All sorts of spins came from those interpreting the Jan. 26 statewide vote in Oregon. With a turnout of 61 percent, voters approved a pair of tax measures first enacted by the Legislature as a fix for a biennial state budget that's been in force seven months already.
Popular among pundits was the view that wins for Measure 66 and Measure 67 prove you can raise taxes during a recession. Some even said other states would take the Oregon example as a suggestion to do their own tax-rate tinkering.
Others said because the increased taxes applied to few - individuals with substantial personal income, and corporations - it became easier for the general population to OK the Legislature's solution. As one writer put it, it's more palatable to tax other people.
There's another way to look at the vote. The measures won a majority in only 11 of the state's 36 counties. In fact, if it hadn't been for large margins of "yes" over "no" votes in only two populous counties, both tax laws would be repealed. Those two counties are Multnomah, the home of Portland, and Lane, the home of Eugene.
What this vote became is another demonstration of the divide between how residents of rural areas, and those in large cities, perceive some issues. Country folk are generally conservative, in Oregon and throughout the West.
That means those people who live in the more rural areas need to spend time - again and again - reaching out to those who live in cities. The urban areas are markets for the food and fiber produced on rural farms and forests. There are a lot more voters in the cities than in the towns and countryside.
Fostering understanding goes much deeper than making nice to your customers. It's a political reality. If city folk don't understand rural issues, they will vote without making the connection to what the country around them means to the overall economy and the community at large.
We've seen that political reality play out in debates about grazing, fish, wolves and more. Consider the decision facing California next November when that huge water bond comes up on a statewide ballot. If city folk vote without understanding agriculture's need for a more dependable water supply, their decision will be made on whatever sound bites and ads they come in contact with.
Those who try to govern from the middle, striking a compromise between conservative and progressive political viewpoints, may be able to help us bridge this rural-urban split that keeps coming up again and again.
For rural Oregonians, the January vote should also be a reminder that increasing a couple of existing taxes is far from reforming the volatile revenue system that put the state in this position in the first place. Reform is still needed, but hopefully that will come through moderation, not partisan political power plays.