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Democrats comment on issues at weekend forum

A group of approximately 20 people gathered to hear the Democratic candidates for county court positions take aim at issues including agriculture and the economy at a public forum on Sunday afternoon.
   The meeting was put on by the Crook County Democratic Central Committee and took place in the Broughton Room of the Crook County Library.
   Although county judge hopeful Kim Kambak, who is running unopposed, was unable to attend, commissioner candidates A.R. "Dick" Brown, Newell Clarno, and Arleen Curths were on hand to field questions from the audience.
   Along with five-minute opening and closing statements, they answered questions ranging from the future of agriculture the county to how they will bring more jobs to the struggling economy. The forum also gave each candidate the opportunity to further distinguish themselves from the pack.
   The opening question asked the candidates what they feel are the three most important jobs of the county and what changes they would like to see in those areas.
   Brown highlighted the importance of the Les Schwab Tires headquarters to the county and with its impending departure, the need to build upon existing companies.
   "We have some very innovative new companies that are here," he said. "Some are looking to expand, some are looking to provide, and we need to be able to provide assistance to them."
   Clarno feels the most important duties of the county are public service, providing education and enhancing job opportunities.
   "We can make it extremely easy for new businesses to come in to the community," he said. "We can streamline some of the regulations, and yet safeguard our quality of life here in Prineville. We can also be ambassadors to other parts of the United States and other parts of the world, because I think this is a global opportunity."
   Curths pointed out the importance of maintaining quality of life in Crook County and listed creating more jobs, strong market security for family wage jobs, and land use planning as the most important functions of the county. She also stressed the need of the county to carry out more long-range planning for 20 to 30 years down the road.
   "The thing I want to see is planning and citizen involvement in doing the planning for growth," she said. "The lack that we have today in our government processes is a lack of transparency. The agendas are all set by the judge, but there is no process in place for citizens to know what the heart of these agenda items is. We don't have a process to involve citizens in decision-making at that level, and I'd like to see that changed."
   Gary Eder, a Powell Butte rancher, posed the question of how the candidates will protect agriculture in Crook County.
   Clarno stated that he feels agriculture is "extremely important" in the county.
   "We have to protect our agricultural land," he said. "I feel that land use planning in all of Oregon is broke. We need to take a very good look at the system we now have in place for land use planning and we need to support the group of people that are pushing for reorganization of planning. We have to get control of planning back in central Oregon."
   Curths argued that protected farmland should be labeled a national strategic resource and agrees with Clarno that land use planning should be regionalized.
   "I've learned a lot about how farmers think over the last five to seven years and the people who are living on that land locally are the ones who know what can produce and what will never produce," she said. "I'm really looking forward to the localization of land use planning that will support farmland."
   Brown mentioned that agriculture in the Crook County has substantially evolved during the last 50 years and he has witnessed the changes over time.
   "I'm very agriculturally oriented," he said. "I understand the problems agriculture has with the infringing uses and we will just have to evaluate the current regulations and make sure that those obstacles are brought out."
   Other questions asked at the forum were how the candidates would better utilize the county's Natural Resource Council, what industry they would try to attract to Crook County and whether the county needs a human resources officer.