This summer, on our way to spend a few days in the Steens Mountains in Oregon, my family and I traveled through Burns, Ore., and spent an afternoon with two residents of this small rural town. These good family friends are in their 70s and have lived in Burns for very many decades. They are the bedrock of a small community, serving as board members on many community organizations, including transportation of the elderly, cemetery stewardship, library board, community gardens, and many church organizations. They told us that their community was literally torn apart as a result of the armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, which happened during January and February of this year. They told us that they thought that they did not think their community could heal, and that they were afraid of who they could even talk to at the grocery store. They told us that their community was split in two. They told us, “Things are bad.” They felt their community had been destroyed by the armed occupation. They didn’t know who they could trust any more.
Twice during the armed occupation, our local state representative, Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, and Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, visited the Malheur refuge. On Feb. 11, 2016, for the final hours of the armed standoff. Scott and Boyle had made their second visit, this time while our Legislature was in session. Boyle declared, “We were there as human shields.” Soon the last holdouts left the refuge, leaving a completely trashed field station in their wake, and leaving the community of Burns in a shambles.
Sherriff Dave Ward of Burns asked the armed occupiers to go home. The majority of community of Burns, in town hall meetings, told them to leave, and went as far as buying billboard space telling anyone who would listen that the community of Burns could solve their own problems and advocate for themselves. The billboard read, “We are Harney County and we have our own voice.”
In my opinion, while Heather Scott has been in office, she has done nothing but tirelessly work at her politics of division, shrouded in her call for the people to wake up and stop the government from taking over their lives. I don’t buy it for a minute. What she has been effective in is what she helped accomplish in Burns, which is to divide a city, divide a county, and divide neighbors from neighbors. By her demonstrated support of the armed occupiers and their mission in Malheur County she is as guilty as the Bundys in tearing apart a great rural community. By her actions she was complicit in not listening to the community of Burns. According to the Portland Oregonian, the three Idaho legislators (Scott, Boyle, and Dixon) were warned by Oregon Rep. Cliff Bentz, a Republican from Ontario, and Harney County Judge Steven E. Grasty that the trip to Burns was inappropriate. Not really caring what the locals wanted, the lawmakers — along with one legislator from Oregon and two from Washington — met with Ammon Bundy himself.
For me, what it boils down to is this: How can we re-elect a representative, who through her repeated actions, took part in tearing apart a rural community? Does it matter that it was not our community? I believe her divisive approach to politics is having the same effect here in North Idaho.
I am truly sorry our elected representative, Heather Scott, has helped make my aged friends in Burns disillusioned and apprehensive in their rural community. Therefore this Republican is voting for a stop to the division of our community and for the betterment of the community. I will vote for Kate McAlister on Nov. 8 and urge you to do so as well.