Sunday, December 17, 2006


With apologies to my friend and Oregonian apologist Regarding, want to hear a story that will make us Californians feel a little better about our state government?

Jackson County, Oregon, where my parents live, is about to shut down all of its public libraries. Not trim staff, not close branches, but close down completely in March. How did this happen?

1. The state of Oregon has no sales tax.
2. 55 percent of the land in the state of Oregon is owned by the federal government, which does not pay property taxes.
3. All that federal land comes mostly in the form of National Forests.
4. Back in the day, the Feds used to give local counties in Oregon a percentage of the money made from timber in those forests.
5. There is no longer a timber industry.
6. After the collapse of the timber industry, the Federal Government agreed to still give Oregon counties subsidies. This money was pretty substantial--$23 million to Jackson County last year, as I understand it.
7. What with the Republicans, and the war, and the general federal desire to end subsidies to industries without powerful lobbies, these subsidies are ending next year. (Hey, somebody has to pay the Midwest to grow corn!)
8. Suddenly, Jackson County has $23 million less than it used to. Does it cut the Sheriff's department, or the public libraries?
9. In anticipation of this problem, the county votes on a parcel tax which would provide money to continue funding the library system at its current level. This tax was rejected by 60% of the voters.
10. So that's it. No more public libraries in the county. My mother is a volunteer at the Ashland library, a beautiful Beaux Art facility with a brand new addition. In fact, a recent county bond measure had actually built a bunch of new library facilities throughout the county, providing community spaces and information access to a very rural and working-class part of the state. All of this is going to be gone in March.

1 comment:

Jewel Dakini said...

That's just nutty. Despite your lengthy list of how this happened, I am completely baffled. State of Oregon voters, you should be ashamed!