Congress could learn lesson from Oregon, Yamhill County
Oct 4, 2013
This week, the nation witnessed politics at its worst as congressional infighting sent 800,000 Americans home from work and shut down much of the federal government. Watching and listening to the political chaos surrounding national health care -- an issue dividing our country -- actually has united Americans from all corners in near-universal discontent with their Congress and president.
At least, locally and in Oregon, we have examples providing hope that egos can be set aside long enough to resolve difficult issues.
On Wednesday, the Oregon Legislature passed five bills to cap a three-day special session that many thought would disintegrate into the kind of deadlock in Washington, D.C. Headlining that package was more essential reform of the Public Employees Retirement System, building on work begun in the 2013 regular session. Other legislation, a combination of tax hikes and cuts, liberates about $200 million for the state’s education system.
There was plenty of room for criticism of individual elements comprising the package passed in Salem this week, including the potential for stalemate on the ban of local rule over genetically modified food. Many legislators, and their supporters, had to swallow hard to digest the all-or-nothing package that Gov. John Kitzhaber insisted be delivered to his desk. The so-called Grand Bargain was exactly that, compared to the traffic jam in Congress.
Another sign of political adaptability shows up at the local level. County Commissioners Allen Springer and Mary Stern, who have decidedly different political philosophies, recently presented an Association of Oregon Counties work session about their positive working relationship. Springer defeated Newberg city councilor Denise Bacon, whom Stern backed, in last year’s election. Although the offices are nonpartisan, some expected fireworks from different ends of the political spectrum. Yet, the two have created such a positive working atmosphere throughout this year that they were made an example for others at the AOC program.
Stern put it eloquently: “It takes two people being willing to put aside differences in order to communicate, and we’re definitely doing that here.”
That sentiment now spreads into county government, for the better all-around. And we watched state legislators do likewise in setting aside personal passions to some degree to allow passage of a hotly contested set of bills.
Neglect of that advice is why the federal government imploded this week.
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