EDITORIAL: Legislators, help us help strengthen Malheur County’s economy

This is a big week for Malheur County as we host a powerful group of state senators and representatives. Let’s make the most of the opportunity. Let’s give them a big welcome – and good reasons to help this side of the state.

We want to welcome these legislators traveling across the state to spend time with us. They are members of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, the budget committee, and we’d like to address them here.

First, we thank you for the extraordinary effort to come as far east in Oregon as you can go. We understand how hectic schedules are at the Capitol with the session underway. We understand the heavy demands on your time, including from your own constituents. We understand the time you have taken from your own families. We have a duty, then to make your trip worth the time.

We hope you take away a perspective about life on the border with Idaho. For the days you are here, you are in a different time zone from the rest of Oregon. When you gaze west, your stare will go hundreds of miles before it hits the Cascade crest. As you look around our county, you will see far more cows than people, more open range than pavement.

None of this is bad. It’s just different, and those differences mean we need your help. And a little help goes a long way in this country.

Before we outline some priorities, let’s underscore the nature of the community you are visiting. We are a county of hard-working people. We are farmers helping feed the world. We are ranchers helping stock that steak in restaurants. We are small business owners, determined by our grit and our wits to make a good, create wealth and create jobs.

We are a people of faith and principle. We earn what we get and value what we have. Despite our distance from the Capitol, we are Oregonians who care about right and wrong, honesty and integrity. We can make a little go a long way, and that’s our commitment you.

In rural Oregon, we need your help with relatively modest funding with the potential for big payoffs for our community – and for the state. You will hear us speak of these as we address you in Ontario this week. You should not be bashful about asking us tough questions. We can handle it if you will handle the straight answers you will likely get.

Among the immediate priorities:

•Drought relief – Packages pending in this session would go a long way to improve the resilience of our agriculture sector. When ag is strong, our communities are strong. Give us a hand here, and the seeds of state money will help grow the regional economy.

•A recreation project for Ontario – No one is asking the state to pick up the full tab for a public recreation center. We’ll pitch in our share as we can. We ask only that you join us as partners. In an area of high poverty, this center is essential for our children, our seniors, our families.

•Treasure Valley Reload Center – No one has been more diligent about pointing out major problems and failures than the Enterprise. But leadership has changed, county officials are more alert to their duties, and the shipping center can’t be left to rust because of the mistakes of those now gone from the project. Legislators in 2017 and again last year pledged to back this. Do so one more time and let’s get this job done.

In Malheur County, we recognize the need for frugality. We prize it. We also recognize the need for accountability. Help us with these projects and we’ll be sure to deliver both. – LZ