BEND, Ore. - Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and First Lady Cylvia Hayes took the stage at the Tower Theater in Bend Tuesday night.
The pair was in town to be keynote speakers at the first SuperForum, held by Bend 2030.
The couple focused much of their remarks on how economic success is (or should be) measured.
"We all live in a paradigm that says that economic growth is the cure to our economic ills," Hayes said. "Over the last 30 years, the state and national economy has grown enormously. I think it's debatable whether or not the health of our nation and the quality of our lives have improved."
Hayes told the sold-out audience that poverty and the gap between wealthy and the poor has been growing over recent decades.
"When I first moved to Bend almost 20 years ago, I didn't see homeless people on our street corners," Hayes said. "It's really shifted."
Another question she posed to the audience was why the nation's economic system is so heavily based on natural resource consumption.
"The only time that we see a downward dip in pollution, or wetlands lost, or deforestation, or greenhouse gas emissions is when the economy goes into recession," Hayes said.
Hayes said the Gross Domestic Product is not a very affective way to measure how well the economy is doing. Instead, she said, it measures how much money is flowing within the state or country.
"Under the GDP, the money spent to keep a kid in juvenile jail counts as exactly as positive as the same amount of money spent to give a kid a good education," Hayes said.
She added that she supports economic growth that makes the state and country better, not just bigger.
"I want to see our children growing strong, healthy and well-educated," Hayes said. "I mean all of our kids, not just the economically advantaged."
Governor Kitzhaber echoed Hayes' message, saying for years, the economy has been based on the assumption that economic growth will result in better livability.
Kitzhaber defined how the economy can both be measured quantitative (by numbers) and qualitative (by feelings). He said for far too long, governments and organizations been focused on the quantitative side of the equation.
"No matter how pristine the environment, no matter how many outdoor recreational opportunities you have, they don't benefit people who can't take advantage of them," Kitzhaber said.
"No matter how stunning the scenery or powerful the vistas, this is not a livable community for people who are out of work, who are hungry, who are homeless and don't have any hope for the future."
The governor continued by saying we need to challenge the assumptions that we have assumed for the last 70 years, that quantitative economic growth will result in qualitative improvement in our environment and in our communities.
"If the economy doesn't provide equal opportunity for upper-income mobility, if there is no pathway to which people can better themselves, if hard work is no longer rewarded and the hope for a better life, the net economic system is the same as the one in England that inspired us to rebel in 1776."
Following both speeches, the governor answered questions posed by a moderator. They were based off real-time polling data from the audience.
Kitzhaber continues his Central Oregon visit Wednesday morning, meeting with the Central Oregon Regional Solutions Advisory Committee.