The future for Prineville and Crook County is not as bad as some people think - that was the message from County Judge Scott Cooper.
>County Judge Scott Cooper picked up his crystal ball and talked about everything from the local economy, politics, population growth to the next gubernatorial race
Cooper had been asked to "look into his crystal ball" when invited to speak to the Chamber of Commerce's Tuesday morning Public Affairs Forum. In a quick, machine gun delivery, he touched upon many topics, both the good and the bad.
The outlook, according to Cooper's prognostication, will see a major increase in local growth in the next couple of years in both the population and unemployment. "The major reason Crook County will be unable to recover," Cooper said, "is because of larger, national economic trends beyond local control. Crook County is still overly dependent on construction, manufacturing, transportation and wholesale trade sectors, all of which are depressed and likely to continue that way."
A factor in this process, he continued, "has to do with presidential election politics. Modern election theory says the way to win the presidency is to let the economy slide to mid-term and then rev it up again before the election, to the acclaim of the public which has a short-term attention span."
The timber industry, despite what some people are expecting, will not make a comeback under the Bush administration, Cooper believes. Citing two federal environmental programs, the EPA (Endangered Species Act) and NEPA, he said proposed changes will go nowhere. "Almost seven in 10 Oregonians say that when environment and economy collide, environment should get priority. What do you think the views of the rest of the nation are? Green vote in the 21st Century is to American politics what abortion was in the early 1980s. Probably 10-15 percent of the vote is single-issue politics, and in a time when 55-45 margins are the norm, that bloc can't be ignored."
Still talking about the national scene, Cooper sees Attorney General Ashcroft "getting canned before the end of 2003" because of his being " viewed by a nervous Bush administration gearing up for a campaign as a loose cannon. By the end of 2002, War on Terrorism will not be front page," Cooper continued, "and criticism of Bush's handling of civil rights issues will be on top of news columns. American elites, intelligentsia and chattering class have seen their normal voices of dissent virtually squashed since Sept. 11 by a tide of patriotism that tolerates no disagreement. They're looking to reassert themselves, and once the last cave in Afghanistan has been cleared and things settle down, somebody's head is gonna roll. Ashcroft, who lost his Senate seat to an opponent who was dead and who has made a political career out of bashing liberal ideology and spouting holier-than-thou rhetoric is the ideal fall guy."
In national politics, Cooper vaticinates that Crook County will lose standing. That will come about because in the race for the US Senate, incumbent Gordon Smith will beat out contender Bill Bradbury, "because Smith had lots of money, money, money."
The local vote will be against Smith, Cooper predicts, and that could cost the county in the long run.
Statewide, Cooper has the gubernatorial race coming down between Republican Jack Roberts and Democrat Ted Kulongonski. In the general election, Roberts will win by a 52 to 48 percent margin, but it won't matter, he added, because "you can't distinguish between the two."
Local politics will remain about the same following the election in 2002. The county commissioner's race will pit Jerry Crafton in a strong race with a Democrat challenger, Cooper foresees.
The city council, Cooper says will not change much, and Mayor Steve Uffelman will retain his job.
On the topic of local growth, Cooper warned that growth management will be the bigger discussion in the next few years, if not the next decade. "The lifestyle and income of new residents will demand more retail and services," he added.
Cooper's prevision of the future for local growth is for big increases. The same reasons that brought people into Deschutes County will continue to bring people, but now they will be coming east, into Crook County. More people will come here to retire, he predicts, mainly because there are more reasonably priced building sites. "Juniper Canyon, Powell Butte and Juniper Acres will be the hot spots."
On the economic side, Cooper said Les Schwab Tire Center is "straining" to maintain its local growth while expanding into the southern markets. The next Schwab warehouse complex, he predicts, will be in southern California.
"It is almost impossible to reach new markets in New Mexico
from Prineville," Cooper explained.
Keeping the Schwab headquarters here will depend on at least two things; an adequate work force and Les Schwab's continued good health.
The future is not "as bad as you might think. Of course," Cooper concluded, "these are just my thoughts. Others before me have tried since the beginning of time to predict the future with varying degrees of success. We'll see how many of my (predictions come true) by year end, and depending on the answer you may or may not want to have me back in 2003."