With Secession Votes, Rural OR Counties Signal Lack of Respect
Monday, June 5, 2023
A dozen rural Oregon counties have voted to leave the state over the past three years. It's a signal that large parts of the state don't feel like they belong.
Wallowa County was the latest to vote in favor of moving Idaho's border to include their residents, with the measure passing by eight votes.
A native of rural Oregon, Rozalyn Mock recently graduated from Harvard with a master's in public policy and is moving back to work in Roseburg.
She said people in these communities want to be part of the decision making process on the future of rural Oregon.
"They have really valuable perspective to provide but there's really no way to capture it," said Mock. "And I think there's been some work where we 'engage' with rural communities, but really we want a seat at the table. "
All twelve counties that have voted to join Idaho are in eastern Oregon, although the movement isn't likely to succeed because the move would need approval from the two states and Congress.
Mock also noted that while these counties are all east of the Cascades, rural Oregon is not a monolith.
She said there are ways to reach rural Oregonians, such as reviving the Office of Rural Policy, which was created in 2004 but got cut four years later during the Great Recession.
"What it would do," said Mock, "is it would increase rural capacity and improve the way our communities work with state and local government while also rebuilding trust in our state government."
Mock said urban Oregonians can help heal the state's divides.
"Knowing that understanding, respecting one another doesn't always mean we have to agree with each other," said Mock, "but knowing our rural and urban neighbors makes it really hard to divide us."
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