Back in the spring of 2007, alarmed at the prospect of two destination resorts being built near the Metolius River, then-state Sen. Ben Westlund and other lawmakers sponsored legislation to protect one of the state's great scenic and recreational resources.
Their bill died when Gov. Ted Kulongoski told them to back off, saying he wanted state agencies to study the best way to protect the Metolius and other special natural resources.
Now the studying is done, and the state Land Conservation and Development Commission has come up with a Metolius protection plan that's even tighter - and better - than the original. It would ban resorts inside the Metolius Basin and restrict them within 10 miles of it.
The same people who were angry at the original Metolius bill are predictably apoplectic about this new idea.
Republican activist Ted Piccolo, on his NW Republican blog, revives the smear that the Metolius protection measure is a piece of eeeee-vil special interest legislation backed by state Sen. Betsy Johnson because her family has owned a vacation home near the headwaters of the river for a hundred years. "The cash grabbing Democrat Sen. Johnson is using her position to preserve her own private property and working to twist the rules against another Oregonian in the process," he writes. "It is a classic case of 'I got mine now go away.'"
The Bulletin's editorial page repeats the same tired lie, although somewhat less harshly: "This issue began when developers proposed a pair of resorts in or near the Metolius basin. Some property owners near the Metolius, including state Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, wanted the resorts stopped."
Of course it isn't just "some property owners near the Metolius" who want the river protected - it's thousands of people and dozens of organizations from all over Oregon, and beyond. Westlund's office got more than 600 letters and e-mails supporting the original bill and only seven opposing it.
Aside from sliming Johnson, the other argument that opponents of protecting the Metolius make is that it would violate the principle of "local control" because Jefferson County has given the go-ahead to the resorts.
"Local control" is a fine idea, but let's not make a fetish out of it. The Metolius is not the property of Jefferson County. Like the Oregon Coast or the Columbia Gorge, it's a natural treasure that everybody in the state has a share in - and it shouldn't be thrown away just because some local politicians want to pump cash into the county treasury.
Some will accuse Kulongoski of flip-flopping on the Metolius issue. But it's better to flip-flop than to remain resolutely on the wrong side of an issue. To persist in the wrong course isn't standing on principle; it's stupidity (c.f. "Bush, George W.").
What's important is that Kulongoski has seen the light and is doing the right thing now. For that, we're giving him - and all the other politicians, groups and private citizens who are fighting to protect the Metolius - The GLASS SLIPPER.