The devil is in the details. The devil is also in hard realities. Veteran Mike McCarter, president of Move Oregon’s Border, wrote an opinion piece in local papers supporting MOB, which wants to force 850,000 Oregonians to become Idahoans and force 75% of the land in Oregon into Idaho.

This fellow veteran looks at just eight of a thousand devilish details and realities that would result from MOB’s plan.

1. Snowplows. Those plows that keep our highways and freeways open are owned by Oregon. Will Oregon donate millions of dollars of plows to another state? Is Idaho going to spend millions to buy plows and pay drivers to service nearly all the snow country of Oregon, which is now largely paid for by western Oregon gas taxes? Who will keep our highways clear? MOB volunteers?

2. Prisons and criminals. Several state prisons are in MOB’s targeted counties. I’ll mention one, and you can multiply. Snake River Correctional Institution, near Ontario, was first built in 1991. The 1994 addition alone cost $175 million (not corrected for inflation), the largest Oregon general fund expenditure ever, even to this day. You think Idaho is going to buy? What happens when they don’t? Little penal islands of Oregon in Greater Idaho, or will MOB come up with a quarter billion dollars as a starter for helping Idaho buy just one of their new prisons? Also, there are nearly 3,000 prisoners in that one prison. They are charged with Oregon crimes. They are not guilty of Idaho crimes. Will people volunteer to move the prison structures and infrastructure to Western Oregon? Or do we, with other prisons full, just release the prisoners?

3. Ontario and Malheur county. In 2020, Ontario recreational marijuana dispensaries did over $91 million in sales. Ontario received over $1.85 million in marijuana taxes in fiscal year 2019-20. Most sales were to people coming from Idaho. Additionally, a huge part of Ontario’s retail and most of business growth has been along the border, where Idahoans shop to avoid sales tax on furniture, lawn mowers, clothing and many durable goods. Does MOB hope Ontario (most of the population of Malheur County) will kill their golden-egg goose by becoming Idaho? Not a surprise that almost no one attended the recent MOB rally in Ontario.

4. Buildings. Oregon owns hundreds of million dollars of buildings throughout the MOB targeted counties. As a tiny example, in La Grande alone the building values are staggering. Tens of millions of dollars just at Eastern Oregon University. Then there are Oregon Department of Transportation facilities, Oregon State Police, state forestry, and on and on. MOB leaders may be spending too much time at the Ontario dispensaries if they think Oregon will give that all away. And even if they did, ask any title agency or property lawyer about the time and cost involved in purchases and sales — years and years and millions and millions in litigation. Paid for by whom?

5. Land. Besides the aforementioned real estate, consider the thousands of acres of state forest in the targeted counties. All the thousands of miles of state highways. All the state parks. Consider the tiniest fraction of these holdings — Wallowa Lake State Park. How many millions is that incredible chunk of land worth? If you owned it, would you just give it to your neighbor? Your kids might object. And don’t forget the state coastline of Southern Oregon. Talk about pricey real estate!

6. Bonds. Oregon owns hundreds of million dollars in bonds issued to service debt on construction in targeted counties. Will Idaho happily take over those bond payments? And who will be paying the accountants and lawyers for incredibly complex transfers?

7. Retirement accounts. Oregon holds retirement accounts for not just state employees, but also for nearly all police officers, firefighters, teachers, city workers, county workers, university and community college employees ... the list goes on. Courts have consistently ruled those retirement contracts are legal and binding. So Idaho will merrily pick up a few billion of debt? Think firefighters might fight to keep their pensions? Think there might years of paperwork and millions of lawyer fees involved?

8. Licensing. What about our elected judges? Do teachers go back to college to take courses required for Idaho certification? Will nurses, doctors, therapists, counselors, contractors, plumbers, electricians, dentists, hygienists, barbers, beauticians, accountants, realtors, title agents, drivers, insurers, and nearly all professions descend on Idaho for licensing and bonding? Will we hold new elections for our officials (commissioners, mayors, sheriffs, etc.) elected under Oregon law? How many years will we pay for court cases on these issues?

And this is only the tip of that devilish iceberg — that devilish reality of our complicated lives, economy and citizenship in the year 2021.


Charles Jones, a retired navy commander and science teacher, is a fourth generation Eastern Oregonian living in La Grande. His grandfather, as 1920 Ontario’s mayor, paved the town’s first streets.

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