Stuff that works


Last updated 2/13/2024 at 10:03am

I sat down this weekend to write a column about dysfunction; 700 words on the bipartisan cascade of incompetence, cynicism and decrepitude that we witnessed on the national stage last week.

Nope. Just couldn’t do it. I’ve already said my piece in these pages about the proper consequences of the willful mishandling of classified documents, and calling out cynical, partisan hypocrisy isn’t even sport. It just leaves me full of dismay, disgust, and despair. Not exactly the mood to carry into a Sunday afternoon of chili and football.

Besides, falling into a pit of despond over the state of the union obscures something that’s important to remember: There may be a shocking amount of dysfunction in our nation’s institutions, but here in Sisters our institutions work pretty darn well.

Here’s a case in point…

On Thursday evening, weird things began to happen in our little farmhouse on the edge of a meadow. About half the lights dimmed, then surged back. Then they went out. I checked the electrical panel; nothing tripped. Then the lights came back on. Then they went out again.

For a moment, Marilyn and I considered the possibility that we were being harassed by poltergeists.

Rational thinking prevailed, and we called Central Electric Cooperative. The woman who took our call told Marilyn that we had likely lost a leg of power, and wrote a priority ticket to get a crew out to assess the situation. At about 10:30 p.m., a crew arrived, and immediately identified a fault in the line from the street to the house. The fault was (of course) in a difficult-to-access spot, which meant the crew was still at work well after midnight. When we got up in the morning, the poltergeists had fled and we had power.

We recognize that the CEC folks were “just doing their job,” but, like first responders, doing their job — efficiently, effectively and professionally — is really critical. When you need ’em, you need ’em, and their work is mightily appreciated.

A couple of weeks ago, a pair of Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District paramedics delivered a baby in an ambulance. Cool story — and something that everyone involved will always remember. It points to something bigger: Sisters is a small town, and our fire district punches above its weight in terms of its professional competence, and its engaged service to our community. Same goes for Black Butte Ranch and Cloverdale districts, who provide mutual support.

We’re really fortunate to have the quality of service and protection they provide.

This also holds true for the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. Since the City of Sisters contracted with DCSO in 2020 to build a cadre of Sisters-based deputies, law enforcement in Sisters has become more effective and more fully engaged in the community. Knowing the community you are working in on an intimate basis makes a big difference in law enforcement, and the deputies who patrol our streets are truly dedicated to serving the community.

The Sisters City Council deserves a tip of the hat for this. The contract has, in effect, provided Sisters with its own police force at a fraction of the cost of actually forming a police department, and has given DCSO the scope to provide a level of service that we should all appreciate and be proud of.

We have an exceptionally dedicated and effective City public works staff —another outfit that punches well above its weight — and Sisters schools offer more than many big metropolitan districts can offer.

While residents are sometimes frustrated by the Sisters Ranger District’s handling of what they call “non-recreational camping” in the woods, there is no denying that District staff have shown exceptional effort and dedication in seeking innovative ways of dealing with significant challenges under a raft of policy and legal constraints.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in a spiral of negativity. There are a lot of things that have broken down in this country, and we’re right to be deeply concerned about the path we’re on. But a quick look around Sisters Country offers an antidote to discouragement. Our key institutions are strong, and we can help make sure they stay that way.

That’s stuff that works.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

Author photo

Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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