clinton administration conveniently exempted leaseholders from paying billions of dollars in royalties.)

Walden claimed that changing the lease contract was "illegal", even though the legal staff of the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service disagreed, and Walden had previously voted in favor of the Energy Independence and Security Act (HR6, 12/18/07) that had a similar funding provision.

We may never know what transpired behind closed doors or why communication between Walden and DeFazio has become so acrimonious. What we do know is that the culture of collegiality that used to get things done in Congress has become very frayed during the past couple of decades, and has degenerated into two warring camps during the past year.

A little over a year ago, during a National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington, a number of us lobbied Congress for an extension of the Secure Rural Schools Act. Walden's office had arranged a meeting for me with Steve Kagen, a Democratic Representative from Wisconsin. When I arrived at Kagen's office, I was told that the congressman was still tied up with a late vote. Out of deference to Walden, he instructed his aide to bring me through security to the cloak room that lies across the hall from the House chamber.

The room was packed with clusters of lobbyists in $1000 suits, waiting to meet with individual congressmen & women who were brought across the hallway to discuss specific bills. With my blue shirt, red tie and no jacket, I stood out like a sore thumb.

His aide brought Kagen to me. We had a brief discussion about the importance of the Secure Rural Schools extension to Jackson County and he agreed to become a co-sponsor.

I doubt that such a meeting would be possible today. If partisan vitriol prevents our Oregon delegation from working together for a common goal, how can we expect sympathetic votes from colleagues from districts that are not impacted by timber payments? How can citizens from District 2 who lobby Congress for an extension of Federal funding for vital County services be credible when their own Congressman opposed a similar bill?

The future extension of county timber payments looks very bleak indeed.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    The Republicans have sabotaged this funding, like all the others. The question has to be asked. Why does rural Oregon vote Republican? Why does rural Oregon vote Greg Walden? Why does rural Oregon vote Gordon Smith? Does rural Oregon have to hit bottom before they get it?

  • Kitty C (unverified)

    Keep it up Bill. Thats the way to get things accomplished. Seems to me the split in the parties for the past couple of decades started with the Ted Kennedy and Bork nomination.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)

    Rural Oregonians do have a choice in November. If they don't want to put up with any more of walden's obstructionist gabage, they can vote for Noah Lemas, and have a Congressman who will actually work with President Obama, The Faz, and the rest of Oregon's congressional delegation to get things done for rural Oregon.


    The choice is there. What's it going to be?

  • Don (unverified)

    The real problem here is that Bush is trying to use this bill as an excuse to sell a whole bunch of federal lands to loggers. Seriously, the Bush administration position is that the only way to pay for it to sell prime timberland to such folks. 7 more months and then we're rid of these idiots.

  • OWHN (unverified)

    "7 more months and then we're rid of these idiots." Not quite right. We''ll still have Greg Walden around, working for the Republican leadership, following orders and obstructing progress wherever possible. But as we east Oregoians say, "Greg is such anice guy!"

  • marv knudson (unverified)

    What has happened in Eastern Oregon is much like what has happened in the US. Media consolidation means that a steady diet of Lars Larson and the other misguided folks is available. Then too there is Eagle Newspapers who are an arm of the far right wing point of view which is to privatize everything. Interstate highways, the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area and the National Forests for starters. The military, the police and everything will be controlled by the "free market". This nonsense is happening becuse the vote count has been privatized. As Joe Stalin said, "Let them vote as long as I count them." Bush has said that it would be better if it were a dictatorship as long as he were dictator. And apparently Nancy Pelosi agrees. A world class war criminal gets a pass. And they say women have no power.

  • Clack (unverified)

    Worth noting that rural counties in other parts of the Western United States that lack big tracks of Forest Service and BLM lands have come up with other ways to fund their schools and basic services. The property taxes in timber-payment counties in Oregon are vastly lower than those in other parts of the country (and for counties like Washington and Multnomah that lack much in the way of federal timber lands).

    Last year several rural counties tried to address this problem with local tax measures that got shot down by the anti-government crowd. The reality is the days of big clear cutting on federal lands with money going to counties are over, and with the federal budget left in shambles by Bush and the Iraq war, timber payments are not coming back. Folks need to bite the bullet and start working on a rational tax policy in these counties.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Rural areas have growing problems. The high price of liquid fuel will hit rural people hard. They regularly drive long distances in heavy, fuel-hungry vehicles. Anything produced there must be transported long distances to market. Rural areas have few people to pay for road upkeep.

    I expect the depopulation of rural areas without sustainable local economy.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    "The question has to be asked. Why does rural Oregon vote Republican?"

    Because the 'Kool-Aid' always tastes better when you don't know whats in it.

    In other words - most of these people don't know any better and get sucked into and actually believe the useless and ubiquitous propaganda that is constantly spewed towards them during election years, only to be shown how gullible they were by voting the way they did years later.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Bill R. asks, "The Republicans have sabotaged this funding, like all the others. The question has to be asked. Why does rural Oregon vote Republican? Why does rural Oregon vote Greg Walden? Why does rural Oregon vote Gordon Smith? Does rural Oregon have to hit bottom before they get it?"

    Because, the institutions of the Democratic Party, the Officers and Executive Committee of the Oregon Democratic Party, the Campaign Committee of the Oregon Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, the unions, the think tanks, the 527 organizations, the individuals who have the means to contribute significant funds, and the others involved in the political process have not ever decided to provide sufficient funding for a minimal campaign against Greg Walden.

    It's really very simple. If a Second Congressional District candidate had a few hundred thousand dollars for direct mail, travel, a few TV ads, print ads, and some radio ads - those of us involved with the Democratic party in this District would not be asked (even on election day) - "Is someone running against Greg Walden?"

    This is one of the largest Congressional Districts in the United States (I believe third or fourth largest), covering the better part of 60,000+ square miles, a little more than 2/3rds of Oregon. This Congressional District has all or part of 20 out of Oregon's 36 Counties within it. There are four media markets (Medford, Bend, Pendleton/I-84, Hood River/The Dalles) with the majority of the District outside of those media markets. Roads do not go directly anywhere, so travel is measured not in miles but days. Most of the small towns and the Counties have a local weekly newspaper, but there are a lot of them when considering the expense of advertising.

    And the bottom line:

    The Repubican Party in 2006 spent over $1 million to retain this Congressional seat.

    The Democratic Party in 2006 spent about $10,000 to challenge this seat.

    -- I for one am very tired of hearing urban Democrats wail on about how rural Oregon is Republican territory. It really isn't.

    What Rural Oregon is, is unchallenged territory for Democrats.

    There are a whole lot of Democrats in rural Oregon. We are not the majority. But neither are the Republicans the majority party. As LT likes to point out, Unaffiliated is the big non-party.

    The Oregon Democratic party securely holds all State wide offices, all but one Congressional seat, and one Senate seat.

    If the same effort were put to the last Congressional seat held by the Republicans that is being put to the Senate seat, we would certainly have a fighting chance to take that seat away from Greg Walden.

    But, it's just easier to blame the situation on people being "rural".

  • (Show?)

    Condescension toward rural people isn't going to help anything or win votes. It's also wrong and unjustified.

    I've read that a good number of the Oregon counties affected are severely constrained in their possibilities of responses by Measure 5 and its sequelae. Is that true?

    There is a real vicious circle conundrum here, which is that people vote against taxes because they lack money due to the decline of the timber industry, but it's going to be hard to build or attract new economic activity with really basic services cut to the bone, or cut off.

    If the entire state bond rating is threatened by possible default of Curry County, is the legislature looking at any kind of statewide effort to avoid that effect? Seems like a public sector equivalent of the arguments for bailing out big banks whose failure would have unacceptable cascading consequences.

    Kitty C., in time you may be right, but I'd say the cause in that particular instance was President Reagan's nomination of a truly extremist judge in Robert Bork. Since 1988, Bork has revealed himself to be substantially the right even of Scalia. I remain grateful to Kennedy and the others who saved us from a disastrous appointment.

    Also, I think the Bork struggle was a symptom of something that had been developing for a while. Under Reagan and since the Republicans have reconstructed themselves as a much more ideologically uniform party than they had been previously -- not that they don't have divisions among different kinds of conservatives, but they've taken to describing moderates as liberals and equating liberalism with socialism or even communism, all of which is ridiculous and intensifies the stupidest and most destructive kinds of partisanship.

  • marv knudson (unverified)

    Clack in his comment suggesting that other counties in the west have solved the funding problem does not name one. And that is because there are none. Failure to learn that with every separation there is a further division allows folks to engage in the rural urban argument. Look, it is ONE STATE. And one nation. Anyone who thinks that they will be immunized from the divide and conquer crowd's plans is deluding themselves. Today Lars and Walden get away with selling Federal Land to a foreign entity. And tomorrow they lease the interstate to a foreign entity. It has already happened in Indiana which turned the Interstate into a toll road. Fares were triple what it would have cost to fix it. Don't you get it? Walden is a domestic enemy. Support Noah Lemas.

  • DE (unverified)

    Steve B, that's just ridiculous. Suggesting that all we need to do is spend some cash and we can take the seat is like saying the GOP could have Earl's seat if we only put up a fight. The GOP did NOT spend $1 Million "defending" that seat. Greg Walden's campaign fund did, unopposed, and he didn't need to in order to beat our $10K challenger. Go look up those expenditures and tell me what you see. Not massive TV & radio advertising suggesting a lopsided battle. He raised alot, and spent alot. If he had a challenger, he'd raise more. Until Ben Westlund decides to run against him, we have better ways to spend a million bucks. Face it, way more than 20% of Oregonians are registered Republicans. The idea that we should have 5/5 democratic members of congress is silly. Maybe instead just suggest we get a better Republican. Frankly, we'll be lucky if our sixth member of Congress in 2010 is not also a Republican.

    And yes, rural Oregon voters are way more republican than urban voters. This is true by registration and voting patterns, from the precinct level to the county level, even in Multnomah county. The no-party argument is silly; no-party does not mean wavering possible D voters.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    DE writes, "Steve B, that's just ridiculous." and blah, blah and blah ...

    Circular logic and Catch-22 come to mind. It goes like this:

    We should only spend money on winnable campaigns. Rural Oregon is Republican, we can't win there. In fact, if you look at the data, we never win there. In fact, if you look at the data, those campaigns can't even raise $20,000. The Republicans outspend us in rural Oregon. Rural Oregonians vote for Republicans. In fact, Democrats don't hardly even run for office in rural Oregon. It takes money to run for office, and these people just can't raise money. Rural voters, who don't see themselves as having credible choices, vote for the Republicans because they don't see alternatives. Rural voters must be drinking the kool aide, because they vote for Republicans. Since they will always vote for Republicans, it's not worth doing anything in rural Oregon - its just Republican territory.

    And I say, Really!

    Do rural Oregonians always vote for Republicans? Hmmmm? Always….

    Let’s take just one letter of the alphabet. W. Wyden and Wendel. Do you really think that Wyden only wins in urban Oregon? Sorry to inform you and break your stereotype, but he wins in rural Oregon. Why? Because he campaigns there! And that other W. Wendel?? Who the heck is he? Oh, just the Mayor of Prineville who is a union supporting Democrat. If we went around rural Oregon, we could find Democratic Party members elected to office from every letter of the alphabet.

    And why don’t you know this? Because in Oregon, media is not two-ways between urban-rural, it is one-way. In rural Oregon we read the newspapers from the cities, we watch the TV from the cities. Here I am in Central Oregon, 150 miles from Portland, and I can watch all the Portland channels, and read the Oregonian. Turn that around. In Portland do you read the Central Oregonian or the Bend Bulletin? Do you see Z21 TV from Bend? No. Well, hmmm, just what do you base your opinions of rural Oregon upon? How are you informed?

    You’ve been drinking the urban kool aide!

    So, like many belief systems based upon old stereotypes and a lack of real information, the urban belief system about rural Oregon is a circular belief system. Rural voters will always vote Republican. Because they vote Republican its not worth spending any money there. Without any money, rural Oregon can’t run effective campaigns. Because effective campaigns can’t be run, Republicans beat Democrats frequently. Because Republicans beat Democrats in rural elections, it appears that rural voters will always vote Republican. And on and on and on.

  • (Show?)

    Steve, as always I appreciate your analyses of these issues. The only thing that gives me some problems is the claim that there is only one "urban belief system" about rural areas and about urban-rural (& suburban & exurban & small city) relationships. I will grant you that there is a continuum of substantial to severe ignorance. But where I go to school, in the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at OHSU, very much in Portland, there is regular discussion and concern about issues of rural health (including Native health on rural reservations and in other rural communities), about how to address the basic health service crisis rural areas face, about equity in health policy, there are people conducting research projects in rural areas. The other thing is that there are considerable numbers of urbanites whom I've met who come from rural areas and have continuing family ties there.

    But you're right, if the DPO is serious about having a 36 county strategy corresponding to the national 50 state strategy, it doesn't make any sense to so completely ignore the 2nd CD at that level. What would seem to make sense would be to strategize about the relationships between building strengths at local and house and senate district levels and at the CD level, as I believe I've read you advocating before.

    I am curious if you perceive more allies at all from the suburbs/exurbs than from the cities themselves or the closely linked suburbs, e.g. Washington or Clackamas counties or East County Multnomah county, which have considerable rural or small-town/small-city or unincorporated areas. Never mind the rural areas in "the valley" & out toward the coast.

    It is sort of interesting in another way that a discussion that started primarily about rural southwestern Oregon has migrated east, as well.

    But keep pushing us for all-Oregon thinking. I appreciate it.

  • Tom Beckett (unverified)

    Let me state first of all that my life bridges the divide between rural and urban. Second I've lived in Portland for over 20 years. Third that I am an educator with children 3 to 16 in Portland Public Schools.

    I openly admit to having a prejudice against rural Oregonians that gives them little sympathy over the spot they are in today. When Rural Oregonians decided to back the Republican anti-tax, anti-government, anti schools measures of the early 90s, they cut their own throat. By buying into the moronic argument that Taxes are BAD, they gave predatory Republicans every excuse to destroy their schools, law enforcement and road maintenance.

    Somehow, somewhere they forgot that the majority of their lifestyle was already subsidized by the government. They also forgot the about the struggles of their grandfathers and grand mothers to organize for their rights. In their anger against urban "elites", abortion, LGTB activists and Environmentalists they committed political suicide. And in the process, have managed to cripple urban school districts, infrastructure and good will.

    Am I ready to move on? You bet. I happen to believe that Oregon is an amazing state and there are no better people to live with. But until rural Oregon understands that taxes are the bedrock of a functional society, I will perceive them as political morons. Until rural Oregon stops living in fear that Urbanites will corrupt their sons and daughters or that their is something morally wrong with a culture of acceptance that values individual liberty, then I cannot see them as Oregonians worthy of their ancestors.

    By the way, I have met only a few rural Oregonians that I have ever disliked on a personal level. One on One, they are kind, thoughtful and generous. I don't understand how they can be so bamboozled by Republican carpet baggers.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Chris - you are absolutely correct. As someone that grew up in Portland, and lived in Clackamas County for several years after college before spending a couple decades over here in Central Oregon, I am well aware that there is not "one" belief system in the urban parts of Oregon. I have lumped all of you together, and it really isn't fair. There are many people in urban Oregon who vary from the belief system that I projected.

    And yet, read the next post after yours.

    Tom uses that "they" word pretty loosely. I for one didn't vote for the things he discusses, and neither did the majority of rural Oregonians. You see, Tom is the example of what I was talking about.

    In the early 1990's, Measure 5 passed. It was the mother of all of Oregon's anti tax measures. It passed in the Portland metro area, Wasco County, and Jackson County. All the rest of Oregon voted against that measure. Crook Co. where I am voted against Measure 5. Yet - and Tom's post is the perfect example - rural Oregon is blamed for passing what urban Oregon actually passed. Here in Crook County, we have passed tax levies to pay for new school buildings and a new library building since Measure 5 passes. Tom is not well informed.

    So Chris, I admit I paint using a brush with wide strokes. I am sure that there is a rainbow of shades in urban belief systems. But, I have to look at effects not causes. I have to look at actions not beliefs. I project the underlying beliefs, but what is most important is the actions taken or not taken.

    And then back to Tom's biased and uninformed post. Here we have a marriage of belief and action. Tom, who comes lives a life of bridges between "us" and "them" now talks about how "they" are morons. He claims we are subsidised (he probably rides a bus paying a fair that only pays 20% of the cost of the bus ride, but never mind that). This blog is not big enough to explain how wrong Tom is on this subsidy issue, but I will briefly say that the low wages and income of rural Oregon and rural America subsidize the food, lumber, and other raw materials that make urban life as inexpensive as it is. Tom's core point, even if he doesn't know it, is that rural people shouldn't be. We should just leave. And that is about as ignorant as can be. Urban Oregon and urban America would fall apart if that happened.

    So Chris, I respect your academic approach to rural Oregon. It's not enough, but I respect the start. One item for your education - if you are within a hour of the full resources of downtown Portland, are you rural? You talk about rural eastern Multnomah County, and parts of Washington and Clackamas County. They are rural in the sense of large lots and parcels, cleaner air, better views, wildlife, etc. - but not rural in the sense of distance to medical facilities, distance to a full range of shopping and services, etc.

    Lastly, the one thing that rural Oregon is at this time is powerless in terms of the ability to overcome the Catch-22 that urban Oregon has put us in that I described in my last post. We are so spread out that it is extremely difficult to organize - with face to face meetings taking two days of travel (one there, one back). We don't have financial resources readily available. We have the small financial resources that if pilled together could make a difference, but we don't even get seed money to start that, because we are totally written off. Because the Howard Dean 50 State strategy devolved to a 49.3 State strategy, southern and eastern Oregon - the Second Congressional District - are left out in the cold.

  • marv knudson (unverified)

    Let me see. Don McIntyre and others with a wink and a nod obtain a gentlemen's agreement to keep commercial property assessments low while residential assessments increase. And somehow it is rural voters cutting their own throats thereby disserving of what the free market devotees of Milton Friedman advocate. Keep it simple stupid. Don't scapegoat (a sign of fascism) Howard Dean or the urban rural myth. Get out your checkbook and contribute to the democratic candidate for the second district, Noah Lemas. It is ONE STATE. Unless you think that Eugene is "rural".

    Similarly, the legislature passes a bill signed into law that REQUIRES utility companies to submit taxes that they collect to the State of Oregon. Governor Ted appoints folks to the PUC. One half a billion dollars per year is being collected by the utilities as taxes, then distributed to stockholders. Let me guess. Blame the rural folks. HMM. Are there more rate payers in Portland and Multonomah County or in The Dalles. But facts are not important to Republican bloggers who, chances are good, see those dividends as a way of paying for . . . their high property taxes. Brilliant free market hooey.

  • Tom Beckett (unverified)

    Mr. Bucknam,

    It may surprise you that people actually continue reading blogs that they have posted on. Your multiple use of my name as some sort of object is insulting. You are entirely correct that I used the term "they" loosely, as a reference to the majority of rural county voters who are registered Republicans and/or vote for Republican candidates and measures. That is entirely different from your attempts to make this personal.

    You are also correct in calling my OPINION biased. Opinions happen to always be biased, it is a redundancy to state so. Additionally, I admit on several occasions in my post to being opinionated, angry and (you didn't catch this part) ready to move on. My reference to morons, was actually stated as political morons, and that was reserved for those rural Oregonians who sign on with the Republicans to cut their tax base. I feel the same way about urban and suburban "trickle down" economists as well.

    Finally, you are over-reaching to state what you believe is my core point is that rural Oregon should not exist. How presumptuous of you to believe that you can think for me. I see rural, suburban and urban Oregon all as key players in our economy and Oregon community. As someone who grew up in rural Washington and Alaska, I am fully aware of the contribution made by all Oregonians to our lifestyle. So please don't presume to know anything about me after a single post on a blog.

    All that said, thank you for educating me about Measure 5. I would also like to thank you for taking the time to fight for progressive values. I do appreciate the subsidies to transportation that my taxes provide, as well as all the other amenities that come from living in an organized society. I pay for those amenities with my labor just like rural Oregonians do with their work.

    I admit to not being as fully informed about the minutiae of Oregon politics as I would wish to be and I look forward to reading blogs as a way to inform myself. Your condescending attitude met with my personal grudge and anger (undeserved on some counts) toward rural Republicans seem to have gotten in the way today.

    I would only ask that you reread my post above for what it is, an honest expression of the frustrations that Progressive, Urban Oregonians have toward an impossible situation made worse by continued support of those rural Oregonians who vote for Republican and Libertarian pipe dreams.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Tom -

    You are factually incorrect on many points, you called rural people morons, and the rest of your stuff doesn't deserve an answer.

  • (Show?)

    Thanks Steve. I agree that my academic approach isn't enough. Before my divorce I had more concrete ties to wheat-farming relatives in Eastern Washington (Sprague, between Ritzville and Cheney (& Spokane) and learned a lot, including about how ignorant I was, from them. But at minimum I learned to have respect for rural people borne of experience, not just general principle.

    Certainly I can see how posts like Tom B.'s must make it very easy to focus on ignorant urban attitudes. And to focus on actions only makes sense.

    Your definition of rural entails a degree of isolation that I think would cut out a lot of places where people regard themselves as rural (and here I don't mean in the Metro Portland counties). I raise that not to pick nits but because of trying to think about the political problem of getting together a sizeable enough center of gravity to change the dynamics.

    I am curious whether there's anything like a "rural allies" caucus or informal grouping in the state lege, beyond the reps and senators from primarily rural districts. Or within the DPO ... or maybe it should be a "whole state strategy" or "36 county" caucus. I'm trying to think about actions to take, or laying bases for taking actions. Unfortunately my abstraction on this is not only from rural people and places, but even from the Multco DP.

    I was out of state when Measure 5 passed, and I see I need to go back and learn that history. What you say is an eye-opening good start. It makes perfect sense, all those "tax revolts" were driven by rising single family home values which were mainly suburban and urban issues (Massachusetts had one too, not quite as rigid as M5).


    Tom B., I don't know you, all know about you is the two texts before me here. So I don't and won't presume to know your motives or underlying attitudes or actions etc.

    However, that point cuts both ways. You read what you wrote knowing yourself and all kinds of things blog readers can't. And from your response, I can only assume that you don't really understand how the first thing you wrote reads to someone who doesn't know you except from that text.

    It does not read merely as opinion, with the simple biases that are an inevitable feature of opinions and even just having separate points of view. It reads as a highly prejudicial view, systematically biased toward the hostile and to unevidenced stereotypes in a type of "bias" that goes far beyond the simple biases of opinion.

    Your second post provides some separate context that mitigates somewhat, but really most of that would have been very hard to infer from the first. And even so it still seems problematic, and IMO to reflect an opinion that I'd regard as erroneous & grossly oversimplified in many respects, and particularly unhelpful in the context of trying to talk about solving problems affecting our fellow citizens.

  • Blueshift (unverified)

    I grew up in an extremely rural area where traveling to the nearest major urban center was a day-long trip. Many, many of the people I grew up around were conservatives, particulary when it came to taxes. They generally believed that while county government was okay, state government did not exist to serve them. Why was that? Because state government never came to them. Legislators, statewide officials, even agency heads simply never showed up to talk to these people about what they were doing with our money and why. And since so little of that money came back to our small rural communities, people understandably believed that their money was being wasted. Travelling to the capital to speak with elected representatives was a long trip that most working families couldn't afford (even if they could spare the time.) On the other hand, when county government wanted to do something, our representatives were right there, and were accessible to us. We could provide feedback on their proposals, and, because they lived in our communities, they directed funding toward things we needed and understood.

    I think accessibility makes all the difference. It makes perfect sense that areas with higher population density should get more money. However, if policymakers never visit lower population density areas, they will not only cede the debate to the people with the loudest and closest voices, but they will not know what rural citizens most need and want from their share of the tax dollars. Less tangibly, having a state policymaker visit a place puts a real person's face on the all-too-often faceless organization of government. Just having (or not having) a real person to talk to make such a difference in the way people conceive of their government.

  • LizMc (unverified)

    Republicans are floundering during this election year, and there appears to be a ham-fisted campaign to ensure GOP members vote the party line. The Senate version of the Secure Rural Schools Act passed handily last year 75-22, even Gordon Smith voted for it. (I presume he didn't receive the GOP memo that day. Is it me, or is Smith becoming more moderate? Or is he pandering to hold his Senate seat this election year?) Regardless, it’s nice to see Senators Wyden and Smith working together on this even if our Reps are unable to do so. Other than party loyalty, it doesn’t make any sense that Walden would turn down “free money” for his constituents. (The Senate version of the Secure Rural Schools Act was attached to a supplemental war funding bill.)

    Not only was this bill to fund schools and public works, a portion of it was to go towards retraining workers affected by the loss of timber income. When the bill was reauthorized in 2000, counties knew they had a small window of time to get these workers retrained because the funding would be phased out in 2006 unless the bill was reauthorized again. I’m not aware of any related statistics in that regard; evidently counties have been slow to get retraining programs off the ground. There seems to be some resistance on the part of the workers themselves to retrain. Their lives are indelibly wrapped up in the timber industry.

    If there is a chance this bill could pass in the future, retraining would need to begin immediately. Those in the timber industry must get back on their feet so that they can begin to contribute to funding schools and public works through their taxes from meaningful jobs. It’s either that, or the funding phases out altogether, and Walden should work to find a compromise that will help his people get on their feet.

    Tough choices ahead.

  • TunaTime (unverified)

    "The property taxes in timber-payment counties in Oregon are vastly lower than those in other parts of the country (and for counties like Washington and Multnomah that lack much in the way of federal timber lands)....Last year several rural counties tried to address this problem with local tax measures that got shot down by the anti-government crowd. ... Folks need to bite the bullet and start working on a rational tax policy in these counties."

    I'm quoting above from Clacks post because he's brought to light the fact that's been completely ignored - that places like Jackson County, the people haven't been willing to assess themselves for the services they want.

    They are against taxes, unless someone else is paying them - in this case the US citizenry that own the Federal forests.

    This situation was forseen decades ago when the forests were being illegally overcut...as long as those payments-in-lieu-of-taxes came into local governments, they turned a blind eye to the damage being done.

    Watch this same situation develop with the State Forests...you have Tillamook County commissioners all clamoring for increased clearcutting on that forest. Building a budget on unsustainable practices is just plain stupid....the bill always comes due.

    Having lived most of my life in rural areas, I'm sympathetic to the situation. At the same time there's the simple fact that you get the services you're willing to pay for.

  • DanB (unverified)

    Steve B did a good job of explaining life in district 2. Prior to 1980 District 2 elected a Democrat for 12 terms. He was the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee which meant big bucks for Eastern Oregon. Our sewer, City Hall and Fire station were all gifts from Al Ullman. When the logging mills were union this was democrat country.

    County payments. I personally think the time for subsidizing counties for timber receipts from the maximum logging times should be over. However this bill would have been the last, so it would have been helpful. Our county which was a huge recipient of these subsidies only used the money for schools and roads. We had built up millions in the road fund and still have a lot there. Some money leaked into other areas, but not a lot. Road fund money is still used to help the schools, but not for much longer.

    Walden is such a bottom feeder. To tie this bill to new oil drilling is pig boy at his best. Drilling off shore is not going to lower the price of gas anywhere. Oh yeah the amount of oil Exxon has on contract is going down. So how can they make these huge profits. Republicans to the rescue.

    <h2>Defeat Walden...??? Mr Lemas is running such a low key campaign I am not sure if it really is one.</h2>
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