OREGON, MY OREGON, I HARDLY KNOW
Oregon long has prided itself on being a special place. Not only does our state boast some of the most beautiful and diverse scenery in the world, but for most of the state's 145 years, Oregonians have prided themselves on having an independent nature, of caring for their state and their fellow Oregonians. Of going their own way.
And for most of our state's history, our independent nature has served us well.
Not only did Oregon establish the initiative process back in the early 1900s in order to make sure the people's voices could be heard, but the state made beaches public, established the nation's first comprehensive land-use planning system, implemented the nation's first bottle bill and built the West's first light-rail system.
Oregon couldn't be pegged as a conservative or liberal state, one dominated by Democrats or Republicans. Our maverick nature has tended to prevail.
Along the way our state gained a reputation as having the best highways in the country, the best parks, the best and most public beaches, the cleanest roadsides, the best rest areas, good schools, good colleges and dependable public services.
The Oregon I was born in, grew up in and have made my life in has changed. While our highways are still better than most, they are not of the quality they once were. Our state parks remain an attraction if you don't mind brown lawns and weeds. The beaches remain free and our roadsides and rest areas still tend to be cleaner than most states, though not on par with what they once were.
Our schools and colleges are turning out great students, but programs and school days have dwindled while class sizes have grown. And public services? Just hope that you're not among those Oregonians whose income falls in the lower tier. Oregon has one of the highest hunger rates in the country.
And now, with the failure of Measure 30 and Oregonians' unwillingness to help support their fellow man, the land of promise is destined for more pain.
Instead of being mavericks, of finding our own way, of taking care of our own, we've become a bunch of ditto heads. The anti-tax, anti-government mentality that pervades talk radio has taken hold in our state just as it has throughout the country. You don't get good roads, good schools, dependable services if everybody doesn't chip in.
Our responsibility as citizens is to help make our society better. Oregonians used to care about that. It was part of our maverick nature.
I'm disappointed that the selfishness and anti-government sentiment that prevails throughout most of the country has taken hold in this once-great state.
That we need tax reform is a given. We can't make it through the down cycles unless we have some kind of restructuring or a rainy day fund that sets aside extra revenue when times are good. But Oregonians are as adamant about their kicker checks as they are about ensuring we never have a sales tax.
A better economy will get us out of this mess. But solving the problem during down cycles will take a change in attitude.
Oregonians need to get back to their roots. We have a lot to care about.