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Is Prineville being held down by a glass ceiling?

From time to time every community is faced with taking a stand on an issue that attacks its identity and future. These are exactly the situations that Prineville and Crook County are facing with the Forest Service's recent decisions to eliminate Crook County from consideration for siting the new headquarters, and reassigning 50 Forest Service jobs out of the Ochoco facility. This issue has generated intense interest in our community. The interest is keen because it strikes blows at the heart of who we are as well as our economic and social future.
   One of the most troubling aspects of the Forest Service decisions is that the process has been so transparent. The analogy of a glass ceiling comes to mind. The Forest Service has created a glass ceiling and we have unknowingly been living under it. Because glass ceilings are so clear, those existing under a ceiling might not, at first, even notice that a barrier was in place which separates them from higher levels.
   Generally you never hit a glass ceiling unless you aspire to something. Indeed, it was not until we aspired to compete for the Forest Service headquarters that we first bumped into the ceiling. Based on earlier conversations with Forest Service officials it was a jolt to realize that a glass ceiling was suddenly in place.
   We knew we hit the glass ceiling again when the only public process was with the civic leadership after the decision had been made by the Forest Service. Although we couldn't see it, we hit the ceiling again when the Forest Service announced that they would not reconsider their decision to consider Crook County as a site. That time, we knew that we hit the ceiling hard, despite our objections and requests to recast the process, when the Forest Service made it clear that they did not necessarily rely on the objective criteria and rating system to make their decision.
   The surprising thing about glass ceilings is that even though you can't see them, they function quite well. The Forest Service decision will prevent our community from achieving economic stability. This is tough medicine to swallow when you are a depressed, timber-dependent economy.
   The glass ceiling analogy is offered to describe how it feels to be kept down. It is a condition that the Forest Service created by refusing to acknowledge the importance and need for public process, the failure to include us in substantive discussions, and the failure to understand the severity of the impacts of their decision.
   The glass ceiling analogy also describes how our community and county's current contributions and historical connections with the Forest Service are being discounted by the agency. At this point in time, Crook County has received only token consideration from the Forest Service. It is fair to say that this consideration was initiated only when the civic leadership demanded that the Forest Service acknowledge our concerns.
   When glass ceilings are erected to hold people down, it is fair to ask why. Why did we receive only token consideration? Why couldn't we compete with our neighbors when we welcome growth and have an historical relationship with the Forest Service? It is the conclusion of many people in our community, that Crook County does not reflect the corporate image that the Forest Service deems necessary. Could this be true?
   When glass ceilings are erected it is important to voice opposition to the process and the decisions that emanated from that process. What is reassuring is that the Forest Service's decision has not generated a dilemma among the leadership in Crook County. That leadership is aligned and willing to keep hammering on the glass ceiling.
   The next ring of the hammer is to appeal to the congressional delegation to force consideration of the impacts of the Forest Service decision on our community. The Chamber encourages you to email, fax or write U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith, and Congressman Greg Smith.
   The Chamber invites you to bring your hammer and attend the Public Affairs Forum on Tuesday morning, March 27 from 7-8 a.m. at the Senior Center. At the Forum, County Judge Scott Cooper will lead a discussion about the Forest Service decisions, clarify the position of the county, city and chamber with respect to their decisions, and discuss next steps.
   We ask each Chamber member and each community member to bring your hammers and join in. The point is crystal clear: We are worthy of consideration. We should be afforded the opportunity to compete for economic stability. The subjective decisions of a Federal agency should not work against a timber-depressed community. We need to continue to voice our objections loudly and clearly about the glass ceiling.
   Remember, glass can be shattered if we strike it hard enough and long enough together.