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Entries in Betsy Johnson (2)


A Happy Tale of Two Cities

It may seem strange to write about disparate developments in two Oregon communities in the same blog post, but what happened illustrates the solidarity of Oregon citizens when they face challenges.

In one case, hundreds of citizens, accompanied by a host of public officials, turned out in Vernonia this week to dedicate a new school building that replaces a former school ravaged by the disastrous floods of 2007 — which left many people homeless and resulted in a state and federal disaster declaration.  

The new school is a beautiful facility on higher ground that will help 600 Vernonia students from kindergarten through high school learn in a modern, quality environment. But it also is a tribute to the resilience of citizens who after the flood raised almost $50 million to finance, design and construct the new school. The last piece of the funding puzzle came in the waning hours of the 2011 legislature when Joint Ways and Means Committee leaders finally made good a session-long pledge to provide the last $3.9 million in bonding authority.

Citizens who ate the first meal in the cafeteria of a school that should last well into the 22nd century cheered as Reps. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, and Debbie Boone, D-Cannon Beach, and Senator Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, complimented them for pulling up their own bootstraps in the aftermath of the worst flood in the history in this small Columbia County community.

The phrase "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps" reminded me of a time many years ago when, as deputy director of the Oregon Economic Development Department, I spoke to a graduate school class in Clermont-Ferrand, France. Leaders there wanted to hear about how Oregon had diversified its economy after the decline in its forest industry. They reasoned Oregon's experience could help them identify a strategy to diversify beyond making Michelin tires.

My French translator that evening had difficulty communicating the meaning of "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps." He ended up gesturing as he grabbed the seat of his pants and stood up.

That's what went through my head as I watched citizens in the small town of Vernonia celebrate their own success in lifting themselves up by the seat of their pants.

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When Your Word Is Your Bond

In church yesterday, there was an interesting illustration in the lead pastor's sermon.  

To illustrate the importance of "your word is your bond," the pastor described the situation in 1988 when then presidential candidate George H. W. Bush beat the Democrat, Michael Dukakis, at least in part, because he uttered the words, "Read my lips... no new taxes." Then four years later, those words came back to haunt President Bush when his challenger, Bill Clinton, pointed out that he hadn't lived up to his promise.

The pastor drew spiritual lessons revolving around honesty, integrity and trust, but after hearing the sermon, my thoughts went to the application of the "your word is your bond" ethic at the Capitol in Salem where I have spent the last 30 years lobbying legislators.

On the basis of that experience, I would say that living up to the phrase was what set apart legislators and lobbyists alike. If their word was their bond, you could trust them. If not, trust broke down and it was more difficult to find middle ground on tough public policy issues.  

I have known a number of legislators over the years who have practiced that level of integrity in Salem, perhaps more in the past than currently. Here are just four examples of legislators you can count on today.

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