OP/ED: The results are in … Now what?

By LaNicia Duke

Like many of you I am happy the election is over. The influx of opinion over facts both in local and national campaigns was exhausting. I’ve never liked politics for this reason but I’ll share with you what’s changed for me with this election cycle. I’ve never been one to put too much focus or energy into who is the resident at the White House. This doesn’t mean I don’t vote but I personally care more who wins local and state elections then I do who becomes the next president. Why? Accountability. 

I’ve been fortunate to meet both Republican and Democratic hopefuls to the White House. I’ve also been able to work on campaigns of those who I called “Uncle or Auntie” without the preface of which party they belonged to. I don’t have a vested interest in political parties, but I am definitely invested and interested in those I have direct access to. We are fortunate to have this privilege in Tillamook county. If we want to speak to one of our elected officials whether our local mayor, our county commissioner or even our state representative, it isn’t that hard. That’s one of the things I love about living in our wonderful village. We have direct access to those we employ, or those who volunteer, to serve their communities in a leadership capacity.

North county has spoken. Mayors and city councilors have been elected. Voters have approved a bond to help pay for a $9 MILLION pool in Nehalem, where the average “working class” family cannot afford to pay additional taxes to build a pool and then pay a monthly charge to use the pool. While it’s great to support our kids at Nehalem Elementary who get to walk down the street for swim lessons, what about our kids who go to Garibaldi Elementary? They are a part of our community and our Neah-Kah-Nie school district as well. Do they have the same access to learning how to swim so we can save more lives? 

Here are some facts about our wonderful area that may be hidden by our million dollar views and million dollar homes or you may not be aware of because you don’t have children in our local district. Neah-Kah-Nie School District has four schools: Garibaldi elementary, Nehalem elementary, Neah-Kah-Nie middle and Neah-Kah-Nie high schools. Here are the percentage of students at each school experiencing food insecurity as measured by the amount of families that are eligible for free or reduced lunches. If you dig deep enough you will find most of our students receiving services are receiving free and not reduced lunches which also shows how many of our families are truly food insecure. As of April 2020, here are the numbers provided by Oregon Board of Education: 50.34%  of Garibaldi students, 50.56% of Nehalem students, 48.31% of our middle school students and  46.58% of our high school students in Neah-Kah-Nie School district are food insecure. 

So I implore you to consider: if we can afford to have a $9 million dollar pool in Nehalem we can also eliminate food insecurity for all of our families who have students in our school district. The money is there, right? If it isn’t, why not?

Did you have an opinion about our local politics? Did your candidate win or lose? Were the issues you voted for passed or not? No matter, we are still facing a call to action. Will you join me? If you were interested in what was on the ballot, are you still interested in what’s happening in our communities now the election is over? Please join me in holding our local official accountable for all of us, and not just those who can afford to be served. Did you run for office and lose? Did you help a candidate win (or not) in a local election? Where will you redirect your energy now? I ask you to help me ELIMINATE food insecurity in our community. 

While our food banks are important and help provide a lot of food to our neighbors, wouldn’t it be great if we could find a way to partner with our local farmers to get locally sourced food on the tables for everyone in our community? What if we purchased enough CSA (community supported agriculture) baskets and meat shares from our local community to feed our local community? Is this a big vision? Yes it is, but so is building a $9 million pool. Is it important for some of our students to learn how to swim? Yes it is, but it is more important ALL of our students learn how to swim, and that they ALL have enough food.  How do we begin closing the gaps and making our community more equitable?

To me, this is a start. If you’d like to know more I invite you to read about food insecurity and the affordable housing crisis and ask yourself is there more you want to do to help build our entire community. If your answer is yes, please hold yourself more accountable, then begin talking to your neighbors and community leaders about how we hold each other accountable not just to know about the problem but to actually drive solutions and investments that will increase the social capital of our whole community. Let’s feed all the children.