When Ron Wyden was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, the first new Senator from Oregon in 30 years, he vowed to visit every single county each year to hold town halls.
Eighteen years later, Sen. Wyden has kept his promise, making his visit on Friday, April 18 to Lake County for town hall number 702 in his illustrious career serving Oregon. For nearly an hour and a half Sen. Wyden answered questions from the public in the Lakeview High School cafeteria, attended by roughly 50 residents of Lakeview and surrounding communities. Lake County School District 7 Supt. Sean Gallagher introduced the Senator, and Lake County Chamber of Commerce Dir. Tule Chiono acted as moderator for the event.Sen. Wyden addressed many national issues concerning citizens, including questions about health care, illegal immigration, genetically-modified food, the overly complex tax code, recent Supreme Court rulings, gridlock in congress and military spending.
From a local perspective, Sen. Wyden was asked questions about wild horse management, Sage-Grouse habitat, grazing lands, road infrastructure, educational funding, decline in the timber industry, BLM land policies and fire fighter contracting.
On several occasions questions from residents resulted in Sen. Wyden requesting that his staff members in attendance take down people’s information so that proper follow-up can be made by his office to address specific needs or suggestions. Repeatedly he agreed with requests made by commenters on how to better manage situations locally, taking citizen’s recommendations to heart.
Though addressing several hot-button topics that often spur emotions and arguments, the discussions remained cordial and intellectual throughout, seeking solutions to complex problems rather than being reduced to yelling or finger pointing. At one point Sen. Wyden stopped the event to point out how much more productive the conversation was when people talk through problems compared to the endless bickering that dominates most political interaction today.
Sen. Wyden, now in his eighteenth year serving Oregon as an incumbent Senator, was recently appointed Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, a position with tremendous responsibility, but Sen. Wyden pointed out that the committee is not involved in military budgeting after a question about military spending was asked. Sen. Wyden is also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.