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Next governor must govern differently

Our Opinion

With John Kitzhaber's election to a third term as governor, it is time for Oregon to be guided by a new form of leadership - one that isn't rooted in political tenure or parties, but is focused on essential priorities and a sense of urgency that achieves measurable outcomes.

Oregon's new governor must immediately tear apart state government and rebuild it with the help of Oregonians who can show state leaders how to use existing resources and taxes more effectively than ever before.

The governor will have a unique opportunity to forge consensus in a state that has too long been divided along liberal-conservative and urban-rural lines. With a Legislature that now appears, remarkably, to be split exactly down the middle, nothing will get done in state government without support from both political parties. That could lead to gridlock - but it better not if our leaders have any intention of moving Oregon beyond its economic morass. Oregon must cease its longstanding penchant for fighting over what cannot happen and instead focus on what can.

Let's get out of this crisis

Oregon must not remain in crisis. The state's unemployment rate is stuck at 10.6 percent - more than 10 percent above the national average. In many of Oregon's rural communities, unemployment is far worse, ranging from 14.7 percent to 17.5 percent. The Portland area's own unemployment rate of 10.2 percent doesn't tell the extent of the problem.

The region is falling behind many of the nation's other comparable metropolitan areas. For example, Multnomah County's per capita income is 80 percent less than what is earned in Washington's King County. On top of that, we are not particularly good at creating and sustaining jobs.

Along the way, real people and families are suffering. Because jobs are lacking, income taxes needed to pay for essential public services are not being generated and services are being cut.

To begin a turnaround, Oregon's next governor must:

• Work with legislators to require that state government immediately prioritize all services and create a 10-year financial plan. The state must stop living hand-to-mouth, as it does with Oregon's two-year budget cycles.

• Call key public employee union groups to Salem and reach agreement on total compensation packages that bring the cost of state wages and benefits more in line with what is paid in the private sector. This effort also must bring the cost of public employee compensation in line with the state's financial resources.

• Quickly join with the business community to create an economic strategy for the state. The focus should be on creating long-term jobs throughout the diversity of Oregon's economy, including agriculture, forestry, high-tech, exports, sporting goods and apparel and innovative green-tech industries.

• Break apart the dozens of state agencies by eliminating many and reorganizing others into five clusters: sustainable practices and infrastructure; human resources; total education; public safety; and economic success. This reorganization should mandate that state government work with fewer resources, require more cooperation among agencies and achieve greater results in far less time.

• Inspire and engage citizen, public agency and private sector partners to work together.

• Pledge to be only a one-term governor with a sole focus on moving Oregon forward now, and without any thought about re-election in four years.

It is time for Oregon to be an even better and more special place than it has been or is today. This will require a different form of leadership from Oregon's new governor.