Gov. John Kitzhaber pulled all the right players together with instructions to consider all the right values, and they still could not reach agreement on how to solve a special Oregon crisis: using but not abusing the O&C timberlands. No one should be surprised.
Though the effort failed to land on any firm recommendation, it did have two positive effects. It brought industry, environmental and local government leaders together in an atmosphere of trust, and it produced a comprehensive report that can serve as a firm point of reference going forward.
It’s all there in the report: the colorful history, the broken contracts, the economic and social impacts, and the tantalizing potential for a secure future for both Oregon communities and forests. Another sad aspect of our current public affairs is illustrated by the result. We have fallen into government by consensus: Without everyone on the task force agreeing on a solution, we choose instead to let the problem fester.
That same attitude toward consensus has kept the Curry County commissioners from moving forward on a ballot measure for local taxes to replace the dried up federal revenues. Pressed by a deadline to avoid a disaster for the county, the board finally reverted to majority rule.
The governor tried to press longtime foes into finding an Oregon solution to a uniquely Oregon problem, and for that we give him credit. Unfortunately, the issue is now handed back to two very unpredictable venues. First, will Curry County voters decide that additional taxes are worth public safety? And second, will our congressional delegation be able to convince their colleagues that there is a way to make this right?