In his State of the State address in Portland last week, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber listed a number of priorities for 2012.
We noticed one major omission: Helping find potential solutions for rural Oregon counties on the brink of bankruptcy.
While public education, health care, the national debt and poverty were key in his remarks – and rightly so – there was no mention of the financial crisis that has forced rural Oregon counties to cut services to the bare minimum and consider insolvency.
What kind a message does this omission send to the officials and citizens in these struggling counties?
Was it an oversight? Was it intentional? Does Kitzhaber and the rest of urban Oregon consider rural Oregon a lost cause?
What good is improved public education and health care if counties – and their communities – are crumbling away?
Perhaps it was the Portland audience. After all, the governor has taken some key steps in working with Oregon’s congressional delegation and getting county leaders to brief his staff on the looming financial failures.
Curry and other counties standing near the financial cliff soon may call for a public safety emergency and will be forced to eliminate most state-mandated services – including services that help the neediest citizens in our communities.
The failing of several counties will consequently affect the entire state. Those counties will continue to release offenders and close jail beds. Potholed roads and structurally-deficient bridges will be neglected. Already-underfunded rural schools will be devastated.
For us, governor, finding a way out of this financial crisis is highest on our priority list. We hope that it is high on yours.