COLUMN: The path to meeting Oregon's challenges is clear
Although the divisive 2020 election may be over and there are just a few weeks left in a year of unprecedented challenges, don't think it is going to necessarily be smooth sailing for Oregon in 2021.
A recent poll found 80% of Oregonians are ending the year worried about our state's future and concerned about COVID-19, homelessness, racial injustice, riots, lawlessness, climate change and more.
What's even more disconcerting is that only 33% of us feel we can come together next year as Oregonians — urban and rural, Republican and Democrat, white and communities of color — to make progress addressing these challenges and resetting Oregon.
Getting Oregon back on the right track will take a lot of hard public policy work in Salem, the county courthouses and city halls across Oregon.
Historically, that means a feeding frenzy for lobbyists working on behalf of stakeholder groups and special interest agendas. They will come armed with "data" that support their positions and will use their set of facts to get laws passed to benefit, narrowly, their clients.
The legislative process in Oregon has always been greased by selective information.
However, there is something that could contribute substantially to the process and ensure that public sector planning and policymaking will benefit more Oregonians than just those narrow subgroups with the ability to send hired guns to Salem.
It's called the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center — and its mission is to conduct accurate, inclusive opinion research that offers all Oregonians an opportunity to have a say in the important decisions made by our state's leaders.
This nonprofit, nonpartisan, independent survey center also can help significantly improve the discouraging poll numbers cited above by revealing areas of agreement between us to serve as starting points for more productive discussions about the kind of future we want for ourselves, our communities and our state.
All of Oregon and all Oregonians will be OVBC's clients.
Information is power. The information lobbyists use to influence lawmakers often includes opinion research that they represent as being how all Oregonians feel about an issue, agenda or legislative proposal.
The problems with this are at least threefold:
Consequently, at such a critical time in our state's history, we are at risk of having our elected and appointed officials make important decisions affecting the entire state, thinking they have considered the values and beliefs of all Oregonians when they have not.
Basing public policy, at any level of government, on anything less than a current understanding of the public's core values and beliefs is inviting political and social unrest and economic disruption, not solutions. We have seen this throughout our history, including this summer and fall on the streets of Portland and elsewhere.
If we are to be successful at resetting our state, Oregonians need to be asked, they need to be heard and, most of all, they need to know they have been heard. The most efficient and effective (and proven) way to do that is through completely independent and nonpartisan opinion research that is conducted regularly and is broadly communicated across the state by a credible source.
The Oregon Values and Beliefs Center was founded to do exactly this and to be of assistance in rebuilding Oregon.
We would like all of you to be a part of that process. The center wants to hear about what you love about Oregon, what you believe needs to change, what is important to you and why, and what your hopes are for the future of your state.
We are building a "panel" of people from all across the state that will share with us their opinions on a broad and evolving range of issues; that could include you. We know your voice and your time are valuable, so when you complete surveys and other activities through our panel, you will be awarded points to exchange for value in cash or donations to non-profit organizations in Oregon.
The fact that two-thirds of Oregonians who feel we cannot come together to address our challenges is unacceptable.
For us to successfully reset Oregon, we will have to work together and find our common ground. That is what the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center is made for.
If you, too, value the importance of independent, non-partisan citizen engagement and opinion research as essential in repairing and rebuilding our state, we encourage you to join our panel, make a tax-deductible donation to the center or simply learn more at oregonvbc.org.
Adam Davis is co-founder of DHM Research, an independent, nonpartisan firm, and the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. He has been conducting opinion research in Oregon for over 40 years.
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