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Post-election discussions and the KBRA obsession
By STEVE MILLER Editor, Herald and News 5/19/12

Post-election talk often turns to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. Itís assumed: that candidates lost because they were for it; that candidates won because they were against it.

I think thatís wrong. Supporters of the controversial agreement shouldnít throw their hands up in despair. Opponents shouldnít throw up their arms in rejoicing. The KBRA is just a percentage of the whole message. There are all the other parts, including financial and employee management, providing public safety, and jobs.

And there are so many parts other than messaging: the number of yard signs; of doors knocked on; of calls made; and the amount of money raised and how much advertising purchased.

People obsess over the KBRA. I think that whether it was the commissioner races or the state delegates races, people were voting for candidates they thought would do the best job of managing. And in the commissioner races, it was about voting against incumbents because of perceived mismanagement.

If you want to dissect returns, start looking at the numbers, where they came from and how the candidates got them. Donít assume itís the KBRA.
That said, it is time for reflection on the KBRA
You canít ignore the fact that no KBRA supporter won.

Itís time for reflection.

This paper endorsed the KBRA. Weíve written editorials and columns defending it. Recently, weíve backed off because we would rather support than defend and we havenít seen enough active campaigning and unabashed enthusiasm to warrant it. I know weíre not alone because Iíve heard a hundred KBRA presentations that started with the speaker looking dour and speaking some version of: ďThere are things I hate about this agreement; I hate removing dams; but this is the best thing weíve got.Ē

Thatís not advocating; itís taking a stand. And taking a stand only works for a little while before people walk around where youíre standing.

A lot of us respect the philosophy of negotiation used in the agreements; we respect the impact it could have on this countyís economy; we cherish the cultural balance it helps restore; we respect the lofty aims to acknowledge the needs of agriculture, fisheries and the environment. Even reasonable opponents acknowledge there are good points. But when you get right down to the document, itís not going anywhere. Post election seems like a good time for a new tack. Thereís nothing wrong with good sportsmanship ó it builds trust and relationships even if itís begrudging to begin with. Shake hands, congratulate the winners. And ask for their help. Ask for help to make some sort of agreement work. Ask for help to build up the sorts of financial impacts the KBRA intended. Point out the impending water shortages and the economic blows they will deliver. Ask for leadership. Donít ask for help as a challenge. Genuinely ask for help. What better time would there be to ask opponents to help create a better agreement? Theyíre now in positions of power; theyíre on the official record.
Would you buy something when youíre not asked?
The voting public needs to be convinced it should care.

Politicians gain and maintain position with numbers. Why would they concern themselves with something their constituents arenít on board with?

There have been all sorts of meetings, but can anyone count past five fingers the attempts to deliver the KBRA message to the populace ó something straightforward and without equivocation? There are some ďKBRA = JobsĒ signs. And there are booths at events, mostly for defending the agreement.

No one is pushing the product hard, and no oneís asking for the sale ó if that were the case in a retail setting, youíd wonder why the salesperson isnít enthusiastic about the product. No sale.

Also, at some point, everyone on both sides has said or is saying that itís not in local hands anymore. Thatís even more reason for locals to not care.

Yet, how could anyone expect federal representatives, elected or administrative, to be assertive and confident about legislation or executive decisions linked to an agreement that is opposed by local elected officials?

Fix it or replace it; but make it be something saleable
Itís been a long row to hoe for stakeholders, proponents, and opponents. There are excellent qualities to the KBRA, but there are problems. Even if you think itís nothing short of brilliant for Klamath County, you canít pretend it doesnít hurt Siskiyou County. The KBRA idea is worthy of support, but it needs work from both sides. A lot of the post-election talk of proponents is all doom and gloom. Some are ready to give up. Buck up is what they should do, and be willing to go back and hash out an even better agreement. Opponents should be involved instead of just being loud. Fix it or scrap it and do something else. But come up with something. And ask for the sale.


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