2018 | Year in Photos

Students and staff sing along with reggae singer Aaron Nigel Smith on his song ”One” at Rocky Heights Elementary School on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, in Hermiston. The concert was part of the school’s Run for the Arts fundraiser.

Welcome to 2019. Make yourself comfortable. We’ve got some things to talk about.

We sent the old year out by reflecting on the steady development we’ve seen in Umatilla and Morrow counties, from new industries to new housing. We won’t take any of that for granted — much of rural Oregon has been desperate for the kind of development we’ve seen in the past decade. We have natural assets like the Columbia River and open, flat land and infrastructural advantages like the intersecting interstates and cheap electricity.

We also have the unique location nearly equidistant from Portland, Seattle and Boise, all a quick trip away, but far enough to leave some room to breathe.

All this adds up to a spot perfect for growth, with the ability to attract developers, job-seekers in a variety of fields, educated professionals looking for better quality of life and retirees looking to step away from the high cost of living elsewhere.

The iron is hot, so to speak, and this is the time to build the kind of place where we’d like to live (and our children to be able to live) decades down the line.

To do that, we must look beyond this calendar year.

Schools are the bedrock of communities such as ours. The buildings are often the gathering places, but it’s the teaching and mentoring that makes a difference in the long run.

Like it or not, our schools are full of students who need more than just lessons in math, history, science and language arts. For many, it’s the only place of support in their lives. It’s where they can get a healthy meal and validation from an adult in a safe environment.

That’s a big task, and one we shouldn’t ask the schools and teachers to take on alone. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in classrooms and through extra-curricular activities.

Fortunately there are plenty of strong supporting organizations in place and good leaders in our districts. Along with the correct amount of scrutiny, we should find ways to lend a hand.

With the influx of jobs has come a staggering demand for housing. Cities have responded by creating incentives to put up new houses and apartments, and the market is now in a period of adjustment.

It takes all kinds. Stick-built houses, apartment complexes and second-floor renovations fill different niches. Pendleton’s housing inventory has been stagnant for a long time, and some fresh options will be in the renter’s favor. Boardman, where the jobs outnumber the residents, is working to keep up with demand.

But one area that hasn’t been adequately addressed in any of our cities is homelessness. The housing discussion has centered on the able-bodied workforce, but there are many who can’t find an affordable place to live and are forced to sleep in their car or a tent.

It’s time we devote a larger portion of our attention to these problems as we make sure everyone has a roof over their heads.

There are plenty more ways we can work together to make life better in our corner of the world. As a newspaper we’d like to be part of the solution, offering critical assessment, encouragement and a platform for ideas. That will be our goal in the coming year, and we hope you’ll take advantage of our pages and website to join that conversation.

Welcome to 2019. It’s time to get to work.

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