A woman, named Smith, who farms near John Day describes the isolation of the John Day and Canyon City area - which is to say most of the people of Grant County - in terms of mountain passes. You have to climb through two or three of them, she said, "to get anywhere that is somewhere."
This came up at the second redistricting committee road hearing today, a later-afternoon and light-attended session based at Burns but with video feeds at John Day and Ontario. Tomorrow's hearing is at Bend.
She said she testified a decade ago when reapportionment was last done, with the idea that Grant County should be kept intact. By the time the map was drawn (by the secretary of state, not the legislature), the county was split down the middle between two state House districts. They do share state Senate and a U.S. House district.
What counties should be united with Grant (which is far too small to form a legislative district by itself) into a House district? Mrs. Smith suggested that similar resource counties be fitted, like Harney and Malheur, more than "anything up along the Gorge."
No one in Ontario testified.
Of all the eastern Oregon counties, Grant may be the one that has the most - and logically so - interest in reapportionment.
Cliff Bentz, the House member who represents much of this vast area, was ironically in Salem but participated by video feed. He noted that "the need to add 8,300 people [to his current district] is a sad commentary on my corner of Oregon," another indicator of the need for economic development there.
He added that he wanted "to make sure that the committee does not carve Ontario off into Idaho. That would be an unfortunate event."