This week, a number of developments have served as reminders of the difference between productive and obstructive forms of governance. Let's skip over the protracted, partisan battle that came ahead of this week's passage of a new economic relief package by Congress and look instead at some local examples.
It now appears that the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners' decision to put its "no new marijuana grows" measure on the local ballot has had some severe consequences not disclosed until now. Because the county successfully passed a partial opt-out on new grows, it is no longer eligible to garner its share of the state's collected marijuana taxes. This includes taxes that existing farms and dispensaries in Deschutes County collect on behalf of the state. These local monies will now go to other counties in Oregon. With the decision to cater to the whims of some rural residents who may or may not know the difference between a federally legal hemp farm and a state-sanctioned indoor marijuana grow, Deschutes County Commissioners have effectively cut off hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding intended to go to local police, fire and treatment programs. Our loss will be other counties' gains.
This comes on top of the considerable waste of time and resources the commissioners have wrought by battling the state Land Use Board of Appeals in an attempt to buck Oregon land use law around the use of non-resource farmlands. On the one hand, commissioners have held closely to the county's specific marijuana-grow rules to deny legal grows from launching in the county. On the other, they've attempted to say state regulations don't apply here. These have been costly legal gymnastics that have hurt the county as well.
It is time, as the Commission prepares to onboard a new commissioner, to acknowledge the political reality of the state the county operates within. Running dead-on-arrival policy and tilting against windmills in land use and marijuana battles at the state level is hurting the people of Deschutes County. While voters expect politicians to make impassioned arguments in favor of ideological change, we also expect them to know when to cut their losses and get back to the business at hand.
The same lack of focus is now creeping in at the congressional level, as evidenced this week by 2nd Congressional District Republican Representative-elect Cliff Bentz. Bentz has picked up the clarion call around the baseless accusations by some Republican leaders that the recent election was so fraught with irregularities and outright fraud that it warrants a deeper investigation. Bentz, who ironically was elected during this "suspect" election cycle—has gone full "Stop the Steal," by signing a letter calling for an investigation into the recent election. It's disappointing to see this from Bentz, considering how unnecessary this posturing is even before he begins his tenure representing us in Congress.
We believe that politicians should hold onto their values and represent the people that got them elected. Yet, this type of grandstanding at the county and congressional level is the opposite of that—acting on ideology rather than what is best for constituents. Amid a pandemic that has wrought as-yet-untold levels of mental and social ill—not to mention the threat of budget shortfalls—now is not the time to see any cuts to services. Deschutes County residents will certainly suffer due to reductions in tax revenues.
When a business, or a county, is booming like Deschutes County has over the past several years, it's not the time to cut investments in services. It's a time for strategic growth free of reckless belt-tightening and quixotic proclamations. While the recent vote on new marijuana grows is now in the rear-view mirror, it would be nice to believe that type of effort is the last gasp of partisan ideology coming to bear in these uncertain times.