Who lives 'here' and where does 'here' belong?
Redistricting is probably the most important thing to come out of Salem this year ... but let's take a look at who now lives in Prineville, but at the same time, let us not forget the coming event of the year -- the Crooked River Roundup Race Meet.
Don't tear us apart
Obviously one of the biggest political cans of worms in the Oregon legislature this year is redistricting. The state law provides for legislative districts to be redrawn every 10 years based on the results of the national census. Each district must be contiguous, of equal population and utilize existing geographic or political boundaries. It also must not divide communities of common interest and it must be connected by transportation links.
To this end politicians have stretched and twisted potential district boundary lines to provide a numerical equality, but it appears that they were doing so blindfolded and without regard to the mandate to maintain existing geographic and political boundaries and common interest areas as nearly as practicable.
The Republican plan has Prineville being lumped with Wheeler, Grand, Gilliam and Morrow counties, while spinning Powell Butte off as part of a Lake, Harney and Malheur district. Their plan to split Powell Butte from Prineville is a ridiculous move equivalent to separating a child from his or her parents simply because they have bedrooms in different parts of the house. The Republican Party wants to enhance its chances of electing more members to the House and Senate, but Crook County should not be a pawn in the middle of a power play.
The Democratic plan made more sense with Crook County, Redmond and Madras making up the district.
After several weeks of political maneuvering, including a game of hide and seek by the Democrats, the redistricting issue will fall on the secretary of state and probably end up in the courts. The secretary of state plans to hold 21 public hearings around the state to get the views of the public and the elected officials before he creates his own map. The closest meeting for Crook County residents will be held in Bend on Wednesday, July 25 at the City Council Chambers at 710 Wall Street.
For a short time we have a chance to remind Secretary of State Bill Bradbury that we don't want Powell Butte to be ground up in the hamburger while Prineville ends up stew meat. The Crook County Court has done an admirable job of communicating this message to state officials and will continue to push, but they can't be expected to fight all our battles for us.
This is another one of those times that your voice is extremely important. I encourage you to take a few minutes too communicate with Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. A special form to comment on redistricting is available on the Internet at [http://www.sos.state.or.us/redistrict/comments.htm] . His mailing address is 136 State Capitol, Salem OR 97310-0722. Phone (503) 986-1523 or fax (503) 986-1616.
Who lives in Crook County now?
Speaking of redistricting, it's interesting to see who lives in Crook County now. Here are some basic numbers from the thousands released from the recent census:
Total population 19,182
Total male 9,564
Total female 9,618
Median Age 38.6
0 to 19 years old 5,530
20 to 34 3,190
35 to 54 5,512
55 to 64 2,132
65 & up 2,818
93.0% are white
61.5% married couple family households
21.3% householder living alone
35.2% of households had individuals under 18
26.8 of households had someone over 65 years old
Average household size 2.57
Average family size 2.96
Occupied housing units 8,264
Owner occupied housing 7,354
Lower the speed limits statewide
Oregon has some of the lowest speed limits in the nation and you really start to notice the difference when traveling from one state to another. When you arrive back in Oregon after a trip into Washington, Idaho or California it feels almost like the car is stopped when you have to drop back from 65-, 70- or 75-mph.
I was pleased to see that the state lawmakers were trying to raise the limits on roads in rural areas and they should.
But it appears that central and eastern Oregon are going to get the short end again. After the governor and the Senate get done playing their political games the limits may get nudged up to 70 mph on rural parts of Interstates 5 and 84, but the wide open two-lane roads east of the Cascade are going to get stuck with the same old 55 mph limits.
I know we have to take one step at a time to make changes, but the limits on appropriate roads east of the Cascades need to be raised too.
Crooked River Roundup Race
Next week its time once again for the horse racing portion of Crook County's most famous event, the Crooked River Roundup. This is one of only seven horse racing meets remaining in Oregon. The Roundup board and the hundreds of volunteers that work to put on this annual event are to be congratulated for their enormous effort. They deserve our support and our admiration. Racing starts Wednesday, July 12 with free admission for women. Thursday night is Chamber Night at the races with free passes available at the Chamber office, at dozens of Chamber members' stores or at the Central Oregonian. Of course the big nights are Friday and Saturday, when you'll get a chance to see all your friends and neighbors. Don't miss this one.