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Gordie

Just about everybody from outside of this district refers to it as Eastern Oregon. Let's reframe this for a moment. Look at the counties in Walden's district that self-identify as Southern Oregon...they include almost half the population of the district (Jackson County has almost 1/3 of the district's population alone). There are certainly several issues and viewpoints we share, but the eastern Oregon generalization doesn't necessarily work when viewing this district as a whole.

And a big note...one thing a goodly number of people in this district do share is misgivings over how much land the federal government owns here. The "public lands at stake" point is a major league loser here.

Sid

Gordie-

I'd be curious to know why the "public lands" argument is such a big loser in Walden's district? A lot of tourism and recreation dollars come into the district as a result of those "public lands."

Do we simply give up on public land and protecting it just because a lot of people no longer understand the benefit of it?

RoguePundit

"Our public lands are at stake" as a phrase suffers greatly from its link with the type of environmentalism that tries to keep people off of huge swaths of public land and infringe upon the rights of people on their own land. That leads into the negative connotations of urban folks dictating to rural folks, and things just keep going down hill.

I think I know what you're trying to say, but if you use anything near that type of phrasing, people will hear something else entirely.

Sid

Thanks for your insight.

So how does one explain the importance of public lands?

RoguePundit

Everybody knows public lands are important, so what do you propose to do with the phrase? Protect public lands from overgrazing, continue expanding government land ownership (for instance, national forests grow by about 100,000 acres per year in the U.S.), promote hunting (which for a fair percentage also means supporting a level of predator control), protect cougars and reintroduce wolves to improve the ecosystems, create more wilderness and thus remove more land from all uses but hiking, improve grazing by removing water-thirsty junipers (they're spreading because of fire suppression), remove fences to help pronghorn, add or add to a ski area to help tourism, help salmon by removing dams, etc. Some of those suggestions sell and some don't.

If the lands are at stake, what specifically is at stake? If you want to use that phrase, what rural folks won't want to hear is an answer that has any whiff of environmental or land use extremism--something which we've heard too often from too many of Oregon's urbanites. Rightly and wrongly, rural folks feel like they're under a gradual, long-term siege from activists who want to eradicate the logging industry to save forests, drive folks off their farms to save fish, ban cattle from public land to save birds and rodents, fight all development versus allowing for reasoned growth, etc. Obviously that's an exagerration, but maybe it gives an idea about some things that a number of rural folks have become a bit hypersensitive about.

Win-win solutions are welcome (like for instance that juniper one above), as are geniune discussions about some sort of permanent compromise (versus just the next step in a seemingly inexorable retreat). But, generally referring to some bogeyman threatening public lands smacks of false words from activists, not someone who will genuinely work for and with us for solutions.

Sid

Of course there is common ground, and I think a majority of activists understand that depsite the fact that rural folks think activists are out to get them. I think that's a meme that has been falsely advocated in rural communities.

I spent much of my childhood in rural Western South Dakota where a lot of the land was public. My family went on annual hunting trips on those lands, we camped, fished and hiked, and basically benefited enormously from access to those lands. Even though most of our relatives were Republicans, they had a great appreciation for public lands and the conservation of those lands, kind of in the Teddy Roosevelt mold.

My grandfather ran a grain and seed business where he worked with ranch owners who used public lands for grazing. But back then, most ranchers ran small outfits, so grazing didn't have the impact it has now with the larger ranches and cattle lots.

But somehow things have gotten all messed up. Teddy R. would be considered an "environmental activist" in today's world. I know my Republican grandparents are rolling in their graves right now.

The other thing I don't understand is how rural residents can resent urban residents so much when it is the urban tax dollars that help keep their communities running. For every dollar that a Portlander pays in state taxes, he/she gets 80 cents back in services from the state. The other 20 cents goes out to those folks who resent Portlanders so much.

Thanks for your insight.

RoguePundit

Teddy Roosevelt grew up and lived in the days when there were very few protections of public lands. That's changed significantly. There's a large segment of the population which isn't by nature pessimistic and figures that plenty of some types of landscape has been conserved. Folks love to conserve bumpy land with trees, but develop richer riparian flatlands...and farms are a type of development. Which land should there be a greater emphasis on conserving and restoring? The land that's more imperilled? Somebody else's land is usually the answer.

A fair percentage of a city's economic strength is derived from controlling the markets for what's grown on and extracted from the rural landscape. Economically it makes sense; it's more efficient. Folks often believe that businesses should share some of their profits, so...

There are lots of versions of the following, cynical sentiment in rural areas, most typically (around here) regarding Portland and school funding: Liberals believe in the rich helping the poor until it's time to write the check. Of course the opposite version also stings: Conservatives believe in cutting welfare as long as it's someone else's.

Sid

Actually I'm going to have to disagree with you about how liberals feel about the rich helping the poor when it comes time to write the check... My liberal friends and I have never had a problem with urban tax dollars being spread out among the state's residents. We want all communities and the schools in them to thrive.

But we're beginning to resent the resentment towards us. Since when did being an "urban liberal" become a bad thing? What makes urban liberals less American than rural residents? And it becomes extremely difficult in light of these things not to look at the degradation of the Portland public school system and wonder "now, why are we funding rural communties and their schools?" I'll be the first one to stand up and defend the funding, but believe me, it's getting harder to do.

Measures 36 and 37 are perfect examples of what is going on. With M36, those most affected by it live in urban areas. The measure received majority opposition in the urban cores where most gays and lesbians live. The regions that voted 'yes' on it were areas that were least likely to have any kind of gay communtiy at all. Basically, rural residents in Oregon told gays living in the Pearl District that they can't have the same rights as the rest of us.

Measure 37 received a majority of its support from rural areas, those areas that will be least affected by it. Over 50% of the voters in Multnomah Co. opposed M37 because we're closer to where the impact zones will be.

So really, aren't rural voters dictating their morals and positions to urbanites just as much, if not more, than the other way around?

I'd much rather deal with wolves in eastern Oregon than the mess that M37 is going to bring to the tri-county area surrounding Portland. That's not minimize what ranchers will be facing in the coming years, but let's face it, what situation is going to cost Oregon's taxpayers more money in the long run?

RoguePundit

I didn't say that the liberal/check comment was my opinion; I was noting that it's a common opinion around here. I know you read Blue Oregon, so you know that some folks comment about their objections to Portland's tax dollars flowing out to support rural schools. I don't doubt that most "urban liberals" genuinely support the rich helping the poor, and that's a good thing. I also know that the impression a fair number of rural folks have doesn't match the reality.

And if you're sensitive about urban liberal comments, picture what it's like for rural folks to be informed for the 10,000th time that tax dollars flow out of urban areas to rural areas--the presumption evidently being that we're too ignorant to know that, and if we did, we'd be more thankful and complain less. No I didn't take offense, but I know folks that do--every time.

My point isn't to annoy or offend. Understanding the rural/urban (or other) dynamics certainly doesn't mean you have to agree with them--I don't agree with the average rural person's opinion on some issues. Ultimately of course, these disagreements are part of what politics so often is, a battle over control, resources, and funding. It's sad that they help to divide folks. A number of Oregon's partisanship problems stem from folks on both sides being more interested in winning such debates than finding compromise.

I lament the Measure 36 results, but the majority of folks around here don't. Both sides feel the other is trying to dictate morality. Note that the majority in Multnomah County voted for 37 (174,397-164,428; only Benton County opposed it).

http://www.sos.state.or.us/elections/nov22004/abstract/m37.pdf

And regarding 37, a rural example... Nearly all Measure 37 claims in Josephine County relate to two issues, folks dividing land amongst their children, and folks selling a portion of their land to fund their retirement years (we're talking things like selling two five acre lots out of 20 acres, not for developments pushed by profiteers). With nearly three-quarters of county land owned by government, most folks find such land divisions reasonable, not harbingers of sprawling urbanization. If land use supporters had made a few simple compromises, support for 37 (and 7 for that matter) would have dropped a fair amount here (and I'm sure in most other rural areas). Instead, because so many folks had completely faith in the ability of land use proponents to compromise, 37 became a very imperfect means to force change.

The belief that a significant number of rural folks were ignorant (that word again) about or fooled by 37 offends folks around here. A number of very reasonable folks held their noses, crossed their fingers, and voted for change. It didn't have to be that way. It still doesn't if we would shun the zealots and compromise. That's true with so many issues.

Sid

I agree that M37 was the result of an inability to compromise. And I agree that farmers in far flung rural areas should have been allowed to build a home or two. This is definitely the fault of inflexible legislators. 14% of the current M37 claims are for those exact situations, and most stem from places far from urban areas. The rest of the claims come mostly from areas within an hour of the Portland area, near Bend, along the Coast, Hood River and Ashland. But Portland will be feeling the biggest brunt of the impact. Although I think Deschutes County will be in a world of hurt as well. It already can't keep up with infrastructure demands, let alone water issues. Last summer when we were driving back from a camping trip in the Steens, we accidently hit rush hour traffic in Bend and it took us an hour to get out of it.

Yes, I imagine rural voters get sick of hearing about urban tax dollars funding their communities, but here in Portland we're perplexed by that. Why are rural residents so anti-tax minded while being dependent on urban tax dollars that do everything from providing them with schools to tracking down meth labs in their communities? When it comes to state and local taxes Oregon ranks 44th in the nation, and as result Portland's schools are beginning to fall down to that same ranking.

Perhaps deep down rural residents understand this conflict within themselves, the "pull yourself up by your boot straps" philosophy doesn't mesh well with the fact that taxes are a necessary part of making communities work, and that a large percentage of the tax dollars they receive isn't generated directly from their own boot straps, but from those of "urban liberals." Of course they don't like being reminded of that. If I were a conservative Republican living Burns, I certainly wouldn't want to be reminded of that. It cuts into one's pride.

RoguePundit

I agree that with the flaws in 37, areas with more population and growth will suffer more problems. I don't envy Bend's growth, though I've got a second cousin who lives there and loves it.

Taxes...a few thoughts.

If you want to have any credibility when talking about taxes, drop the selective use statistics that only mention income taxes. Few folks are fooled into thinking that's all we spend on government, or that our total burden is that low.

Don't confuse being anti-tax with being resistant to tax increases. There are certainly some anti-tax zealots out there, but proposed tax increases lose because their advocates can't convince enough of the reasonable folks to pay more. The vast majority of rural folks aren't fighting to pay less, and absolutely no one I know appreciates being falsely accused of being anti-tax.

And here's a different type of credibility issue...many folks know that Portland has seen major declines in student enrollment without the requisite decreases in infrastructure and overhead. A number of rural districts have already suffered through what Portland has been avoiding. Thus, it doesn't sell well when Portland shoots to raise everyone's taxes without doing the obvious belt-tightening.

It really poisons a relationship if folks believe they can't trust those that are helping them.

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