We had hoped, at the start of 2021, that the year would bring a return to some semblance of stability, if not what we sometimes call "normality." But if we've learned anything over the course of this pandemic, it's that "normal" as we knew it before is not coming back—nor is it entirely welcome. A new era has emerged, and the coverage on our news and opinion pages reflects those changes.
To mark the last issue of another challenging year, we're looking back at what we've learned from some of our most-read and most commented-upon editorials from 2021.
Betsy Johnson announces gubernatorial run as an independentOct. 21, 2021
"...in this political climate, when Republicans in the Oregon legislature continue to conduct walkouts in opposition to what they deem a far-left agenda from their Democratic colleagues, an alternative to the right-left dichotomy has emerged in state Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose (D-OR16)... Johnson said she's running as an independent because she largely rejects the extreme agendas of both political parties in Oregon."
What we learned: Oregon's current Democratic supermajority sits well with some—but with a handful of counties voting in favor of seceding to Idaho this year (while facing an uphill battle in achieving that goal), it's clear that plenty of Oregonians want a more balanced government. The reaction to Johnson's run was mostly positive, and she's garnered endorsements from a host of bigwigs on both the right and left. A subtle yet noteworthy shift toward the middle is happening in Oregon.
Housing, hospitals and health. It's all connectedAug. 26, 2021
"Earlier this month, the U.S. Census Bureau released data that showed Deschutes County was the fastest-growing county in the state, adding 40,520 more people from 2010 to 2020—not shocking news to any local. But how that affects both our housing situation and the current situation at St. Charles Health System should concern all of us. Explosive growth means the systems we rely on to keep us safe are bound to be strained."
What we learned: We rely on one another for our health, happiness and prosperity, and everyone needs to pull their weight if we want to ensure economic well-being and to dig out—or to build out—of our housing crisis.
Cliff Bentz voting no on the infrastructure billNov. 11, 2021
"Every election season, political hopefuls will trot out the talk about rural Oregon's shortage of quality rural jobs, sub-par or inequitable education, the lack of investment in basic services and more. Mentioning these issues allows politicians to seem like they care about the people who don't live in the metropolitan zones of the state—but it's a little further out from election season where the rubber meets the proverbial road. And in the case of the recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, it's not just literal rubber-meets-road; it's actual roads, water and educational access that hung in the balance.
"... Why, then, would a congressman who largely represents a rural population vote against it? A number of Republican lawmakers voted in favor of the bill—but our own congressman in the 2nd Congressional District did not.... It would be helpful to know why, but thus far, Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-OR2) has been mute on the subject."
What we learned: Partisans do as parties will, and in this case, our representative in Congress didn't give his electorate the benefit of even saying why he voted against an important bill for rural as well as urban residents. The lesson: Vote in someone who values accountability to all of the electorate.
Extremists are Winning at Local School Board Meetings. There's One Way to Push Back.Aug. 12, 2021
"Over the past year or so, Americans from every corner of the country were galvanized around a renewed sense of social justice and racial reckoning. They rejected a president whose toxic rhetoric was fueling a race to the bottom. They stood up at protests and put signs in their lawns. Locally, they voted in a blue wave of new elected officials. For many, this represented a lot of effort, and for some, all that activity over the past year was enough. The protests have died down. The lawn signs are still present, but gathering dust.
"Except that now, with our local school board populated by three people of color—two recently elected—some extreme local conservatives have taken it upon themselves to pack school board meetings and to use these meetings as shouting matches where they can complain about the false assumption that critical race theory is part of the formal curriculum, and that their kids shouldn't have to wear masks at school, even while the Delta variant rages across the land."
What we learned: It's perhaps summed up best by Source reader Foster Fell, who commented on the editorial with this: "The point is not CRT or masking or vaxxing or whatever becomes the fanciful wedge issue of the hour; the real object is to derail democracy." If you thought 2021 was a year filled with mere petty partisan infighting, you'd be wrong. Bigger, badder problems are afoot.