558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Kitzhaber needs to give rural communities tangible results
February 11, 2013
In his State of the State address, Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber said — repeatedly — that Oregon’s government needs to make a stronger effort to support the economic recovery of rural communities.
We could not agree more. Many citizens and candidates running to represent Crook County have voiced their frustrations that Oregon lawmakers fail to understand or outright ignore the problems we face on the other side of the Cascades. Crook County still faces one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, and the community struggles to take advantage of its forests and other natural resources to create jobs because of stifling environmental regulations.
However, now that Kitzhaber has talked about focusing on rural Oregon, we want to see some tangible results. Senator Doug Whitsett and Representative Mike McLane, who serve Crook County in the Oregon Legislature, have identified some ways they would like Kitzhaber to help the community.
Whitsett wants him to scale back clean water and air regulations, because they stifle business growth with red tape and potential fines. He also wants Kitzhaber to stop the mileage tax, which can cost rural citizens who live in remote areas far more money than people who live in a tightly-clustered urban environment.
McLane believes the governor should keep an open mind about land use laws east of the Cascades where the soils differ from the Willamette Valley, so people can take advantage of business opportunities and create jobs.
We urge Kitzhaber to listen to Whitsett and McLane and other lawmakers who have a pulse on rural communities, and strongly consider the changes that they suggest. We further ask him to persuade urban lawmakers to support laws that benefit rural Oregon as they get introduced.
We have reason to believe Kitzhaber will follow through with his rhetoric. He has already boosted revenue in his budget for forest collaboratives, which enable communities to manage a portion of forest and create jobs. He also supported McLane in his efforts to prevent state taxation of Facebook, as well as his attempts to allocate Columbia River water for irrigation.
In addition, the governor has dispatched Regional Solutions teams statewide to help government ascertain what each area needs to succeed.
However, we also have reason to doubt what Kitzhaber has pledged to do. For decades, the larger Willamette Valley cities have benefited most from lawmaker action and rural communities have continued to suffer.
Actions speak louder than words. Kitzhaber has said the right things. Now he needs to do the right things and deliver some tangible results. A year or two from now, we want to see a major drop in our unemployment rate in Crook County and realize the governor came through for rural Oregon after all.