Please Don’t Silence the Rural Voice in Oregon

The Oregon legislature is currently taking on the enormous task of redistricting. This happens once every 10 years and coincides with census data. This year is a bit different because census data is not planned to be compiled until after the deadline of redistricting here in Oregon. So the question then becomes, how can this process be done fairly and accurately so as to not marginalize or silence the voices of so many? The answer is that it truly needs to be done by an independent commission, not politicians.

So why as a rural Oregonian do I even care about district lines? To answer that question you will have to check back with my last blog. A few weeks ago I wrote about a terrible experience where my rural voice was marginalized to about half the weight of those who were speaking in opposition to my testimony. I know I’m in the minority in many situations, but does that give my voice less importance than anyone else’s? It certainly shouldn’t. And yet I am supposed to sit back while our voice gets cut up into tiny pieces along district lines, just so this can continue?

When you break it down, you can’t deny the fact that rural voices are being marginalized. And this isn’t the first or the last time this will happen, we need to do better, Oregon needs to do better. Which is why I still showed up, just a few hours after being silenced, to testify yet again and try to be heard.

In listening to testimony on the issue of redistricting, I have heard people question the term rural and question MY identity. This is wrong, and it’s offensive.

Did you know…
**25 of Oregon’s 36 counties are categorized as “non-metro” rural, meaning they have no communities of 40,000 or more residents.
**Ten of those counties have population density of less than 6 people per square mile.
**Even Oregon’s most populous counties have many rural and agriculture-dependent residents.
**The lower population of these communities makes them more vulnerable to gerrymandering, where districts are drawn to dilute the voice of these rural citizens.

As a farmer, I know when something doesn’t work. When it doesn’t work, we must change the process. Having legislators choose their electorate is innately a conflict of interest – perhaps the greatest conflict of interest. Seeing how the committees are split up with majority Democrats, knowing the Democrats have control of the Secretary of State and the Governor’s office, I can only believe those that hold all the power want to keep that power, and will draw the lines accordingly. I also can’t help but notice both chairs (Rep. Taylor & Rep. Salinas) of the committee formed for this project are from the greater Portland metro area. I have spent enough time in the Capitol and advocating for the agricultural community to know how “understanding” Portland legislators are of communities outside Portland. In fairness I would also guess that I don’t understand a lot of what needs there are to be determined within the metro area either.

In listening to public testimony over the past multiple weeks, the overwhelming ask is to move this responsibility out of the hands of partisan politicians and into an independent nonpartisan commission and I completely agree.

We know how partisan and divided our state and country is. There is an opportunity to choose people over political power, and ultimately choose what is best for Oregon. The current political situation we find ourselves in makes it difficult, maybe impossible, to achieve fairness without political gerrymandering. Rural district boundaries have been superseded and overshadowed by larger metro areas, and because of this, has diluted voices just like mine.

County Road Safety, House Bill 3213

Next Wednesday (4/24/19) at 5pm there will be a hearing at the capitol on House Bill 3213.  I’m asking for support…here’s why:

As a farmer you can imagine that I live in a fairly rural area.  That said, I’m also only 30 minutes south of Portland, and 30 miles north of Salem.  We are faced with an urban and rural collision, literally and figuratively on our country roadways from folks going through our area to get to and from work.  The problem comes from those who drive freeway speeds on country roads, people who don’t know the turns in the road, or folks who don’t understand how to drive around farm equipment that is going super slow on a 55mph road.

As a volunteer EMT and firefighter I have seen my fair share of accidents on these roads.  Some where folks walked away, many where they didn’t.  Some were due to high speeds, some were due to passing in no passing zones, some were where people were trying to pass a tractor and misjudged the whole scenario.  All of these I don’t take lightly, so the discussion around road safety from a farming perspective is always high on my list, from a rural community member it’s also right up there.

For example, a road just north of where I grew up, which is in our fire district, has seen 10 fatal crashes since last summer.  Let  that sink in.  More than a person a month has died on that road, now coined, “Death Road”.  So what can we do?  The discussion brought a few of us rural community members to the idea of allowing for this roadway to be considered in the program of “Safety Corridors”.  Unfortunately the idea was brought to a halt when it was realized that only state run highways could fall under that program.

So here’s the fix….or at least the step in the right direction….Many thanks to Representative Shelly Boshart Davis who introduced House Bill 3213, which would allow for counties to also handle and maintain safety corridors within the same program that ODOT currently uses.  It’s a process in which a community can lobby to get their road designated.  Once the designation comes, you get signage that goes along with safety corridors and also all traffic tickets automatically double in this corridor.

My hope is that this will enable us out here on the county roads to give other folks who are just driving through a second thought to their speed.  It will help folks realize that this is not the place to pass on a double yellow line, this is not the place to drive 91 mph, this is not the place to go on auto pilot and not pay attention.  And if they don’t realize that, then I hope they are caught red handed and hit in the pocket book.

If you’re interested in supporting this bill I urge you write to your legislator or email support testimony to jct.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov.  And of course if you have any questions please let me know!

FarmHer April 12th, 6:30pm

Hey everyone, some exciting news!  Last fall I hosted the FarmHer team out on the farm and the episode they filmed will be airing this coming Friday April 12th, 6:30pm! Below is the press release from the FarmHer team….

FarmHer Follows Women in Agriculture from Washington to Louisiana in the 2nd Half of Season Three

(NASHVILLE, TENN. — Apr. 5, 2019) FarmHer is back with new episodes on RFD-TV.
Meet a helicopter pilot who crafts Artisan cheeses, head to the hops capital of the U.S. and witness a woman who thought she would never walk again, ranch with all her might. The network’s original series highlights another powerful group of women in its
3rd season with host Marji Guyler-Alaniz at the helm. FarmHer airs Fridays at 9:30 p.m. EST on RFD-TV.

Season 3: Episodes 19: Oregon FarmHer Harvests Piles of Grass Seed & Hazelnuts
Friday, April 12, 2019 at 9:30 p.m. ET
When dust settles on Brenda Frketich’s farm, there are piles of hazelnuts. Take in this year’s harvest in Oregon while learning about another top Pacific Northwest crop: turfgrass.

Here are also a few sneak peak videos to check out while you’re anxiously (at least I am anxious) waiting for the episode this Friday.

We had a wonderful time showing this great crew around the farm here in St. Paul.  I have always said that our doors are always open and this was a wonderful way to bring the farm into living rooms across the US.  It airs on RFDTV, click the link below to find that channel in your area!
http://www.rfdtv.com/link/649370/find-us-in-your-area

Don’t have RFD-TV?  No problem…..
On demand service can be found a bunch of different ways including Roku and Amazon Fire. The apps are either “RFD Country Club” or “Rural TV”.

Some of those apps allow you to sign up for a specific category “Rural Lifestyle” for just $2.99 a month and that’s where you can find FarmHer. You can cancel anytime.

Or you can sign up for full on demand service RFD-TV Country Club at rfdcc.com. It has a monthly fee, but with no contract, so you can cancel anytime.

Questions….as always, just ask!!