LEADERS MUST NOT FORGET RURAL OREGON
The true colors of Portland and the Willamette Valley are showing and the rest of Oregon is in trouble if that part of the state gets its way. The first issue deals with turning around the state's economy and how best to get it done. The second deals with education and how to fund it if the Jan. 28 income tax initiative fails. In both cases rural Oregon would be left out in the cold.
Former Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt, a member of Gov-elect Ted Kulongoski's transition team, is promoting a plan to put the state's resources behind creating more family wage jobs in the urban areas while neglecting the rural parts of the state.
The plan calls for drafting ideas to strengthen the state's leading industries by recruiting companies and offering incentives. The focus would be on specialized, export-oriented businesses including high-tech, specialty agriculture and sports apparel.
During a recent address to the Association of Oregon Counties, Goldschmidt said the state should redirect its economic development dollars back to recruiting and retention of businesses in urban areas, rather than improving rural infrastructure such as water and sewer systems, which have failed to create jobs. Kulongoski was quoted in The Oregonian saying, "It's not that the investment in smaller communities isn't important, but it has to be viewed in total, and we have to do some things first."
The new governor and the former governor know exactly where elections are won or lost and the 28 counties that supported Republican governor candidate Kevin Mannix in the Nov. 5 election are just out of luck.
The second issue that could tilt the scales against rural (non-urban) counties is a plan being put together in the Portland metropolitan area if the January income tax initiative fails. The plan calls for Metro, the regional governing organization, to create a tax that would directly benefit the school districts in the metropolitan area.
The tax if implemented could create an unfair balance between those school districts and the other school districts in Oregon. It could provide as much as $700 per student to augment the shortfall in state funding. This seems contrary to the state Constitution, which calls for an equal education for all Oregon children. To counter this, legislators representing the other children in Oregon could create a new equalization formula to reduce state funding to the districts inside Metro by as much as $700 per student.
All the talk about One Oregon and helping out rural parts of the state is giving way to an elitist attitude by a number of current and former political leaders and a select group of urban business leaders to once again leave much of the state's geographic areas behind while the Willamette Valley and Portland take steps to prosper.