Ted Kulongoski, now that you've been declared winner of the race for governor of Oregon, we encourage you to consider the true mood of the state.
Sorry to tell you this, Governor, but you are widely identified with your predecessor, and the association is not a positive one. Rural Oregon has weathered an economic downturn that makes our current statewide doldrums look like a walk in the park. Your friend, John Kitzhaber, largely ignored Eastern Oregon during his eight years as governor, and he did little to ease the suffering during our double-digit unemployment and spiraling-downward social problems. Rather, Gov. Kitzhaber is perceived as the governor who did more damage to rural parts of the state than any other leader in recent memory.
So Governor Kulongoski, we ask you to consider a different approach. Everybody knows you won because of the power of the urban vote in Oregon. Perhaps that one-sided support base sends a message that our next governor needs to reach out and help the parts of the state suffering from deplorable economic conditions.
We're not talking about handouts from state agencies. We're talking about the moral authority of a governor, and in this case a Democratic governor endorsed by the Sierra Club, to stand up and say publicly that this state needs its natural-resource industries in order to prosper, and then matches his actions to his words. We're talking about the leadership of a governor to stop feeding a bureaucracy that binds us in rules and forces people off their lands. We're talking about the recognition of a governor that the environmental groups that supported his party are in themselves an industry. The difference is, while they produce nothing more than conflict and gridlock, our beleaguered natural-resource industries produce jobs and products for America and the world.
We're talking about the willingness of a governor to leave the inner sanctum of Marion and Multnomah counties and visit other parts of the state. Perhaps, trips out here would help you understand that many of the urban mythologies about logging, mining and ranching are false and distorted. Perhaps, trips out here would help you understand why your predecessor prompted such outrage when he spoke myopicly about the reasonableness of dam breaching and the environmental risks of logging.
"We will ultimately win this contest," you told your supporters on Nov. 6. You were right, of course. Rural Oregon has reconciled itself to the fact that our votes rarely can compete with the votes of our urban counterparts. However, while we grow accustomed to this disparity, we value our urban neighbors. We simply wonder why they cannot understand that their actions - such as the outlawing of hunting cougars with hounds, to cite one example - create a huge ripple effect for the rest of our state. Perhaps, when the impacts of their decisions hit them in their homes and neighborhoods, they will understand our frustration.
In response to reporters' questions, you said Republican challenger Kevin Mannix had managed to make this a close race largely by targeting your support for a $313 million income tax increase that will appear on the Jan. 28 ballot. However, we believe there's more to this race than a tax measure. The closest governor's race since 1986 reflected a larger division within our state.
"There is a tremendous split in this state," you accurately said yourself.
Our state suffers a rift that widens everytime a governor declares that dam breaching is a reasonable option, even at the expense of our jobs and quality of life. Our state suffers a rift that widens everytime a governor decides that salmon (but only those raised in the wild, of course) are more valuable than people and their livelihoods. Our state suffers a rift that widens everytime our governor sides with out-of-state, litigation-prone environmentalists against the citizens who work hard to make a living here in Oregon.
In a somewhat backhanded endorsement for your campaign, the Bend Bulletin wrote on Oct. 18, "Kulongoski does have some significant shortcomings. He doesn't favor tort reform, which is desperately needed in rural Oregon, where rising malpractice insurance rates are becoming an impossible burden for obstetricians and other healthcare professionals. And as an advocate for loggers, farmers and other Oregonians in natural resource industries, we suspect he'll be sorely lacking."
We hope the Bulletin was wrong about you. Oregon needs a governor that respects the state's natural-resource heritage. We need a governor that can look beyond the chatter and misunderstandings of metropolitan circles and acknowledge realities in other parts of the state.
In closing, Governor, we want the respect and recognition of the state's highest executive leader. Our Founding Fathers said it best when they declared, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Our right to pursue happiness seems bleaker and more remote as each day passes. We encourage you to change the mood. Welcome to the governor's office, and good luck.