Kulla: Restoring community health takes teamwork

Our public health and business recovery responses to the novel coronavirus, at both the county and state levels, will shape the future of rural Oregon.

Guest Writer

In addition to chairing the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners, Casey Kulla grows certified organic fruits, organic vegetables and state-certified cannabis with his wife, Katie. They are raising two children on the family farm as well. A fifth-generation Oregonian, he said his love of Oregon’s outdoors is matched only by his love of its people and products.

The effectiveness of our public health response as individuals and a community will determine whether the virus: 1) devastates us; 2) spikes periodically, triggering mandated shutdowns; 3) can be held to a relatively low background rate through measures to manage risk and limit spread. A steady, progressive reopening and rebuilding of society depends on doing it right.

The public health response will determine in which scenario we find ourselves. That in turn will decide what kind of response we can muster, both short- and long-term, to rebuild our economic and business lives.

Even with the best-case scenario of a steady, manageable infection rate, our leaders must establish health measures engendering trust on both the part of proprietors and customers. Proprietors won’t resume sales and customers won’t make purchases unless they are assured a relatively high level of safety.

Barring development of an effective vaccine that nearly everyone chooses to accept, or an effective treatment regimen instead, the best we can probably do is limit the virus to small outbreaks that don’t tax our hospitals. That would enable us to renew business and public life without exposing ourselves to undue risk.

I believe three goals should guide our business recovery here in Yamhill County: 1) reducing the disparity between our rural and urban economies; 2) rebuilding government trust in business and vice versa, enabling the two to engage in meaningful and mutually rewarding partnerships; and 3) striving to make both the business community and community at large more resilient, thus better able to absorb shocks.

I base my prescription for recovery on these assumptions:

n The virus is real, and spread by both symptomatic and asymptomatic people, and it is particularly harmful to those of advanced age, with chronic health conditions or both.

n Physical distancing works to slow the spread.

n Contact tracing and diagnostic testing make us better informed and thus better able to limit the scale of outbreaks.

n State, county and local government will have less money to work with, at least in the short term, so will have to be creative in their work to promote recovery.

Flexibility and attention to scale should guide government implementation of regulation and business taxation. If units of government foster flexibility and take economic scale into account when applying regulations, they can help jumpstart overall economic activity and allow innovative start-ups to evolve into significant players.

An example is the so-called “pickle bill,” which allows small farms to develop and market value-added food products with very little regulation. Such scale-dependent regulations could be applied across entire industries, in order to encourage new products, reward entrepreneurial spirit and reduce risk on both sides of the equation.

Trusting business owners with a track record of adhering to regulations assumes added importance if units of government are asked to take a more flexible approach.

For example, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is allowing expanded outdoor seating in order to promote increased physical distancing. But its success depends on affected businesses following in good faith, as flexibility depends on trust.

Proposals are also on the table for deferral or even outright waiver of taxes, provided recipients are willing to invest their savings in a verifiable way in the community. That, too, depends on trust.

At the county level, options include promoting local businesses in the marketplace, giving them priority in purchases and contracts and encouraging them to assure their employees of living livable wages. Those are all ways we can help rebuild our economic life in a better, more resilient way.

As one example of building a more resilient community while promoting local business, the county’s economic development contractor, SEDCOR, has created a directory of local firms manufacturing and marketing personal protective equipment.

We have all become familiar with the need for various types of PPE, and a number of local manufacturers have tooled up to provide it. The menu includes masks, gloves, gowns and face shields.

But supply chains and purchasing contracts often prove a sticking point.

To gain access to the market, you need to establish awareness with potential purchasers. SEDCORs online directory, found at www.sedcor.com/page/ppedirectory, helps with that.

The exchange has the potential to expand to the state, national and even international levels, with potentially advantageous consequences far beyond those currently being realized.

Units of city and county government spend a lot of money every year on procurement, as a large share of their budgets is reserved for materials and supplies. If we adopt community benefit agreements and policies for each major project, we can spur those units to purchase locally.

We will surely reap the benefits in terms of livable wages for our workers, increased business for our vendors and a more resilient economic environment for both.

Coupling community benefit agreements with tools like the PPE exchange, we can rebuild our local civic life and business activity through the strengthening of area connections. We can be both locally focused and globally aware when it comes to opportunities.

Finally, we need to work toward a future where disparities between urban and rural well-being are reduced.

Currently, rural Oregonians have lower levels of education, income and wealth, on average, compared to urban Oregonians. Units of government that encourage further education, pay better, provide better access to recreational, medical and nutritional support, and work to promote entrepreneurs while reducing the risks they face, will decrease those disparities.

Local government can help us build a more prosperous, resilient and healthy community with each decision it makes in response to the pandemic. We can do this if we work together.



Kulla local government stinks to high heaven just like all large government. We need to shrink government at all levels and get dollars back in the hands of private business where it’s spent wisely. The more free enterprise we have and the less government restrictions the faster we can build this economy.

Christmas has Talons

I wonder if Starrett will be asked to write on the opinion page for the NR? Yeah, I didn't think so it only works one way when trying desperately hard to skew people's point of view. Counting down the days until this rag bites the dust.


The first sentence refers to reshaping the future of rural Oregon. Yamhill county is an Urban County according to the State of Oregon Employment Department.
https://www.qualityinfo.org/-/a-closer-look-at-oregon-s-median-household-income (A Closer Look at Oregon’s Median Household Income; March 1, 2019)

Our public health and business recovery responses are dictated by the Governor at this point. I am not sure what models or data they are using but it is a fact that we will never have all the data. Without all the data models are never correct because they are based on assumptions. Some models can be useful if one adds common sense and offers a citizen the freedom to chose. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Governor worked with the counties and cities to open up the state?

How do you know that rural Oregonians have lower levels of education? The level of education is not determined solely by a formal education.
So what if rural Oregonians have lower levels of income and wealth if that indeed is the truth. I think it's your conclusion based on incomplete data.


Interesting that you are counting the days Christmas....yet you still have a subscription......Put your money where your mouth is.....please!.....


Tagup, I would miss this “open minded guy” with his so open minded comments so much.


To Talons, I won't miss your stupid comments at all. Go somewhere else with your rants. And stop reading the NR if you don't like it.


Just to make sure. My comment was meant sarcastic.


GRM...the quotation marks made it clear....:)


I suppose being subjected to “commentary” from the blathering voices of non-stop negativity is the price we pay for free speech? I am a great believer in constructive criticism, but some who “opine” here quite obviously post ugly for ugly’s sake. It is gratifying to see voices of reason take exception to the hateful pointless trash talk. It won’t cause our resident trolls to cease the spew, but it does signal that at least they are only amusing themselves. Pathetic.

Re Casey’s piece, I thank him for his thoughtful positive approach. We are so fortunate to have ONE Commissioner who actually cares about the citizens of Yamhill County.

Jeb Bladine


We appreciate your support of free speech.

In case you might have wondered, during her time in office we have published 2 Viewpoints commentary pieces from Mary Starrett; many of her letters to the editor; and many, many news articles featuring her strong stands on a broad array of issues.

Christmas, of course, does not actually read the News-Register, but rather subscribes in order to carry out a personal/political vendetta for reasons not fully known, since he/she has a dual identity in the subscription account.

But you know what some say: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.


Thanks for your post, Jeb. It is no secret that I respect and support this publication. That is not to say that I always agree with everything I read here, but even so I have no desire to live in a bubble and I benefit greatly from different points of view.

Unfortunately your willingness to provide a forum can be, and is, abused - but it also appears that the sleazy mendacious “contributions” are vastly outnumbered by those of us who value our hometown newspaper. We need you more now than ever. Keep up the good fight. Vendettas are malicious and tawdry, they do nothing to diminish the reputation of the News~Register.

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