A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Resolving the issues? Fat chance!

Written January 30th, 2016 by Hasso Hering
Water is one of the issues on which urban and rural interests disagree.

Water is one of the issues on which urban and rural interests disagree.

In Harney County we just watched an attempt to spark an uprising against increasing government control over the way citizens — western ranchers in this case — must live and work. The attempt failed. But the government is not about to change its approach, so the urge to rebel will fester and grow.

Sen. Ron Wyden spelled out what he and others are afraid of. As reported on KOIN-TV on Friday, Wyden said the standoff was “a situation where the virus was spreading,” and action needed to be taken. A virus? In television interviews and social media, these protesters were talking about rights and the Constitution. Their views may be out of date, but they aren’t a virus unless you think of them as the seed revolution.
Wyden said he understands there’s frustration in rural Oregon and rural America about government not listening. But he said, “There will be plenty of opportunities to work through the policy issues once we get this matter resolved.” That’s malarkey. The policy issues are never resolved based on what affected residents want. They are resolved in favor of the pressure groups that elect politicians to statewide offices in Oregon. Those groups — urban, environmentally oriented, big money — never favor rural interests.
Just now, the government is proposing to establish a new national monument in eastern Oregon. The proposal is bitterly opposed by the communities affected because it would further hamper their skimpy economies. If Wyden and Jeff Merkley, his Senate colleague from Oregon, wanted to help resolve rural discontent, they would introduce legislation to prohibit the expansion of such economic set-asides as monuments and designated wildernesses.
Or they would push in the Senate for projects to increase water storage in the Klamath Basin and in northern California to help the farmers there, farmers who now see torrents of seasonal runoff being flushed out to sea instead of being saved for the dry part of the year.
But they won’t do that. Yet they get re-elected time after time as long as they want to run. The policies they support or fail to change — on water, forestry, energy, natural resources in general — will continue. Rural interests are powerless to change them. And if and when there’s another uprising, the politicians will again denounce the dissidents as “militants” with “extremist” views. (hh)

11 responses to “Resolving the issues? Fat chance!”

  1. tom cordier says:

    Thank you Hasso for framing the issue squarely and the hollow promise of both Senators to resolve the issue “once the crisis is past”. Once out of the news cycle it will be forgotten again. All the Oregon elected officials are democrats who always want gov’t control.

  2. centrist says:

    Ultimately, the Government is the People. If the People keep electing the same folks over and over, there’s not enough dissatisfaction with their performance to elect someone else.
    If a group constructively promotes their dissatisfaction so that the majority of voters agrees to back them, significant change will happen. Three 20th Century happenings come to mind — Women’s Suffrage, the Voting Rights Act, and women could actually have bank accounts and credit in their own names.
    Long been tired of folks who grumble incessantly but won’t work for backing. If you’re in a room full of manure, dig in and find the pony.

  3. Oldtimer says:

    I don’t know if our Linn County Commissioners are Republican or Democrat. But they are sticking up for farmers and ranchers and the residents of Eastern Linn County. They are making a lawsuit against the State of Oregon for more revenue from Timberlands. Hopefully affected counties will get some relief. But most land in Oregon is Federal and going against them is fruitless and even dangerous. City folk don’t understand or don’t care. Those opposing the Feds should realize no guns will be allowed under private control in the future. None. All guns will be government. More and more land will be government. Idaho and Nevada are hit hard too. Their votes in Congress are too small.
    I applaud our commissioners bravery and hope the people of Linn County show their appreciation. Hopefully other counties will join. I’d like to see more power at the local level. City folk just don’t understand. Thank You.

  4. centrist says:

    Oldtimer obviously has a point of view that has merit. My problem is that there are about 7 negatives in this short ‘graph. Negatives don’t sell. Decide what will eliminate the negative, phrase it positively, gather a group, and sell the dickens out of it.

  5. Fred Burson says:

    Progressive Portland controls the entire state. That is why we have the same Senators elected year after year. Years ago I downloaded the county-by-county Oregon presidential election results into a spreadsheet. That made it clear that if one does not live in Multnomah County, one’s vote has no effect.

  6. Richard Vannice says:

    How about letting only directly affected by such things as national monuments, i.e those living in that immediate area, having the say? If votes on such things were allowed you know that the urban areas of the North Willamette Valley would outnumber the voters in Harney and Malheur Counties. Ruralites don’t have a chance when it comes to being “represented” by their elected officials.

  7. GregB says:

    Well said Hasso. Thanks

  8. Oldtimer says:

    About a dozen years ago the Oregon State University barometer newspaper mentioned the differences of progressive Corvallis and the regressive conservatism of Linn County right across the river. I felt if you removed the city of Corvallis the rest of Benton County might fall close to Linn. Several of those articles referred to people that had to work with their hands and backs versus their minds. I try to stick up for the underdog often. I’m not running for office nor to benefit myself or friends. I guess I didn’t notice the county commissioners were Republican because I didn’t care. I have seen Roger talking with common folk as if they were important. Tucker spends time around Sweet Home as if he lives there. Maybe he does. maybe I’d like less growth in nationals power and more local as Mr. Vannice mentioned. The two Senators per state regardless of population sort of balanced things. Appreciate the opportunity and apologize for my lack of professionalism.

  9. H. R. Richner says:

    The voters from Portland should have to adopt a constitutional amendment to justify the ownership and jurisdiction of the lands they want to be ruled from Washington. I cannot understand the blatant disregard of our constitution in this conflict. If we are a nation of laws we should not have to worry about the damage caused by Oregon’s political cartels unless they can persuade the required two thirds majorities in both houses of Congress and three quarters of the States.

  10. centrist says:

    Looks like there’s confusion about land policy. First, the Portland populace doesn’t have jurisdiction. Second, control of land by the Federal government is covered in the Constitution (and has been upheld by SCOTUS).
    A little history lesson —
    The original colonies had charters giving them “ownership” of the lands to the west. No one knew what the limit was. The subsequent States ceded those rights to the Federal government, which sold off pieces to meet cash flow. Other lands came into Federal hands from France, Spain, and Britain. Texas retained ownership of vacant lands, but that’s another story.
    Essentially whatever wasn’t homesteaded or bought from the Feds stayed Fed property. A large portion of the West had such low carrying capacity that no one could make a decent living on it. Many claims reverted to Federal ownership.
    Frankly, if there’s a superior claim to ownership, it belongs to descendants of folks who used the land in a balanced fashion.


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