By now if you haven't heard the name Tom Coburn and wondered where on the map Oklahoma is, then either you have been on a long vacation or you haven't been reading newspapers lately. Tom Coburn is a senator from Oklahoma and here is what he has to say about blocking the Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act, 'We can't do it. We don't have the money … I don't want to trade. I want to fix what's wrong with our country in terms of the fiscal problems we have.' This sounds good; however, the 59-year-old junior Republican senator isn't trying to save the United States from bankruptcy, he is capitalizing on an election year.
One has to look no further than his sponsorship of a controversial amendment to a large Natural Resource Authorization Act, repealing the ban on loaded firearms in National Parks that has been in effect for more than 100 years. His active and vocal support of the war in Iraq, which costs $700 million per day to fight, must come from some other budget and not the federal government for his remarks to be taken seriously.
So, what's all the fuss about one gray-haired wannabe in the U.S. Senate? It's the bulge in his pocket that has everyone fuming, including Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith, both sponsors of the Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act. No, it's not a loaded gun in his pocket; it's his fistful of holds that he has placed on consensus legislation that is normally shuffled across the Senate floor. At last count there were more than 100 bills in his pocket.
Included in this wad of paper are two important Oregon bills; one that will significantly expand the wilderness area around Mount Hood and another that promises big economic returns for Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. The latter bill, referred to as the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail Act, will create a new unit of the National Park Service that will cross parts of the four Pacific Northwest states, interpreting the amazing story of the largest floods ever recorded on earth.
This is exactly the kind of tourism product that the emerging brand geo-tourism is looking for, integrating environmental science with recreation and conservation, and it comes with a large wow factor.
This brings me to my final point and it may not be comfortable for those of you that value citizen involvement. Tom Coburn has taken an important Senate procedural rule, the ability for any senator to put a hold on legislative action, and twisted it into a tool to promote his own activist agenda. This is the same tactic being played out by radical citizen groups in local communities all over America.
The city of West Linn provides a great example of this sordid tactic. Several years ago, a few citizens calling themselves advocates for a more livable West Linn, infiltrated some of the community neighborhood associations, rose to leadership positions and twisted them from being important community partners to borderline political action committees.
These supposed 'citizen activists' live in your city. Like parasites, they thrive on community partner organizations to carry out their agendas; the weaker the organization the better. We must take back our cities from these 'citizen parasites' and give them back to informed 'citizen advocates' who truly put the health of the community and country in front of their own agendas.
More importantly, call Sen. Coburn's office in Washington, D.C., at 202-224-5754 and see how long you can vent to an Oklahoma senator until the 18-year-old on the other end of the line says, 'Thank you very much for your call … ' click. I lasted about 45 seconds.
Mark Buser is the president and founder of the Lower Columbia Floods Chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute and chairman of its Governmental Affairs Task Force. He is also a candidate for the West Linn City Council.