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Oregon Rural Congress - Spotlight to shine on rural Oregon
The statewide spotlight on Oregon’s less populated areas will soon be brightened.
The first Oregon Rural Congress is gathering Thursday and Friday in Cascade Locks “to organize and unify the vast rural areas of Oregon into a cohesive voice for rural issues,” according to a fact sheet supplied by the Eastern Oregon Rural Alliance.
Union County Commissioner Colleen MacLeod is a co-chair of the EORA and one of the organizers of the congress.
“This is not a complaining session,” she said. “We don’t want to hear your war stories.”
Instead, participants will focus on developing policy recommendations in four general areas of discussion: natural resources, economic development, telecommunications and human services.
At least eight cities, 20 counties, 11 state agencies and 12 legislators will be represented at the congress. Some 17 individuals currently signed up hail from Union and Wallowa counties.
MacLeod said each person will get to tackle two of these subjects during Thursday workshops. Sheets provided for the discussion groups will have a space for statements beginning with, “It shall be the policy of the State of Oregon (or the Federal Government) to On Friday, a more formal session convenes to discuss the ideas generated. MacLeod hopes it will proceed along the boisterous lines of the British Parliament.
These exercises are meant to compile specific, action-oriented proposals, such as comprise the EORA’s work plan, called “A New Way of Doing Business in Rural Oregon.”
This document assembles recommendations generated over three conferences of the rural alliance, and will be merged with the rural congress’s output to produce a rural report.
MacLeod said this compilation will be sent to government leaders on all tiers. “We want to make sure that every legislator at the state and federal levels gets a copy of this,” she said.
The recommendations are meant to accommodate the situational differences inherent across Oregon’s diverse geographic and political landscape.
“We are firm believers in ‘one size doesn’t fit all,’” she said.
MacLeod used the debacle over the new state ethics requirements as an example of the unintended consequences that sometimes result in parts of the state from Salem-based legislation.
Some critics argued that the rule change, which required of some officials additional reporting related to income, was too stringent in rural areas where many local government leaders are unpaid volunteers.
MacLeod believes state legislators need to more thoroughly consider the permutations that laws may take once applied in the less populated reaches of Oregon.
“Like chess — (think) three moves out,” she said.
MacLeod said she hoped the Oregon Rural Congress would assume a life and power of its own, potentially occupying some of the void left after the recent dissolution of the state Office of Rural Policy.
Organizers envision the congress as an annual event with a rotating location.