By editorial board • 

It's good to see new leaders embrace spirit of collaboration

It seems we often find more to lament than laud each week as we survey the political landscape in our nation, state, county and community. But the political powers that be sometimes surprise us by reaching out across political, cultural and demographic divides in commendably reasonable ways.

So it was last week, not only with Gov.-elect Tina Kotek, but also with her successor as House speaker, fourth-term state Rep. Dan Rayfield of Corvallis. The two urban dwellers surprised and pleased us by mounting serious factfinding missions to rural, Republican-oriented parts of the state, Kotek in Yamhill County and Rayfield in Central Oregon.

While we’re at it, we would be remiss if we didn’t also toss a bouquet to new House Minority Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson of Prineville, successor to GOP gubernatorial standard bearer Christine Drazan in Republican leadership ranks. She organized and led Rayfield’s tour of her home base in Crook County, starting with her ranching operation, which seems a promising omen.

In a post-election editorial, we said, “The question now becomes, can Kotek avoid the fate of predecessor Kate Brown, who seemed to fall further out of sync with ordinary Oregonians every passing day of her troubled tenure? If so, how?”

Among other things, we went on to urge better representation of rural interests and better collaboration with rural leaders across party lines. We also urged more consultation with a broader range of constituents, along with more openness and better accountability. We said we were looking for the transparency and trust Brown promised but never delivered.

So we were encouraged then when Kotek vowed to visit every county in Oregon during her first year in office, as part of a One Oregon Listening Tour — and to kick it off, even before being formally inaugurated, with a visit to Yamhill County. We were also encouraged to see Rayfield accept Breese-Iverson’s invitation to get a first-hand look at challenges facing rural dry-side communities like Prineville.

Trips staged by political leaders often feature more trappings of glad-handing and politicking than substantive factfinding. But both of these trips featured primarily on-site briefings by non-partisan experts.

In McMinnville, Kotek’s focus fell mainly on homelessness, early childhood education, affordable housing and healthcare, and accessible mental health options. Accordingly, she conferred with teams at Virginia Garcia and Head Start facilities, and participated in a round table discussion with social service leaders on housing for the homeless.

In Prineville, Rayfield’s focus fell mainly on water and energy conservation, wastewater treatment and economic development challenges. He went on round out his three-day tour by visiting sites and conferring with locals in Bend and other parts of Central Oregon.

We will get the best results if leaders of the two major parties find ways to agree, or at least disagree amicably, when it comes to setting the policies guiding our state. And to do that, they first need get a better grounding in the elements serving to shape their differing perspectives.


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