LEGISLATORS HEAR TOWN HALL CONCERNS

May 15, 2001 11:00 pm

Sen. Ken Messerle (R-Coos Bay) and Rep. Wayne Krieger (R-Gold Beach) updated citizens on the progress of the Oregon legislature Saturday in a town hall meeting in Brookings.

First, however, they had to find a place to hold the meeting. About 20 citizens gathered in the parking lot of the Chetco Senior Center, the announced location for the meeting, but no one had a key to open the building.

The meeting was delayed about a half hour while Krieger found someone to open the Brookings City Hall.

Before getting down to hard issues, Krieger and Messerle took a few minutes to present Civil Air Patrol Cadet Steven Cross with the General Billy Mitchell Award.

Squadron Commander Mike Rupert said the award is an important milestone in the Civil Air Patrol program, given after a cadet completes eight segments of the program. The award makes a cadet eligible for advance placement in the U.S. Air Force or ROTC.

Krieger, who presented the award to Cross, said moral and ethical values are not held in high enough esteem these days.

He said Cross was willing to focus on his goal for two years when he joined the Civil Air Patrol at age 15 in 1999. Krieger said not every cadet completes enough segments of the program to earn the award.

Messerle said he first learned about the program when he was a state representative. He said the Civil Air Patrol runs youth programs, as well as conducting search and rescue missions.

After the award ceremony, Krieger and Messerle filled people in on what theyve been doing in the legislature the past five and a half months.

Krieger said the legislature has produced about 5,000 bills. Messerle said people may hear a lot in the media about the legislature cutting the budget, but the state will actually spend $1.4 billion more this year than it did just two years ago.

Messerle said the task is not cutting the budget, but prioritizing education, senior services, public safety, and other important programs.

He said the governors budget made K-12 education the top priority, but had to cut senior services and public safety to do so.

We cant do it all at once, said Messerle.

He said the legislature has been trying to get funding back for senior programs.

The problem, said Messerle, is that government in Oregon has been growing faster than revenue since Measure 5 passed.

By the next legislative session in two years, he said, programs may have to be cut, unless Oregonians are willing to raise taxes, which no one seems to want.

Its not a fun job right now, said Messerle.

Krieger is serving this year in what Messerle called the trenches, the budget committees.

To reflect that, Krieger wore a small cleaver pin on his jacket. He said his son at Freeman Marine is fabricating a large cleaver for him to use on budgets. Krieger said just keeping the same services cost $320 million more than a year ago, and will cost $360 million more a year from now.

He said it will cost $1 million more each day to run the government, with no increase in services.

Addressing the energy crisis, Messerle said he would support delaying deregulation of the electricity industry in Oregon, because people perceive deregulation to be the problem.

I dont believe it is, he said, though he admitted deregulation of any commodity doesnt work if it is in short supply.

He said short supply, or lack of generating capacity, is the real problem, and he sponsored Senate Bill 843 to expedite the creation and transmission of power.

Messerle said more megawatts will be on line by fall, but it wont be enough. He said nuclear plants were deactivated during the last 20 years, but no new power plants were built.

At the same time, he said, high-tech industry came to Oregon. Still, no one saw the energy shortage coming.

Messerle said the South Coast doesnt even have a natural gas line to fuel generators.

A member of the audience said that anything deregulated goes up in price.

That person said the president wants more oil drilling in Alaska, but Alaskan oil is sent to Asia to keep the price up on the West coast.

Krieger said, If it comes out of public lands, it should be used here. He said there is enough oil in Alaska to use some to keep the West coast economy from suffering.

Decisions are being made behind closed doors, said Krieger. International law and tribunals have control over natural resources. Were giving up our sovereignty to tribunals.

Messerle said he was part of a trade mission to China two years ago, and again recently.

They are developing rapidly, he said. That country is really moving fast. He said it is developing with foreign capital.

Messerle said while China is becoming more self-sufficient, the United States is becoming more dependent on foreign trade.

If youre so dependent on other countries, he said, they can control you. It doesnt have to be that way. We must maintain our own industries for a place in the market.

Krieger said members of the House Agriculture and Timber committee discussed how places with fewer environmental rules than Oregon can undercut costs and prices.

He said Oregon blueberry growers pay $6-9 an hour and provide housing for workers, while Michigan pays $5.15 an hour.

Were slowly being priced out of the market, said Krieger.

Messerle said over-regulation is a huge problem in Oregon and the United States.

He said people identify environmental problems, but dont necessarily know how to solve them. Passing laws does not guarantee compliance.

People want to do the right thing, said Messerle, but resent being forced.

He said a good example was shutting off water to farmers in Klamath Falls to raise the lake level by three feet.

He said families there have been devastated. After spending his life in cattle and timber, Messerle said those in the industries understand they have to cope with weather, disease and the market.

What we dont accept, he said, is government policies putting us out of business, with no good science behind it.

He said the National Marine Fisheries Service is putting families out of business in the Klamath basin.

Its not either or, said Krieger. In 1996 everyone got by with less water. Both fish and people survived.

He said the lake was 2 feet lower before the dam was put in and fish did just fine.

To show his support for the farmers, Krieger recently participated in a symbolic bucket brigade in Klamath Falls to bring water to farmers.

It really tears you up, whats happening with federal regulation, he said.

Fisherman Jim Welter said people in Curry County challenged the fisheries service twice and won.

Krieger said, Its unbelievable how a federal agency can run amok. There are challenges now. Its starting to turn.

Welter said the Klamath tribe was abolished, then reinstated, and the fisheries service is basing its decisions on tribal rights.

Messerle said decisions are also being made because of the sucker fish and the Endangered Species Act.

Federal agencies are picking off states to take control of the water, said Messerle. He thinks they are testing that strategy in the Klamath basin.

Messerle said he spoke with then-senator Mark Hatfield years ago, and learned Congress never intended the Endangered Species Act to be what it is now.

Krieger said the act is not being enforced equally. Salmon are not being listed on the East Coast.