Hood River County's new state legislator recently learned that picking apples is a lot more difficult than it looks.
He has also discovered that it will take a strong united voice to successfully lobby for a proposed tribal gambling casino to be sited in Cascade Locks and not east of Hood River.
For the past two months, Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, has spent hours meeting with orchardists and business leaders to get up to speed on the key issues facing Hood River County.
On one of these recent visits he spent about three hours on the Suzuki family farm picking fruit so that he could gain a first-hand understanding of the local agricultural industry.
"I've got the lift and twist down now," grinned Metsger, who said that skill was much harder to acquire than it first appeared.
Under recent state redistricting of legislative boundaries, Metsger replaced Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, in a new District 26 which now ties Cascade Locks and Hood River to the eastern edge of Multnomah County and the northeastern sector of Clackamas County.
He has opened a new district office in downtown Sandy that will be staffed by legislative aide Erik Van Hagen. Metsger invites his constituents to call (503) 668-4378 with any questions or email him at SenmetsgerATaol.com. He also welcomes visits to the office, 39400 Pioneer Blvd., Sandy, from 1-4 p.m. on Monday, and 9 a.m. to noon on both Wednesday and Friday. Metsger plans to spend Tuesday and Thursday visiting Hood River and other outlying communities.
Metsger has been sharply criticized in the past by the Oregon Farm Bureau and Oregonians for Food and Shelter as being unfriendly to agriculture.
Metsger believes that time will reverse that assertion once and show that he actively seeks to meet the needs of his constituents. To support that claim, Metsger pointed out that he is viewed as a staunch supporter of agriculture by the Oregon Association of Nurserymen, Inc., which has many operations within his district.
"You need to identify problems, find solutions that work and respect everyone's point of view," said Metsger.
He has planned meetings this week with the two strongest Democratic gubernatorial contenders, Ted Kulongoski and Jim Hill, to pin them down about their stands on the Hood River casino siting.
"A prerequisite for my endorsement is whether they will work with my new community on this issue," said Metsger.
Metsger will also meet with Gov. Kitzhaber in the near future and believes he can present strong arguments about why a gambling casino should be allowed in Cascade Locks, a plan proposed by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in 1999 that was vetoed by Kitzhaber.
He said it makes both good environmental and business sense to allow the gaming center on Government Rock, an island that is already zoned for commercial use within the city limits of Cascade Locks, a community that is willing to house the operation.
"The stronger we are with one voice the better the governor will hear and understand our concerns," said Metsger.