CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will host a panel discussion on May 31 that aims to strengthen ties between the state's rural and urban areas. Sponsored by OSU's Rural Studies Program, the forum will take place from 1-3 p.m. in the Journey Room of the Memorial Union.
"Oregon is pulling apart economically and politically," said OSU economist Bruce Weber, who is organizing the symposium. "Portland is polarized from most of Oregon. It is bearing a larger share of the funding for schools and other services for the state than it used to. This is creating a malaise and tension that gets in the way of addressing our common needs and aspirations."
The free event, which is open to the public, will feature the following speakers and moderator:
- Sheila Martin, the director of the Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies at Portland State University and a former gubernatorial economic development adviser in the state of Washington, will summarize the factors that divide and unite the two regions and ways that additional ties could be formed.
- Andy Duyck, chairman of Washington County's board of commissioners, will provide an urban perspective and address how urban areas might benefit from stronger links with rural areas and a fuller understanding of rural issues.
- Mark Labhart, a Tillamook County commissioner, will turn the table and examine how rural areas might benefit from stronger links with urban areas and a better understanding of urban realities.
- Peter Walker, a geography professor at the University of Oregon, will offer his perspective on the divide, drawing from a new book he co-authored about the politics of Oregon's land use laws, "Planning Paradise: Politics and Visioning of Land Use in Oregon."
- Shawn Morford will moderate the discussion. She's a regional program coordinator for Rural Development Initiatives and a former OSU faculty member who managed the educational partnership between the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the OSU Extension Service.
The forum comes on the heels of the release of "Toward One Oregon: Rural-Urban Interdependence and the Evolution of a State," published by OSU Press. The book proposes that if Oregonians understood each other better and worked together to forge new rural-urban connections, they'd be better off, Weber said.
Scholars from OSU, PSU and the UO contributed to the book. The OSU authors are Weber, historian Bill Robbins, political scientist Brent Steel and economist Bruce Sorte. Beth Emshoff, the director of OSU's Oregon Open Campus educational outreach initiative, is one of the editors. A book signing will take place immediately following the conference.