28 April 2010 by Published in: Opinion No comments yet

“Shall the People Rule Politics or Politics Rule the People”

Editorial Comments
by Deborah Steele Hazen

The headline at the top of this column was printed in a bold banner above the “flag” of The Clatskanie Chief on the front page of the October 28, 1910 edition – nearly 100 years ago, and about 12 years before The Chief was purchased by my grandfather, Art Steele, in February of 1922.

The 1910 election, like 2010, was a gubernatorial and congressional election held mid-term during the presidency of Republican William Howard Taft, a conservative, who was contending with major factional splits between the conservative and progressive wings of his party. The division within the Republican party, combined with the message of unity coming from the Democrats allowed that party to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. 1910 also saw the first socialist elected to Congress.

The Oct. 28 1910 edition of The Chief, which we discovered while doing some research last week – (although this newspaper has been published continuously since 1891, we only have sporadic archives prior to 1924) – included a front page breakdown of party registration in Columbia County 100 years ago.

Very unlike today, a century ago in Columbia County the Republicans held the huge majority with 1420 registered voters, distantly followed by the Democratic party with 277. There were 129 independents, 96 registered socialists, and 34 members of the prohibition party.

Inside that edition of The Chief – owned at that time by two men named B.C. Suit, editor, and W.G. Baylis, business manager, of whom we know virtually nothing – was an unsigned editorial entitled “Good Citizenship.” We reprint it here because we believe its observations and advice are eerily applicable today.

Good Citizenship

“Liberty implies more than privileges; it involves grave responsibilities. The Constitution does not in itself give freedom; it only makes possible a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Neglecting their duties and shirking their responsibilities, the majority have often been ruled by a selfish, lawless few for their own selfish benefit. So widespread has this evil become that at present the land is seething with discontent, while the people clamor for justice and equality. But the heated denunciation of political corruption and the bitter criticism of old leaders are not enough to bring about a better state of things. There must be a general acceptance by the people of the duties and responsibilities imposed by citizenship.

“The nation is an organic whole made up of individuals, and each individual must be willing to perform his portion of the nation’s work. There are altogether too many loafers seeking ‘soft snaps’ and big wages, and too often they find their ‘snap’ in some public office. If this is to be a great nation it must be a nation of willing workers, each man cheerfully endeavoring to do his part and to faithfully bear his burden, not seeking to thrust it upon the shoulders of another. No good citizen in or out of office is a loafer.

“The enjoyment of popular government throws on each voter the responsibility of deciding on these questions arising from time to time. Good citizenshiip demands that the voter put aside personal interest and every other consideration and judge every issue on its moral worth. The first test must ever be ‘Is it right?’ Party loyalty, expediency, or personal interest will never lead a true patriot to vote for that which is morally wrong. If in a problem in mathematics a mistake is made, an answer is found, but the problem is never solved till solved correctly. No public question is ever settled until it is settled right.

“But to do this involves a good deal of study of facts and much careful thought The fellow with the ax to grind is willing to think for the masses – is eager to keep them so amused that they haven’t the time to think for themselves; but the people cannot afford any such luxury. Vested interest will misrepresent the facts – the voter must investigate for himself. The times demand that every voter shall become a careful student of the great issues of the day; that he shall investigate for himself; that he shall think independently and vote according to his conscientious conviction.”

We hope that the voters of 2010 will follow that advice from a century ago both in the May primary and in next fall’s general election.

The DSL Blinks

On the topic of citizens and elected officials who are willing to stand up for what’s right, our sincere thanks to State Senator Betsy Johnson and the numerous public officials and private individuals who stood up to the Department of State Lands (DSL) in regard to the proposed new administrative rules regarding submerged and submersible lands.

Sen. Johnson organized a meeting in Astoria April 20 during which numerous individuals, diking district representatives, county commissioners and others expressed their concerns about the proposed substantially increased costs of waterway leases and the attempt by the DSL to begin registering and collecting fees on dikes, tidegates, rip-rap and other erosion-control structures.

Last week’s meeting was, in part, preparation for the one and only planned public hearing on the new administrative rules April 28. The purpose of the new administrative rules was, by the DSL’s own admission, to raise more money to cover the bureaucracy’s administrative costs.

Several DSL representatives were in attendance at the April 20th meeting, and according to what we have been told by several sources, did not adequately address the questions and concerns raised by the citizens and local public officials in attendance.

That led to conversations between Sen. Johnson and the governor’s office, which resulted in an announcement Friday, that the proposed new rules had been indefinitely suspended, and that, until further notice, “the existing administrative rules governing waterway uses will be in effect (OAR 141-082- 0000 through 141-082-0210).”

This is a victory in a skirmish of the people against a state bureaucracy that has proven itself, in recent years, to be more interested in its own perpetuation and growth than in the interests of the people of Oregon.

Oversight of the DSL is by the State Land Board, comprised of the governor, the secretary of state and the state treasurer, who have, for many years, rubber-stamped what is brought to them by the DSL director (an appointee of the governor) and the entrenched DSL staff.

The new rules have been “indefinitely suspended.” Depending on the outcome of the gubernatorial election, and to a lesser, but still significant extent, the election for state treasurer, they may come back at us with renewed confidence or we might see a much-needed change in attitude and operation at the DSL.

If either former Governor John Kitzhaber or former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury are elected governor, we can pretty much bet the DSL will have renewed confidence to continue operating as they have in recent years. Louise Solliday, the current DSL director, worked for Kitzhaber for six years before Kulongoski inherited and promoted her.

We would ask our readers to take a long look at Chris Dudley, a candidate for governor on the Republican ticket. As a moderate, he can win the votes of independents and disenchanted Democrats, and thus have a better chance of defeating Kitzhaber, the probable Democrat nominee and the former big bureaucracy governor that Oregon has had enough of already. Another Republican, Allen Alley is also a very credible candidate and would be a vast improvement over the return of Kitzhaber or Bradbury.

But Dudley is a non-politician who has proven his character, intelligence, integrity and leadership in other arenas. At this time in our history, we believe Oregon needs such a person to lead us out of the mire of a government that has grown beyond the point of financial sustainability and bureaucracies that are “ruling the people,” rather than being “of, by and for the people.”


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