Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wednesday Words Words words...

Well, that was the worst possible election night.  I couldn't eat for nausea, and am still feeling rough.  That was just from the national results.  I am now finding out about the local elections, and I feel worse.

Rural Oregon is an odd place.  There is practically no sense of public good, and no sense that we should have to pay for anything public, least of all if it benefits someone else [viz. the Malheur Wildlife Refuge standoff].   Natives may call it rugged independence, but the attitude is frankly immature, the result of a long dependence.

Going back to the late 1800's, there was a government effort to foster settlement in the area, which featured public domain land sold for cheap.  There was a plan to establish a railway, the Oregon & California, and the land-sale and railway begat fraud on a massive scale.  After literally decades of litigation and legislation on how to clean up after the fraud, a Federal fund was set up to compensate these counties.  So, for the better part of a century, the "O&C" counties have received a generous stipend from the Feds (wikipedia summary).

Worse, the main industry here is timber, an extractive industry just like coal or oil.  And just like any other extractive industry, it is not good for environment or responsible governance.  For decades, if more money has been needed, local governments could just encourage more logging and collect more royalties.

The combined result has been that these rugged independent counties lived large on Federal stipends and royalties from something that can only be harvested once.  And now, that's done.  The time-frame for the Federal payments to the O&C counties has expired, been extended once at a reduced rate, and is going to end soon.  A combination of competition from Canada, changing patterns of consumption, and ecological awareness means that counties can no longer print money by just harvesting more trees.  But, the residents of these counties are unused to paying taxes, and quite used to government services.  

So here we are.  The Wednesday Words--that's plural--is all the words, because we are talking about libraries and schools.  The funding mechanism for our county's libraries is at an end.  Finito.  Kaput.  Done.  There is no more money for libraries in Douglas County.  Our schools are not in great shape either.  So, some responsible people who believe in the public good proposed a very modest property tax district so we can have a library.  As they pointed out, there is no "Plan B."  Either tax, or no library as we know it.  The idea was put on the ballot for the spoiled children of Douglas County.

Were it not a serious issue, I would have been amused by the letters to the editor in the local newspaper.  Many simply said that libraries are unnecessary, since everyone has the internet.  Libraries, they said, benefit only a few, and they are not the ones that pay taxes.  One gem of a letter said, in essence, "I don't use the library, so nobody should."

Now, not everybody in Douglas County is a spoiled child, and the letters to the editor did reflect that; but, get ten of us together, and only four of us want public libraries.  The situation is much the same in the other O&C counties.  Opponents of the library measure argued strenuously that there was, in fact, a "Plan B," without specifying what it was.  Now that they'd won, plan B is apparently hope:
“I’m hoping that we can keep our libraries open. I’m hoping we can do that without taxing property. There needs to be another way out of this,” Gindlesperger said.
“My hope would be that we could get back into the woods and start getting receipts from our timber. I don’t know that that’s going to happen anytime soon, but that would be my preference,” he said.
And Daddy will buy me a pony.

As for the ballot measures designed to help public schools, I will give you the headline from the (Roseburg, OR) News-Review article.  Note that this is not an op-ed, this is a bit of reportage and so is literal and descriptive:  "EDUCATION NOT A PRIORITY IN DOUGLAS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS."

So, welcome to Trumpland, everybody!  Proud to be dumb, and trying to get dumber!

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