VALE — Opinions were split during a session on Monday on whether to join a large share of the state of Oregon to Idaho in response to a belief that rural Oregonians are not listened to by the majority in the legislature—Democrats — who pass laws some rural residents deem detrimental to them.
The drive for the border change is being pushed by an organization called “Greater Idaho,” headed up by Miked McCarter. He argues that Idaho’s conservative values fit better for residents in rural Oregon.
“Oregon passes laws that kill industries in eastern, central and southern Oregon,” literature from the organization reads.”They don’t protect from rioters, forest arsonists, or school curricula that teach kids to hate Americans and Americanism.”
Having received a favorable vote in the May Election, Malheur County officials are required to hold hearings three times a year about the matter.
The first of these was held by the Malheur County Court Monday via video.
“I want to encourage our Commissioners to take this seriously and with an open mind,” said Ruth Rubelt, of Vale, in a submitted statement. “I do not want to move from Oregon, but as we are not represented well by our governor or many of the other politicians, we find there are not many other options, but moving or changing the state lines and becoming a part of Idaho, which does a better job of representing all of their constituents,” she wrote.
“We have tried and tried, and continue to do so, to get our politicians to realize that we do not all live one way. Rules/laws/regulations for some areas, make no sense in other areas,” she said.” We have a right to be represented properly.”
In his his own letter to the court, Brent Grasty, also of Vale said, “On a personal level, I consider being an Oregonian something to be proud of. I’m a native Oregonian and have family that dates back to 1880s on both sides of the Snake River. I’ve always wished I could hunt and fish on either side of the river without an an out-of-state license. But as much as I wish we didn’t have state boundaries so close to my house, I never wished to live in Idaho.”
“Running away isn’t what I believe is the stuff Oregonians are made of,” Grasty wrote. “We pull together, fight for what we believe, stand up for those in need … and that includes our friends in the Willamette Valley.”
For his part, McCarter said having a border that extended all the way to the coast from Idaho would give that state a port and help move product overseas.
“They need to make sure they follow the will of the voters,” Nyssa City Manager Jim Maret said.
He also said smaller communities are bumping heads against the larger communities, and what affects them will impacts the smaller cities.
What to know
Voters passed Greater Idaho’s win for County Measure 23-64 during the May election. Of the 5,651 people who voted on the measure, 3,059 said yes to have the county court meet three times annually to discuss “promoting Malheur County’s interests” regarding the matter. Meetings have to take place in January, May and September.
While proponents tout that Oregonians will also appreciate overall lower taxes, opponents cite major losses for the eastern Oregon region in income (Idaho’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour; Oregon’s is $12 in Malheur County), and tax revenues, including those from sales of recreational marijuana, which remains illegal in Idaho.
The city of Ontario has a vested interest in those tax dollars, and it paid $24,000 to a lobbyist to try to get more of them during the recent legislative session (the two bills they sought to pass ultimately failed). In the 2019-20 fiscal year, the city received $1.82 million in local marijuana taxes.
Leslie Thompson contributed to this article.