Thursday, November 09, 2006

The East-West Divide

A few days ago over at Blue Oregon, commentor "Todd Eastern Oregon" opined:

That is exactly the problem with Oregon we have a large population your county (Multnomah) that keeps dictating to the rest of the state how things should be done. Come out to the rural communitees and live for one year and I think your point of view might change. Being blue may not be the best thing for the state of Oregon.

This particular line of thought is fascinating to me. As someone raised in very rural Eastern Oregon, I believe I have a fundamental understanding of how things go down in rural communities in this state.

One of the problems we encountered when I was a girl going to school in rural Oregon was the lack of priority placed on education. During my matriculation, a flight away from my rural town began to take place. The Reagan Administration cut back the Forest Service and other federal agencies which employed educated workers in the region. With their exit, less emphasis was placed on paying and holding to account good public education.

Unemployment was high. Lumber mills were shutting down. Locals were unwilling to raise taxes to generate revenue for better roads and infrastructure to lure business to the region.

I haven't lived in the town where I grew up for a long time. But I hear from former and current residents about how its dying on the vine. Its now a place for a few retired people and a some light tourism.

Maybe Todd has a point. Maybe if some of those who live in Western Oregon moved to the other side of the Cascades they'd see that Eastern Oregon is different. They don't want their taxes raised to pay for stuff. Living in a business unfriendly enviornment with schools that need out-of-region taxpayer dollars just to keep their doors open might be the vision that many on the East side want for our state.

Or perhaps Todd should consider that there's a reason the Portland metro area, Salem and Eugene have the greatest populations and therefore the lion's share of decision making prowess when it comes to elections. Most Oregonians don't want to live in a red state.

Maybe if Todd moved to the west side for a few years and learned to understand the value of investing financially in our communities, he might change his mind.

Or maybe he'd at least open it a little.