10 Fixes for Oregon’s Malaise

Casino gaming off-reservation in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area? Sure, why not, even though the governor campaigned saying this would never happen.

Almost two million gallons of raw sewage spilled directly into the Willamette in just four years? Well, our pipe isn’t finished yet.

10,000 high school drop-outs per school year statewide? Surely you don’t expect us to teach everyone.

Near-term sustainability of salmon on the Columbia at risk? Oh, we need those dams for power and the salmon farms for food.

Oregon state legislators heading off to jail, caught with drugs? That’s how we do things in Salem.

Oregon state police force at 641 officers in 1980 — down to 311 in 2004? Not enough people are gambling.

Oregon land use law — long considered the model for the nation? We have it, no we don’t, wait, it’s back (or not) pending the court decisions.

Businesses fleeing Portland because of onerous taxes and fees? Well, they just don’t understand government.

What has happened to our once great state of Oregon? Nothing less than a pervasive and overwhelming statewide malaise. SUV driving, iPod listening, Nike clothes wearing, cloistered suburbanites drive past neighbors they have never met on their way to Starbucks to fuel up on skinny lattes while the state disintegrates around them.

Conditions such as those mentioned above would not have happened in Governor Tom McCall days. Oregon’s governor and the citizens of Oregon had a spirit then of keeping Oregon lovable and livable — a spirit that needs to be revived if we are to save our state.

And just how do we regain that spirit from the 60’s and 70’s? It really isn’t that difficult, but it will involve taking action and taking it NOW.

First, we all need to walk more. This way we can pick up a stray can or bottle, get some exercise, meet the next door neighbor, see first hand and close up how the neighborhood is going, and connect more directly with the environment.

Second, we must become more involved in government. When campaign promises are broken we need to take immediate action, in unison, so politicians know we will hold them accountable. We all need to vote — with only 70% of Oregonians voting in the last presidential election, almost one third of us are saying we don’t care enough about our state to bubble in some circles and spring for a stamp. We need to let legislators know that they need to follow the law, not pad their family incomes at our expense, and actually do their jobs.

Third, we all have to go back to school. Imagine the difference in the drop-out rate if neighbors all dropped in on the schools and offered to help. Just manning the phones and calling parents of students who were absent would be a big help.

Fourth, businesses must be treated better in Oregon. They need a welcome mat, not a tax or fee increase or a forced annexation. Oregon’s unemployment rate has been one of the highest in the nation, which correlates to our standing as one of the top ten worst states for small businesses according to Philipp Harper. Business makes the state work, not government. We must all stand up for a better business climate before it is too late.

Fifth, everyone needs to volunteer somewhere. Volunteers can and do make a huge difference in the livability of a state. Volunteers feed the homeless, clean up the public beaches, help in disasters, and so much more. Imagine what would happen if everyone volunteered somewhere in Oregon, even if just for a few hours each week.

Sixth, we all should work to live on less. Good stewardship of our state resources helps everyone. Shopping at Goodwill often results in some great finds at money-saving prices. Using the Internet for comparison shopping, buying used instead of new, and selling unwanted items on eBay, all contribute to smaller piles in the landfills and more savings in our budgets.

Seventh, families need to eat meals together. Quit making excuses — when a family sits down to eat, together, each and every day, magic happens. Misunderstandings are less frequent, communication improves, and the family works together for each other and the rest of us.

Eighth, let’s all stuff the suggestion boxes in businesses and government. If there isn’t a suggestion box available, make one. More minds are always better than fewer. The power of all Oregonians working together to suggest improvements for our state can not be underestimated.

Ninth, let’s all make sure we visit our public lands at least once each year. If more people boated the Willamette, hiked the Oregon forests, skied the Oregon resorts, and walked the Oregon beaches then more of us would see the problems evident in our natural resources mismanagement and work harder to correct them.

Tenth, and finally, we must all reclaim the pioneer spirit that made Oregon great. The Lewis and Clark Bicentennial reminds everyone that nothing worthwhile is easy. The harsh weather, the 4,162 miles they traversed one way, the lack of food, the unknown people and unexplored lands all made the trek exceedingly difficult.

Surely we can similarly rise to the occasion and take up some, if not all, the suggestions above to make Oregon once again one of the greatest places in the world to live and visit.