Wyden encourages residents to ‘step up’

Michael Cairns, of Independence, talks to Sen. Ron Wyden at a town hall meeting Saturday.

Gail Oberst
Michael Cairns, of Independence, talks to Sen. Ron Wyden at a town hall meeting Saturday.

MONMOUTH — “What can I do?” a young woman asked Oregon’s U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden at his Saturday Town Hall at Western Oregon University in Monmouth. This town hall, the 864th of his 22-year senatorial career, drew nearly 100 people, many of whom asked about his work on national matters that impact Polk County residents.

Communicate your wishes to your leaders, Wyden suggested. Phone calls, letters, marches and rallies — all of these make a difference.

“Our constitution, the rule of law thrives on activism. Come forward. Step up,” he said.

Western’s President Rex Fuller hosted Wyden’s visit, and Independence Mayor John McArdle moderated questions from about 15 people during the two-hour event. In addition to civil engagement, Wyden also answered questions on these topics:

• Collusion with the Russians to impact U.S. elections — As one of 15 members of the bi-partisan Intelligence Committee, which oversees federal intelligence agencies and bureaus, Wyden referred to Trump’s pre-presidential business dealings in Russia and said: “Follow the money. On my watch, this investigation is not going to be swept under the rug.” He also suggested that Oregon’s vote-by-mail would resolve foreign interference by creating a paper trail unavailable in electronic voting booths.

• Taxes, federal employees and Social Security — “Entitlements,” Wyden suggested, is not a good word for benefits that workers have earned. The budget deficit should not use funds from those accounts to pay off the budget deficit. A link on Wyden’s webpage, http://www.wyden.senate.gov, gives residents a place to share their opinions about the Republican tax plan.

• Offshore drilling — Wyden called Trump’s proposal to expand offshore drilling an “… ideological trophy for the oil industry.” Furthermore, he pointed out, the proposed plan would include nearly every state with a coastline, except for Florida, home of Trump’s winter home, Mar-a-Lago. The plan’s 47 proposed lease sites do not include any in Oregon, but could in the future. Oregon’s Gov. Kate Brown has requested that Oregon’s coast be exempted from all oil drilling.

• Bridges and roads — A plan to rebuild American infrastructure should have been Trump’s first move as president, Wyden said. Instead, the Republicans propose to spend $1.5 trillion on a tax cut that goes mainly to the wealthy. Now, his administration is suggesting that bridge and road improvements be parsed out to private companies who would then charge per use. Wyden called these “Trump Tolls.”

• Republicans vs. Democrats — The Oregon way, Wyden said, has always been collaborative. Mark Hatfield, Tom McCall, and Vera Katz were political leaders who reached across the aisle. “That was the way we did it, Wyden said. “It’s harder now than I’ve ever seen.” Despite venom, cooperation continues on bills of interest to both sides, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides coverage for more than 80,000 children and pregnant women in Oregon; the “fix for fire” legislation, which would support fire prevention measures in Oregon and other states, and net neutrality.

He said there is also bipartisan support to resolve immigration issues, including continuing residency status for so-called “Dreamers,” children brought illegally by parents or relatives the U.S., and in some cases, have known no other home.

Recent presidential tweets and insulting comments don’t help, Wyden said. “That’s not what our country is about.”

To contact Wyden, visit or write his Salem office at 707 13th St. Suite 285, 97301; call 503-589-4555, or visit his webpage.

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