26 Mar 2008, 9:43am
Politics and politicians
by admin

Two on Rural Politics in Oregon

Here are two recent news articles on rural politics in Oregon. Just to let you know how we high rate out here.

Number One:

Rural areas will lose a voice in Salem [here]

MATTHEW PREUSCH, The Oregonian Staff, March 23, 2023

BEND — Among the victims of Oregon’s darkening fiscal picture this year is the state’s only rural policy director.

Not that rural Oregonians are surprised. As they’ll tell you, getting the short end of the stick sort of comes with the territory.

In April 2004 at the Elks Lodge in John Day, Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed an executive order creating the Office of Rural Policy.

“The new Office of Rural Policy will assist the state in better understanding the unique needs and issues of rural Oregon,” Kulongoski said as eastern Oregon leaders looked on. Many hoped it would help bridge the state’s much-maligned urban-rural divide.

But the hope of some of those people who stood beside the governor has turned to bitter disappointment. At the end of this month, the office will disappear and its director and only full-time employee, Jim Azumano, will be out of work.

“From start to finish, it has been one of the most sorry situations I have ever been a party to,” Laura Pryor, a former Gilliam County executive and one of the office’s early supporters, said in a recent e-mail to colleagues.

The office never received regular allocations from the state’s general fund, relying instead on short-term federal grants and other miscellaneous funds.

Last year, the governor’s office asked for $400,000 to support the office, but the 2007 Legislature authorized only enough to keep it running for nine months. Lawmakers also asked Azumano and office supporters to come back with a report justifying its existence.

“I don’t know what they’ve done, other than have on the governor’s masthead a recognition that this administration cares about rural issues,” Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, a Ways and Means committee member, said during a hearing on the office last June.

Johnson and others were also concerned the office was duplicating some work of other agencies, such as the economic development department.

The office’s champions say it was never given a chance to succeed.

“The office of rural policy in my opinion was set up for failure,” said Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day.

Ferrioli lays the blame on Kulongoski, who he said treated the office like a “redheaded stepchild” by not fighting hard enough to keep it open.

Kulongoski did ask the Legislature for $250,000 to keep the office running through 2007. The more likely scapegoat is the more recent $178 million drop in the forecast for the state’s budget.

“I don’t think you can put the lack of success on the governor,” Azumano said. “He put it in his budget, he asked for the money.”

In his brief tenure, Azumano, a former Clatsop and Hood River county administrator, served as a one-man information conduit and policy creation shop for rural Oregon. His was the only part of state government that focused exclusively on the long-term prospects and plans for rural Oregon in areas such as water, education, health care and jobs.

This month Azumano released his office’s first — and final — report on rural Oregon, where the immediate prospects in many communities are not good. Timber-based economies are nose-diving because of the downturn in new home construction and subsequent drop in demand for lumber for window and door parts. And renewal of the federal payments program that delivered millions of dollars to 33 Oregon counties is mired in Congress, meaning cuts to roads, schools, libraries and other programs could become permanent.

But beyond specific policy proposals, Azumano’s main role was to act as an emissary from the lands of long vistas to the state’s bureaucracy and lawmakers.

Rural leaders often bemoan how new state laws or rules might work in Beaverton or Eugene but don’t translate well in areas that are still considered frontier by population density standards. One example he cites: training requirements for firefighters are the same in Portland, which has a paid, professional department, as they are in areas with all-volunteer forces.

“The biggest loss is to lose that voice in the governor’s office at the policy level to say, ‘Wait a minute, what does this mean for rural Oregon?’ ” said Mike McArthur, a former Sherman County executive who now heads the Association of Oregon Counties.

Still, the office was not universally lauded in rural Oregon. It was of more service to leaders in the far eastern counties, where day trips to Salem just aren’t possible, Crook County Judge Scott Cooper said.

“It was never that important to the central and western part of the state,” Cooper said. “I don’t have any clue how it added any value. I don’t think it was a very good idea to begin with, and I don’t think its loss will be felt.”

But it wasn’t the only rural aid program to fall before the budget ax. So did the Regional and Rural Investment Program, which funneled state lottery money to economic and community development projects across the state through 13 multicounty regional investment boards.

With the rural policy office no more, there is some talk in Salem of having Azumano stay on as a sort of rural ombudsman who can advocate for the same demographic but not be beholden to any branch of government, said Sen. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, who co-chairs the Ways and Means committee.

“It would require more funding,” he said, “but not on the scale of having a separate agency.”

Number Two:

Entire Elgin planning commission resigns [here]

Written by Ethan Schowalter-Hay, The Observer, March 21, 2023

The entire planning commission of the City of Elgin resigned Thursday night rather than consent to new ethics requirements taking effect this year.

“As volunteers in a small community, they all resigned rather than have the state post their personal and financial information on the Internet, and further having the state threaten them with fines and a Class C felony for protecting their privacy,” said Elgin City Administrator Joe Garlitz.

A 2007 amendment to Chapter 244 of the Oregon Revised Statutes means that all public officials in Union and Wallowa counties, for the first time, will need to submit a Statement of Economic Interest to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.

As the decision of the Elgin planners demonstrates, the change is not without controversy. An informational meeting has been called for Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Misener Conference Room at 1001 Fourth Street. At that time, Tammy Hedrick, a trainer with OGEC, will discuss the issue and answer questions.

ORS 244.050 mandates that, among other positions, all elected officials, planners and administrators/managers at the city and county levels comply with the filing rule — or suffer civil penalty.

Most such officials in Oregon have had to submit the statements since 1974 — including in La Grande, Baker City and Union, and Union and Wallowa counties — but 97 communities and six counties have been exempt, until now.

In Northeast Oregon, Cove, Elgin, Enterprise, Imbler, Island City, Joseph, Lostine, North Powder, Summerville, Ukiah and Wallowa are newly affected.

The disclosures relate to the economic interests of the public officials and their relatives or members of their household. They need to be filed by April 15, every year by those holding office on that date. The same people must submit a Quarterly Public Official Disclosure on the 15th of each month following the quarter.

In the economic interest statements, respondents must identify the source of any of their, their relatives’ or a member of their household’s income above $1,000 — but not the amount itself.

The statements also address property holdings, shared business with lobbyists, honoraria, certain types of debt and investments, etc.

According to Hedrick, the information submitted in the economic statements is not yet posted online, but the commission is mandated to do so by 2010.

This morning, Garlitz predicted more fallout from the legislation in other sectors of Elgin city government.

In an interview prior to last night’s planning commission resignations, Garlitz and Elgin Mayor Carmen Gentry expressed concern about the requirements’ effect on volunteer positions.

“What’s going to happen is that everyone is going to resign because they are all volunteers and don’t want to file this paperwork,” said Gentry.

“What’s really scary about the April 15 deadline are the penalties, and who’s going to risk getting a Class C felony for a volunteer public office?”

Garlitz said the information should not be made available online.

“If it was kept confidential with the ethics commission, that’s one thing,” he said, “but we don’t want it on the Internet.”

Gentry said, “This bill was pushed through under the radar.”

She and Garlitz also argued that state law and city charter already structure against corruption and that the financial statements burden municipal bookkeeping.

In a guest column in this week’s Observer, Marc Stauffer, a planning commissioner in Enterprise, argued against the “Nazi Germany-style ‘Ministry of Information’ gathering tactic’ of ORS 244.050.

“I understand and even applaud the efforts of the Legislature to curb governmental corruption,” Stauffer wrote. “But is it right to drive from office those uncompensated volunteers that give freely of themselves in an effort to better the communities they live in?”

Cove City Councilor Jim Lundy said the new legislation functions as a formal reminder of public office’s code of conduct.

“There’s something we need to remember,” he said. “Rules are made for people who break them … These things, to me, are common-sense type things.”

Most public officials, he explained, use sound ethical judgment when it comes to voting on issues they may have some personal or financial stake in — if so, often choosing to abstain from the vote.

“It’s up to us (as councilors) to be ethical and above reproach,” Lundy said. “But because some aren’t, they had to make these rules.”

He added, “It’s to remind people — but (ideally) you shouldn’t have to remind people to be ethical.”

26 Mar 2008, 2:27pm
by bear bait

Drop back and look at what really happened. Kulongoski is the Union Governor. His whole office is staffed out of Unions, by public employee unions, teachers union, and trade union personnel. He has bragged about it.

The issue with unions is that they take mandatory dues from non-union employees at all public jobs. The wages are provided for by taxes paid by all, most of whom are not union employees. A portion of that money is spent on political campaigns. 98% of Union campaign money goes to Democrats. They have figured out how to have your taxes pay their political costs. Cute! And they get the benefit, and you do not.

To grow unions, they need more union jobs. The fertile ground for Unions is public employment. So grow government jobs, and you grow unions, you grow union dues, and you grow political money for Democrats. Very linear, very simple.

Now that Unions have elected a full slate of Democrats to control the Legislature, the Gov’s office, sec of state, state treasurer, atty gen’l, they have the whole salami. Now the issue is to make laws that do away with any volunteer jobs in the public sector. Volunteer firemen is a classic. Raise the number of mandatory training hours to a level a volunteer can no longer budget the time to participate and still have a job and a family. That it is unfriendly to small burgs and rural areas makes no never mind. That it is unfriendly to families, to community, does not matter. What matters is that the work go to Union workers, who will make mandatory payments to the Union, which will then funnel it to their political aspirations, all protected by law. It is communism by steps. One step at a time. Eventually, all will work for the State or some form of government. They might have a voting majority right now.

That Unions, the teachers in particular, own the elected offices of Oregon is no secret. That their brethren in police, fire, public infrastructure do as well, is no secret. All you have to know is that “disabled” Portland firemen and police get full disability pay and then get other jobs and work until they turn 65, and retire like millionaires. The best one is the guy who produces and stars in the television hunting show ‘Northwest Hunter.” A disabled Portland cop. Hunting goats and sheep. All over the world.

The best latest Toolongstupidski story is the guy who called in to Lars to tell him he saw the Gov’s Expedition State SUV at the Medford airport, and the State cops Crown Victoria. Both driven down from Salem. The Gov flew in on the State twin engine plane, the Gov rode a mile and a half to his speech, drove the same back to the airport and flew back to Salem or wherever. The cars were then driven back to Salem.

The only thing green about this Governor is the faces of the people he makes sick by his attitude, actions and gross stupidity when he talks. Mr. Children’s Health. No kid in Oregon is denied access to life and death health care. That mom or dad does not make them brush their teeth or use fluoride is not a State issue. That mom or dad does not provide is not a State issue. And this guy has shoved ethanol up my butt to save the world. My boss and I took our prior gas mileage and computed our current gas/ethanol mix mileage, and the difference by percentage, the loss of mileage, and then computed it against $3.50 regular gas and $3.5O ethanol mix gas, and it will cost us an extra $1250 to drive the same 20,000 miles this next year. Pissed away. Gone. Extra expense. For what? So Gov. Colonoscopy can wear a button on his lapel? So he can tell all who would listen what a green guy he is? That is not the end of that money pissed away. The missing corn is not feeding anyone, except the mash might go to cows. But it sure as hell has raised food prices because it made all grains go up and the cost to get them here go up. Two more like minded green moves and we are dust. Gone. Not even a blip on the economic radar.

We are becoming Africa. Same sort of leadership. Work for the Government and do well. The rest? Find a way to make it, sucker. Meanwhile, we export commodities and natural resources, and import manufactured goods and food. Africa. We are fast becoming Africa. Do you not think the burn it all mentality, the scorched earth USFS fire policy is not African? Is that not the National Geographic whine about Africa? Where have the forests gone? The government sold them, dork! Here the government is going to burn them. So what is the frigging difference?

The new Oregon book: Into Africa….a study in leadership failure, the Oregon Experience. We build ships, not rudders.

I am old enough to remember when Straub was running for Governor, and he said he by-cod would put all the unemployed to work planting trees on all those unstocked acres. Start the day he was sworn in. Some cooler head took him aside to explain that it was a noble idea, but no site prep work had been done, there were not enough cones collected, seed ready to plant, trees available. You need about 4 years lead time to undertake that road, and by that time you will no longer be in office…..duh. But he was elected. And so has been Wyden, Wu, Hooley, Several Smiths, De Fuzio, Bicycleblunderhauer, and more of their ilk on the way….Cod Help Us!!!!!!

11 Apr 2008, 1:19am
by Lauren Dillard

The Oregonian Opinion blog has picked up this topic of the Office of Rural Policy for dicussion.

What’s your opinion?

11 Apr 2008, 6:59am
by Mike

Well, Lauren, glad you asked. Here are a few.

1. “discussion” is spelled with 3 s’s.

2. Your note seems pretty spammy to me. Did you bother to read this blog before you shot us an email?

3. I don’t read the Oregonian and never visit the blogs there. I recommend that un-practice to others, too.

4. We do a lot better job here at reporting the news that matters to rural Oregon residents than the Oregonian does.

5. And we don’t pollute minds and the environment like the dead tree Oregonian does. (The Oregonian is a corporate paper distributor that generates mountains of waste, burns tankers full of fossil fuels every day, and has a huge carbon footprint).

6. You and yours are fundamentally clueless about what goes on in rural Oregon.

I could go on and on, and I have, and I will continue to do so.

Thanks for asking.

15 Apr 2008, 8:16pm
by Marc Stauffer

Well, this was a double slap in the face for me. One, I was the Eastern most member of the Office of Rural Policy Advisory Committee and two, the new ethics law has chased me out of my position of Chair of the Enterprise Planning Commission. In both instances, there has been a HUGE lack of understanding as to the consequences of both of these moves on the part of the Legislature and the Governor. Even though many refuse to acknowledge the problems we face out here, I am truly amazed at the resilience that rural Oregon shows in the face of ignorance. I can only hope, that with time and enough fuss, Salem will let us have the reins and allow us our home rule and self determination.

15 Apr 2008, 8:40pm
by Mike

Marc — your service to rural Oregonians is deeply appreciated. I am personally saddened and angered to lose your wise counsel.

It is tragic that we rural Americans have been slapped down again and again, when all we ask is a voice in matters that pertain to our own neighborhoods, landscapes, livelihoods, and lives. We do not seek to control urban Oregon. We don’t wish to tell our urban brethren how to govern their urban affairs. We ask only the democratic right to control our own affairs in our own rural communities.

Home rule and self determination should be sacrosanct in America. That they are not is a dark and untenable injustice.



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