We don’t expect any single sudden solution, but we do hope for progress when county and state officials gather in Gold Beach this weekend for a “public safety summit.”
Decades in coming, the crisis has arrived. Timber revenues are gone; even Oregon’s own Congressional delegation is at a stalemate on how to unlock the federal forests. County services and budgets have been slashed. Voters say no to additional property taxes; everyone is very reluctant to invoke special state taxes for local services.
Meanwhile, there are not enough deputies, not enough prosecutors; not enough jail capacity nor juvenile justice options. Solid crime statistics are not yet available, but the anecdotal evidence is truly frightening.
And if any one Oregon county goes over some sort of fiscal cliff —from defaulting on bills to closing the doors — we suspect that every Oregonian will pay some kind of price. Think about higher insurance rates, lower home prices, less economic development, higher interest rates on public borrowing.
It’s no wonder that officials from fully half of Oregon’s counties are coming to Gold Beach for the summit. We don’t expect any statewide elected officials, but their staff members and some legislators do plan to attend. At the very least, we hope the event attracts the attention it deserves from both the public and the policy makers at every level.
Finally: The focus this weekend needs to be pragmatic. Every little idea might help, and rural Oregon can use all the help it can get.