Eye on the state capital

Legislators gain important posts

The bi-partisan teamwork shown by Republican Patti Smith and Democrat Rick Metsger over the past two years, in helping Hood River County and the rest of the areas they serve, should be a model for the entire Legislature.

Following their re-election in 2002, the two legislators have roles on major committees: Metsger is chair of the Senate Economic Development and Transportation Committees and Smith serves on the House Trade and Economic Development Committee.

Smith, from District 52, enters her second term, and Metsger starts his first full term serving District 26 following mid-term boundary changes in 2001. Metsger replaced Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day), whose district shifted east.

Smith and Metsger are optimistic they can make a difference in Salem, and they should be encouraged to continue to work together as they have long done.

Both legislators appear to have their priorities right, given recent actions and statements. As reported on page A1 by RaeLynn Gill, Smith has asked Hood River County Economic Development Coordinator Bill Fashing to help educate her urban constituents about the financial realities facing outlying communities. Fashing, who was hired in September, was scheduled to make a short presentation today in Salem to highlight the fact that unemployment rates are significantly higher in rural sectors of the state than in major metropolitan centers.

Meanwhile, Metsger has invited Gov. Ted Kulongoski on a tour of the Gorge. Such a visit is needed, given the small number of trips Kulongoski made to Hood River County during the 2002 campaign — just one, by our count, during the General Election. Metsger’s invitation echoes those made by local social service agencies since Kulongoski’s election, so with hope the governor will see the need and spend a day in our area.

Regarding Metsger’s appointment to the newly-consolidated Economic Development and Transportation Committee, it puts a man in that panel’s driver seat who has seen for himself the severe problem that is Oregon’s ailing highway bridges. Metsger and Smith donned hardhats and went underneath Interstate 84 last fall to look at the cracks close-up. The governor is on record stating that funding priority must be given to the highway infrastructure.

Of course, if Measure 28 fails on the Jan. 28 ballot, many of the state’s schools will have to look at drastic budget cuts, and that could mean reduction or elimination of programs such as spring sports.

But look at the bright side: at least those heavy school buses wouldn’t add to the cracked bridges’ burden.

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