“This Is the Way Government Is Supposed to Work”
By Staff Writer
“This is what our forefathers envisioned when writing the Constitution – gatherings of citizens and their elected representatives where no subjects are off limits.” Senator Ron Wyden, prefacing a “town hall” meeting in La Pine, reiterated his belief that “Oregonians deserve access to voice their opinions directly.”
Wyden, who previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1981 to 1996), was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996. “I pledged to have an open meeting in every county in Oregon every year that I serve,” he said then. Thus far in 2017, he has held 68 town halls – four in Deschutes County alone – for a total of 849 since making his initial commitment.
As the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Wyden characterizes himself as an “independent voice for Oregonians and the nation.” He has been praised for his ability to diffuse partisan tensions and encourage bipartisan cooperation. “My approach is to “lower the decibel level,” he explained to the large crowd that had gathered in La Pine’s Community Center.
Issues raised and addressed during the 90-minute question and answer session ranged from health care to prescription drug costs (which Wyden described as “the fastest-growing part of the health care tab”), climate change, veterans’ services, the threat posed by North Korea, foster care, social security, Medicare, preservation of natural resources and wildfires.
(Wyden, known as a supporter of environmental protection measures, noted that he is introducing a bill with Idaho’s Senator Mike Crapo (R) to focus resources on fire prevention efforts and forest health projects. “If you short change fire prevention, you may save money today, but you’re going to spend a whole lot more down the road when fires that would have been smaller become infernos,” he claimed.)
“The issues discussed today in La Pine are complicated,” he noted, “and we in government have to do real work to solve them. Holding town hall meetings such as this one, where there was not a bad question in the house, is the way government is supposed to work. On my watch, I want to make sure that everyone gets heard.”