By editorial board • 

Politics eclipse reason in county’s coalition rejection

Forging alliances with neighboring counties of similar needs, views and politics is one of the most common — and natural — elements of governmental organization.

Oregon groupings that follow natural fault line include Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas; Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook; Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook; and, of course, our own Marion, Polk and Yamhill.

The three local counties share rural, agricultural roots and agricultural-driven economics. An interstate freeway, prominent state highway, major rail corridor,  mighty river and networks of secondary arterials connecting each. A tradition of moderate-to-conservative political representation, borrowing elements from both parties. As a result, they have a history of collaboration on trade and transportation, agriculture and education, social services and economic development, travel and tourism.

The ties that unite them include the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments, Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, Willamette Education Service District, Marion-Polk-Yamhill Central Labor Council and Mid-Willamette Valley United Way, to name a few among many. They have used those ties to promote projects as ambitious and far-reaching as the largely state and federally funded Newberg-Dundee Bypass.

So what would lead Yamhill County to spurn its neighboring counties when they proposed joining forces in a regional Continuum of Care, dedicated to battling homelessness? We can think of only two reasons: ideologically driven politics, on the part of Commissioner Mary Starrett, and pragmatically driven politics, on the part of Commissioner Rick Olson, up for re-election next year.

Starrett reliably tilts against any and all windmills appearing to represent an expansion of government reach, however small. And of late, the more moderate Olson seems to be reliably tilting Starrett’s way at every opportunity.

If Olson thinks belatedly currying favor with the county’s conservative wing is going to keep Starrett from promoting a rival to the right, he’s badly misjudged and greatly underestimated her.

The way we see it, she has a candidate in mind to challenge Olson and will be pulling out all the stops in backing the rival campaign. All Olson is doing is dampening any enthusiasm more moderate elements might muster for his retention.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development channels its affordable housing funds exclusively through Continuum of Care agencies, six of which are currently operating in Oregon. Yamhill is one of 28 members of the “other counties” group, where its influence approaches zero.

Teaming up with its neighbors, one of whom serves as Oregon’s seat of government and hub of one of its largest concentrations of population, would help Yamhill’s prospects enormously.

Starrett argued the county is already mounting an aggressive campaign, doesn’t need anyone else’s money or assistance, and probably wouldn’t fare any better in a coalition of three than in a coalition of 28. Olson contended that Yamhill County is already leading the way and probably wouldn’t realize any benefit from throwing new money at the problem.

The federal funds earmarked for Oregon will go somewhere, but as a result of misguided local reasoning, that somewhere is less likely to be here.

Comments

A New Generation

Good editorial, Jeb. With roads & land use being their primary job responsibilities, you'd think they'd learn. This is just another example in a long history of politicking in Yamhill County by thumbing its nose at established protocol and doing things 'my way', often from scratch. The County seems convinced that re-inventing the wheel in so many opportunities justify their stalling, flailing around, and their waste of time, resources, and expertise that would come from direct participation in many shared resources.
Idiots.
It is sad to watch.