Plan benefits Portland over needs of rural Oregon
The Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC) reported Tuesday that "As a result of recent higher cost estimates for First and Second Round Senate Bill 622 telecommunications projects, the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department and the Connecting Oregon Communities Advisory Board have revised their recommendations to the Oregon Economic Development Commission. The Commission is scheduled to meet (today) February 22 and will be considering a newly developed multi-phase implementation scheme for the First and Second round SB622 projects. This process appears to circumvent the established prioritization process set forth in the Oregon Administrative Rules that govern the SB622 process, and has placed several Central Oregon project components in danger of not receiving funding."
For those of you, like myself, who don't understand (bureaucratic language) that means, if this change is implemented by the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department, Crook County will not get funding to add a second main telephone line and additional services like Digital Service Lines (DSL).
These telecommunications services are absolutely necessary if we are to ever attract new high tech companies to our community. With our ever-declining wood products industry and high unemployment, Crook County is ranked as one of the more economically distressed communities in the state. This new infrastructure could be a major factor in attracting new jobs.
It appears that a group of Portland area legislators pressured the Advisory Board to add a $3.5 million Portland Development Commission project to the funding list without the formal prioritization given to projects in the "Phase 1" funding. As a result the Crook County (and possibly the entire central Oregon) component was dropped from the funding recommendations.
We understand the decision was made by a conference call earlier this week without any input from central Oregon. This decision might have been correct, but we can't tell you because Crook County officials have been unable to get specifics of the decision and yet the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department is scheduled to make a final decision today (Thursday).
When the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce and the Crook County Court found out about the suspect decision, an organized effort was made to flood the fax machines of Senator Ferrioli, Representative Greg Smith, Governor John Kitzhaber and the Oregon Economic and community Development Department with a request to set the final decision aside until the committee has heard from central Oregon representatives.
As this paper is going to press today (Thursday) Crook County Judge Scott Cooper is in Salem, leading a small delegation to attend the department meeting to attempt to get them to table any final action.
Cooper said, "This department has a responsibility to the taxpayers in expending taxpayer money to receive in a respectful way the comment of the public. We've been denied that opportunity. This is wrong, especially considering the enormous economic consequences of the decision.
"Decisions that effect the lifeblood of central Oregon ought to be made in a full, fair and complete hearing when all the facts are known by everyone, because the best decisions are made when the most information is on the table."
Cooper continued, "Oregon expects it (full public input) of local government and prosecutes them when it's not done at the local level, but the state appears to not follow the process itself."
We strongly encourage the Oregon Economic Development Commission to set the Advisory Board decision aside and reopen hearings on the proposed expenditures.
Eliminating, or even delaying, the Crook County components of SB622 could create a severe handicap to the industrial survival of the county. We need to be able to tell our story rather than being arbitrarily eliminated from the process because of political pressures.
If our efforts to get the process tabled are successful today, we will call on the entire community to phone, fax or e-mail the parties involved to help get this important link for our community. It's time we show the state that we care what happens in Salem and we are not going to quietly let them push us aside.
Gov. John Kitzhaber (D)
254 State Capitol
Salem, Oregon 97301-4047.
Citizen message line: 503-378-4582
State Rep. Greg Smith(R) Dist. 59
House Office H-280, State Capitol
Salem, Oregon 97310
Phone: 503-to come
District address: P.O. Box 215,
Heppner, Oregon 97836
State Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R) Dist. 28
S-216, State Capitol,
Salem, Oregon 97310
750 W. Main St.
John Day, Oregon 97845