Office of Rural Policy felled by state budget ax

| Print |  Email
Tuesday, April 01, 2008

{safe_alt_text}

"This is a pitiful conclusion to a wonderful opportunity."


Laura Pryor, Rural advocate

SALEM With hope and fanfare, the Office of Rural Policy was created in 2004 by executive order of Gov. Ted Kulongoski. It died last month with no fanfare and dashed hopes after the Legislature refused to fund it.

The one-man office, which cost about $200,000 a year, was established to help form policy and connect the dots across the state on rural issues. In particular, the governor said when he announced the office that he wanted to spotlight the “particular hardship rural communities are facing during the current economic downturn.”

All of Oregon now faces another downturn and rural officials and advocates feel this is exactly the wrong time to pull the plug on supporting rural areas, which have higher unemployment, lower incomes and higher poverty rates.

“The office was never fully funded or staffed,” says Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton. “So the director was doing everything on his own. The rural people thought [the office] was of great value, but the co-chairs of Ways and Means said they didn’t see any outcomes.” Nelson says that one important outcome that originated from the office was the focus on water issues in the 2007 session.

pdf

e-sources


• Office of Rural Policy’s report


• Laura Pryor’s email to the Eastern Oregon Rural Alliance


But Ways and Means Committee co-chair Rep. Mary Nolan, D-Portland, says that in a year when a glum state revenue forecast had the Legislature scrambling to fund the basics, having an ombudsman wasn’t a priority over concrete services such as more state troopers or rural health programs. The office was killed without a hearing.

“I don’t know if we have met all the needs in rural Oregon,” Nolan says, “but I don’t think we’ve met all the needs in any pocket of the state.”

The demise of the office comes as funding for the Regional and Rural Investment Programs, administered by the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department, “is on life support,” says Doris Penwell, an economic development consultant for the Association of Oregon Counties. At one time there was $25 million for the programs; they were given $2 million in the 2007 session.

{safe_alt_text}

"There’s not a lot going right for rural Oregon."


Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton

“The needs and wants of rural Oregon are not high on the list,” says Laura Pryor, a retired Gilliam County judge who helped birth the rural office. “That is why the Office of Rural Policy was such a breath of hope. If the governor of this state meant what he said, he would have been its champion.” She added in a Feb. 25 email to the Eastern Oregon Rural Alliance: “This is a pitiful conclusion to a wonderful opportunity.”

Kulongoski spokesman Rem Nivens says Kulongoski is “very disappointed.” Nivens says the governor plans to seek funding during the 2009 Legislature to restart the office if there is a good revenue forecast.

The office’s outgoing director, Jim Azumano, leaves behind a report that outlines the work that needs to continue, including addressing the “one-size-fits-all” approach to lawmaking that isn’t practical for rural areas, and deteriorating infrastructure.

Ray Naff, a director with the governor’s economic revitalization team, says he will work with OECDD and regional members of his team to help pick up where the office left off. “Our job is to take Jim’s work and move it forward,” he says.

ROBIN DOUSSARD



Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Free Falling

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, December 18, 2014
121714-oilprice-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR

The implosion of the energy complex: The best thing for low oil prices is low oil prices.


Read more...

Top stories in 2014

The Latest
Thursday, December 18, 2014
10-listthumb

2014 was a year of wild contradictions, fast-paced growth and unexpected revelations.


Read more...

Healthcare pullback

News
Thursday, November 20, 2014
112014-boehnercare-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Each month for Oregon Business, we assess factors that are shaping current capital market activity—and what they mean to investors. Here we take a look at two major developments regarding possible rollbacks of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).


Read more...

Three problems with Obama's immigration order

News
Wednesday, November 26, 2014

BY NISHANT BHAJARIA | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR112614-immigration-thumb

By now, anyone who knows about it has a position on President Obama’s executive order on immigration. The executive order is the outcome of failed attempts at getting a bill through the normal legislative process. Both Obama and his predecessor came close, but not close enough since the process broke down multiple times.


Read more...

Corner Office: Marv LaPorte

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

The president of LaPorte & Associates lets us in on his day-to-day life.


Read more...

Corner Office: Steve Tatone

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Seven tidbits about the president and CEO of AKT Group.


Read more...

The 100 Best Companies survey is open

News
Friday, October 24, 2014

100-best-logo-2015 500pxw-1How does your workplace stack up against competitors? How can you improve workplace practices to help recruit and retain employees? Find out by taking our 100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon survey!


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS