Tuesday, November 13, 2012
I begin by offering heartfelt congratulations to all the newly elected leaders of Polk County. It takes courage to stand for election -- even when unopposed -- and accept the challenges of leadership.
I also want to say thank you to all who ran and fell a little short; you didn't win, but neither did you lose as we are all stronger because of your willingness to engage.
The sooner we can put the divisiveness of the past election behind us, the better for one and for all. Together we can, together we will become a stronger place when we put the needs of tomorrow over the frustrations of yesterday.
Polk County has immense value. Our people, place and sense of community is a gift that we must cherish and build upon. It is a time for all of us to put aside our differences and come together for the hard work ahead of us.
The following is offered by someone who knows both the risks and the rewards of what I am proposing. I am willing to help facilitate when and where most appropriate.
During the next two years, I ask that Polk County and our communities consider the following:
Consolidation of our K-12 educational programming throughout the county, including Central, Dallas, Falls City and Perrydale districts
-- We have amazing programs but we must rethink our structures and systems of delivery. Apart, we are increasingly vulnerable; together, we can reframe the debate and make our local assets community strengths.
Formation of a public safety district aligned with Polk County borders
-- Fire districts and police agencies could share resourcing -- even while maintaining their distinct cultures -- and provide a more consistent level of service for our citizens. It could be administered by the sheriff and yield a formalized structure that allows for targeted investments for facilities and interoperable equipment and training.
Public/private partnerships facilitating business development "services" for start-up and small businesses
-- Development of three to five small "cooperative offices" empowering growth through shared space, staffing and technology. These ventures would allow for business discussions, remote communication, and professional staffing services would be a huge value for struggling businesses seeking to compete.
-- Development of three to five innovation facilities (pole buildings/warehouses with eight to 12 bays) built for sparking innovation opportunities for our inventors. Through a targeted investment of power, space and tools, we could provide short-term support and technical expertise in development of tomorrow's manufacturing. It is similar to the notion of building public roadways for "farm-to-market" goods.
Community garden space incentives for neighborhood and school learning/living
-- Polk County is the heart of the Willamette Valley; we could target use of marginal lands for public set-asides showcasing local farming and community-based agricultural development. We must emphasize the value of "space" for neighborhoods to celebrate.
Development of a local property tax credit incentivizing volunteerism
-- People who provide 300 hours of volunteer labor should be publicly recognized and rewarded to sustain this sense of interconnectedness.
Expansion of "work force" preparedness programming throughout Polk County
-- In partnership with Chemeketa Community College, Western Oregon University, OSU Extension Service, 4-H, our local farmers, foresters and agribusinesses, we could build evolving laboratories associated with emerging trends within the natural resources economy.
In the end, this election was about the need for change -- not merely a change in personnel and policy, but a change in attitude. We must rekindle the spirit that built our Oregon. We cannot depend on others to recast our circumstances; we must do this for ourselves -- together.
2012 is a time of anxiety and angst. We are slowly crawling out of the economic labyrinth, but it is taking more time than we had hoped. That said, we are making progress -- the slow, steady kind of progress. Let us seek new tools for the new world; let us come together and demonstrate the sense of character and duty we are capable of.
Paul Evans is a resident of Monmouth who has served on the Monmouth City Council (1989-1992), was mayor of Monmouth (1999-2002), was the Democratic nominee for Oregon State Senate District 10 (2006) and a member of the Central School Board (2008-2011).