Sherman County Court Session Update, March 15
Sherman County Ambulance Board of Directors Meeting, March 14
St. Patrick’s Day Concert, “St. Pat’s at St. Pete’s,” March 17
Editorial. King County Urban-Sherman County Rural Gathering: Melting Mountains
Seattleites took a 10-hour road trip to cross a political divide. Here’s what happened.
Seattleites go to Trump Country
Links: Things to Think About & Things to Do
1. Sherman County Court Session Update, March 15
The Sherman County Court session and public hearing scheduled for March 15, 2017, will now be held in the usual location at the Circuit Courtroom at the Sherman County Courthouse.
2. Sherman County Ambulance Board of Directors Meeting, March 14
Sherman County Ambulance Board of Directors
Board Meeting Agenda
March 14, 2017
Agenda topics include approval of the December 13, 2016 minutes, old business, ASA Plan Advisory Committee, Medic 2 DPF-Joe, AEMT Class, Board Elections, Other Old Business, New Business: Upcoming Training & Other New Business. Next meeting June 13, 2017.
3. St. Patrick’s Day Concert, “St. Pat’s at St. Pete’s,” March 17
“St. Pat’s at St. Pete’s,” the 20th annual St. Patrick’s Day concert at St. Peter’s Landmark, takes place Friday, Mar. 17, starting at 7 p.m. Cascade Youth Choir and Gorge Community Music Uke Orchestra will join Cascade Singers choir, ensemble, and “Almost-All-Irish-Almost All-Brass Band” for Irish art songs, Tin Pan Alley Irish tunes, traditional favorites and sing-alongs. Admission is a free-will offering to benefit St. Peter’s Landmark, located at 3rd and Lincoln Streets in The Dalles.
4. Editorial. King County Urban-Sherman County Rural Gathering
Thank you to the urban folks at THE EVERYGREY and CROSSCUT, Sherman County participants and our King County visitors! This get-together was an exceptional sincere listening event with challenging topics that facilitated thoughtful exchanges of ideas.
The folks at THE EVERYGREY in Seattle contacted Sherman County eNews to plan a visit to the people of Sherman County to learn more about our differences.
Thank you, Sandy Macnab, for planning, hosting and facilitating this Sherman County event, Cindy Brown for welcoming our urban friends and Sherman County ag groups that sponsored transportation for a local tour and the luncheon.
Sherman County is the nearest county to King County that voted exactly opposite in the presidential election. While 74 percent of King County voters went for Clinton, 74 percent of Sherman County voters went for Trump.
On Saturday, the gathering, Melting Mountains, took place at the Steve Burnet Extension and Research Center in Moro. We appreciate the first steps in listening, getting to know one another, finding common ground and a thirst for more information. We invited our King County visitors to submit Letters to the Editor and their stories about this experience. See for yourself in their own words the two stories that follow.
5. Seattleites took a 10-hour road trip to cross a political divide. Here’s what happened.
By Monica Guzman, THE EVERGREY https://theevergrey.com/took-10-hour-road-trip-cross-political-divide-heres-happened/
Sherman County, Oregon, sits just south of the Washington border, east of the Cascades. Fewer than 2,000 people live in its 831 square miles. Stand on one of the hills near Moro, the county seat, and you’ll see wheat fields all around — and maybe some tall wind turbines.
Sherman County has very little in common with Seattle and King County. And yet, we’re connected: It’s the nearest county to ours that voted exactly opposite us in the presidential election. While 74 percent of King County voters went for Clinton, 74 percent of Sherman County voters went for Trump.
So on Saturday, about 20 of us King County residents took a 10-hour road trip to pay the people of Sherman County a visit.
We called the trip “Melting Mountains: An Urban-Rural Gathering.” Sandy Macnab, a just-retired Sherman and Wasco County agricultural agent who planned the event with us, came up with the name. It refers to the snowmelt that runs down the mountains dividing the eastern and western parts of our states, nourishing the land below.
We like the metaphor. And though we know we can’t melt the political and cultural “mountains” that divide our two counties in an afternoon — red vs. blue, liberal vs. conservative, rural vs. urban — we figured we might help people take a first step.
We pulled up to Oregon State University’s Sherman County Extension Office a little after 11 a.m. About four hours, one meal, and many conversations later, we said goodbye to the 16 Sherman County residents we’d met to start the long drive back home.
The people who took part in the discussions told each other whom they’d voted for, revealed their stance on some big issues, talked about the hopes and concerns they had about their country over the next few years, and practiced listening to each other for minutes at a time (with instructions to not interrupt one another).
Here’s how they thought it went.
‘WE’RE LOOKING FOR THE SAME THING’
“I wasn’t sure what to expect.” said Jennifer Zimmerlee, who’s from Sherman County. “I can’t lie — there was a little trepidation.”
In one exercise, people from Sherman and King Counties paired off for a series of one-on-one conversations. In each of those, one person asked the other about his or her political hopes, concerns, and values and listened to the response. Then, they switched.
“I was afraid it’d be a lot more Clinton/Trump stuff,” said Jennifer, who voted for third-party candidate Gary Johnson. “Instead what we got was some really nice guided discussions on the fact that even though how we approach problems is very different, in the end we truly are looking for the same thing.”
The group came to that shared purpose early in the event, when everyone took turns introducing themselves. People in both counties agreed our divides had turned ugly, that they wanted to learn from each other, that this could be a start. “There’s a lot I don’t know about my own country,” one person said.
There’s a lot that has to happen before people unfamiliar with someone else’s lifestyle can really understand it. Knowing that left Darren Padget, a fourth-generation Sherman County wheat farmer, a little disappointed.
“No one went out in the street and protested or had a baseball bat and did bad things,” said Darren, who serves as chair of the Oregon Wheat Commission. “That was the positive of the day — having a civil conversation.”
The negative, he said, is that he didn’t get an opportunity to connect that deeply with city dwellers about how he lives his life. When he introduced himself, he pointed to the sandwiches people were eating for lunch. “If you knew what it took to get that simple sandwich on your plate…” he’d said then, to murmurs of thoughtful agreement from residents of both Sherman and King counties in the room.
“I would have appreciated a better opportunity to explain to them what we do and why we do it,” he said.
Darren said his health care costs jumped 426 percent in the last few years and regulations like the “Waters of the United States” rule, which President Trump ordered the EPA to remove last month, are hurting his business.
“That’s why I support Donald Trump and not Hillary Clinton,” Darren said. “I didn’t think either of them was a very good candidate, to be honest with you.”
‘IT WAS JUST DIFFICULT TO HEAR THAT’
Jordan Goldwarg came from King County with his husband, Sam, and would have voted for Clinton if he could have. Jordan, who grew up in Canada, became a U.S. citizen just a few weeks ago.
At one point during the one-on-one discussions, Jordan heard the person he was paired with from Sherman County share a viewpoint on LGBTQ rights that made him uncomfortable.
The person made it clear, he said, that she had no problem with gay people. “But for me, as someone who is gay, the general tone of the conversations and the things she was saying that affect my life and the lives of a lot of people that I know — it was just difficult to hear that,” Jordan said.
Jordan wished he’d had more time to unpack the divisions that turned up. But he didn’t want to stop listening.
“I really value the opportunity to have conversations with people who seem very different from me, to be able to understand their experiences more and develop empathy with them,” said Jordan, who is the regional director for a nonprofit that brings together people of different faiths.
“It seems this is exactly the kind of experience I’d been wanting to have, and didn’t know how to find.”
NO MORE EASY ANSWERS
Like many people around Seattle, Leah Greenbaum woke up shocked Nov. 9. For weeks she consumed online and social media, trying to make sense of the election results through news articles and the explanations they laid out.
“Going to Sherman County and being in person, I think, I was surprised by the complexity of the stories I heard,” she said. They made sense to her in a way that the online stories she’d read could not.
“To stand in front of someone and hear them speak with passion and feeling about what they believe, you sort of can’t help but expand your own sense of empathy and humanity,” Leah said.
Leah is a graduate student at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance. When she heard people from Sherman County talk about how certain regulations and policies affected them, she asked herself how she could make sure the policies she works on are always informed by people’s actual experiences.
“I want to get out there and talk to primary sources from now on,” she said. “I love the media, my best friends are journalists… but I’m not going to look for easy answers anymore.”
Others came away with things they wanted to do next:
- Jennifer said she planned to email every person who came from King County and shared their contact info to thank them for coming down.
- Darren said he’s going to follow up with a couple he met from King County, and send them photos and material to continue a conversation they started on the Waters of the U.S. rule. “We [farmers] need to tell our story as much as we can,” he said.
- Jordan said he wants to think about more ways to bridge urban and rural communities in his interfaith work.
And for us at The Evergrey? We’re going to look for ways to help keep these conversations going. Tomorrow, we’ll be sharing a few more perspectives, in their own words, from people who took part in “Melting Mountains.”
And we want to find more ways to facilitate conversations among people who disagree.
“I know that when people pay attention to how they’re speaking and listening to one another and really make an attempt to understand, remarkable things can happen,” said Bob Stains, a conversation facilitator who advised us on this event.
On that, we agree.
6. Seattleites go to Trump Country
By Knute Berger, Crosscut: News of the Great Nearby
This story was originally published at Crosscut.com. http://crosscut.com/2017/03/seattelites-travel-trump-sherman-county/
Last Saturday, March 4, pro-Trump rallies — and counter- demonstrations — occurred around the country, including in Olympia, Washington, and Lake Oswego, Oregon. But at the same time there was also another kind of encounter taking place. A group of about 22 King County residents traveled some five hours to rural Eastern Oregon to meet 16 of their mirror image counterparts, based on the 2016 election. There were no protest signs, no red hats, just conversation and cold cut sandwiches. It had the feeling of a diplomatic mission, like opening ties to China.
The purpose was to try and understand the other side of the American — and regional — political divide. King County voted 74 percent for Hillary Clinton last November. The nearest county that voted exactly the opposite was Oregon’s Sherman County, with 74 percent for Trump. For the people from the Seattle area, the trip was a stretch in terms of time, distance and political orientation. How would they be greeted on Trump-friendly turf? What is politics like outside the Bubble?
One thing is clear: The political divide is partly a geographical one.
Sherman County is dry, plateau wheat country south of the Columbia River. It is on the east side of the Cascades, tucked between the Deschutes and the John Day rivers. It feels deeply linked to another era. As you turn south on Highway 97 toward Moro, Sherman’s county seat, a sign announces that you are entering a “Journey Through Time.” It refers to a scenic byway that leads to the John Day fossil beds, but it could be a reference to an entire country. Part of the Oregon Trail passed through here, and it still looks like the old West. This is a land of wheat ranches, sagebrush and cattle.
Founded in 1889, Sherman County is half the size of the state of Rhode Island, yet with just over 1,700 residents, it has a population slightly smaller than that of Carnation, Washington. It is the second least populated county in Oregon, with roughly two people per square mile. That’s a lot of land and very few folks. By contrast, King County’s population is over two million. If you seek to escape density, Sherman beckons. One of its commodities, said a local, is “solitude.”
The editors of The Evergrey, Anika Anand and Monica Guzman, came up with the idea for organizing the post-Donald Trump election get-together. The idea wasn’t to convert or be converted, but to reconnect. The Evergrey reached out to folks in Sherman County, including Sherry Kaseberg who is editor of The Sherman County eNews.
There’s no newspaper in the county, so her volunteer effort keeps people updated on all the doings. She linked the Evergreylings to Sandy Macnab, a partially retired crop and soil scientist from the Oregon State University Extension service. The result was an afternoon confab at the Extension’s facility in Moro. Seattleites bused down and were greeted warmly by the Shermanites, who provided lunch and a quick tour of the town.
It could have been awkward, but everyone was there to play nice. People sat at tables and introduced themselves by giving their names and saying what they hoped to gain from the day’s conversation. One of the Seattle contingent, Laura Miller, broke the mild initial tension by saying her goal was to look as good in a cowboy hat as an older Sherman County man did wearing a black Stetson. Everyone laughed. He did look good.
To break the ice and give people some idea of how people in the room thought, people were asked to gather in groups: Trump voters there, Clinton voters over there. It produced no real surprise, except that a handful of people clustered in a third group; they had voted for neither candidate. One piece of common ground: Everyone gathered agreed that Congress was not the best answer to our nation’s problems.
What followed were one-on-one conversations between King County and Sherman County people who discussed everything from childhood memories to their respective political viewpoints or concerns. The tough part, many found, was just listening without interrupting, but the room came alive with the buzz of people connecting and conversing. No tirades, no lectures. At the end, people reported to the group what they’d heard. Here are some of my takeaways from what I observed:
The world in a piece of bread: During the introduction, a man named Darren Padget looked down at his plate and said that people don’t know what goes into making a piece of bread. This was a recurring theme: We city folks don’t understand the economy and lifestyles of Sherman County, which are indicators of its political leanings. Padget is a member of Oregon’s wheat commission, works over 3,000 acres himself and is engaged with the outside world. Some 85 percent of the county’s grain crops are exported to countries like Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines. The wheat makes bread, but also cookies, crackers and ramen noodles. A lot of “toil, soil and oil” go into growing crops. Selling it, shipping it, using best new farm practices, buying equipment, fostering trade relationships — Sherman County might be remote, but it’s connected to a web of international commerce.
Producing the raw material for loaves and noodles — feeding the people — is complex. It takes two years of rainwater, for example, to produce a crop of dry land wheat. Understanding how bread winds up on your plate and the sweat that goes into it is crucial to understanding wheat country. A number of people said they cared about the environment, but didn’t like the number of government rules. Padget’s one worry about Donald Trump: trade. With the Trans-Pacific Partnership dead, he’s hoping bilateral agreements will keep the wheat flowing, but what happens next is a concern for U.S. exporters.
Scale Matters: Moro, Oregon, population 307, is a modest place, functional, not much of a tourist stop, but there’s a lot going on. The old brick county courthouse, built with clay dug out of an adjacent field, is getting a brand new addition. The modern school has been expanded with a wing for elementary students. The day we were there, most folks had left town for a high school basketball tournament. The school sported a beautiful new athletic field. Macnab, our de facto tour guide, pointed out projects that were helped out with volunteer labor virtually everywhere: People leveled and laid the field’s turf; a local veteran’s group donated a building for the historical museum; volunteers publish the local online newspaper.
In a county with 1,700 people, there’s no need for Seattle-style process or bureaucracy. This shapes political views: smaller government, more people problem solving, leave solutions to the locals. News for Mayor Ed Murray: Urban Seattle is not the only role model for the nation. A number of folks at the event expressed the desire to have fewer top-down decisions and more local control. Adapting to local conditions, one said, would strengthen unity by letting people shape communities to their particular needs. Another said that with more local solutions there would be “less anger and [people] would be a whole lot happier.”
Cougars in the Road: This is a place where deer and antelope play. One attendee showed me a video of young elk wandering down the road in front of his farmhouse. In talking about guns, someone said we in King County don’t need guns in our daily encounters like they do. “You don’t have cougars walking down the middle of your roads.” A Vashon Islander spoke up, “We have a cougar!” And for the record, Seattle also once had Leif Bearickson. One Shermanite suggested that if Seattle enviros want to reintroduce wolves into the Northwest, maybe they should be put in Seattle’s city parks.
Perhaps that would revise urban liberals’ views on gun control.
Prosperity in the Wind: On top of a ridge in town, you can get sweeping views of the county and beyond. In the distance are battalions of windmills marching across the landscape. There are nearly 600 of them in Sherman County, which has an abundance of wind. At $1 million to $2 million per windmill, they reflect more than a half-billion dollar investment and they produce revenue for farmers who lease the land they sit on. The turbines produce clean energy and they also generate property tax revenues, helping to fund improvements like Moro’s school and courthouse expansion. Funds from the turbines also go into the pockets of county property owners in the form of a tax rebate, a bit like the checks Alaska residents get from oil revenues, Macnab says. Like many counties along the Columbia, Sherman is generating energy. The wide-open spaces and low density aren’t just for cattle anymore.
A Generation Gap: The Evergrey is published by two Millennials who don’t particularly identify as such. They hope to reach people who want to talk meaningfully and civilly regardless of age. But the event did attract a fair number of younger people in the Seattle visiting contingent, and by and large the Sherman County group was about twice as old as the Evergrey group.
Roger Whitley, who retired to Sherman County and who once worked overseas for the State Department, felt the generational divide. He told me that he grew up in the Industrial Age where you worked with your hands at something for 40 or 50 years. Gesturing to some young King County folk on their smart phones, he said that young urban people work more with their minds and expected quicker gratification. Think of the young “knowledge workers” trooping to Amazon in South Lake Union with their lanyards and North Face jackets — not a workforce one is likely to see in Moro. Still, there was some recognition that the generations need to work together. Said one rural resident, “You buy our wheat and we need your computers!”
Common Ground: Sandy Macnab quoted the comic strip Pogo, popular back in the day: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The young folk in the room didn’t know Pogo, but the sentiment put the blame where it belongs. There seemed to be agreement that there was too much rancor in discussions. Macnab said it was safer these days to discuss religion at his family’s Thanksgiving gatherings than politics. Also, he indicated people need to be better informed. Quoting President Harry Truman, he reminded the group that “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Lots of people nodded, but my thought was, someone better tell Trump.
Laura Miller summed up her day by saying it was “free speech with manners.” Jessica Richelderfer, a Sherman County mom and writer, observed, “You don’t know what you stand for until you meet someone who’s different from you.” That to me seemed like a fitting lesson for the day. Our differences broaden our minds, but also sharpen our thinking. So does spending some time seeing the world from another perspective. Trite, but true.
During the slog back to Seattle, some King County group members wished they had spent more time talking, going deeper. But the day felt like a first step. Emails and contact information were shared. “You can all come back and get harvest jobs now,” offered Sherry Kaseberg of the Sherman County eNews. Another idea is to invite the Sherman County folks to spend a day inside the Seattle bubble. The surface of connecting has just been scratched.
7. Links: Things to Think About & Things to Do
King County Visits Sherman County – Melting Mountains, Urban-Rural Divide https://theevergrey.com/took-10-hour-road-trip-cross-political-divide-heres-happened/
An Education in Agriculture with Sandy Macnab http://www.thedalleschronicle.com/news/2016/jan/16/education-agriculture/
OSU Extension Service, Sherman County http://extension.oregonstate.edu/sherman/
Bringing America Together, Find the Closest Place that Voted the Opposite of Where You Live https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/15/bringing-america-together-find-the-closest-place-that-voted-the-opposite-of-where-you-live/?utm_term=.ae6ea284b10a