Newberg, OR- Last night Oregon Senator Ron Wyden continued with his series of meetings across Oregon, this time held in Newberg High School.
Senator Wyden made a pledge when he first won the office to hold a meeting in every county in Oregon on ce a year. The Yamhill County meeting held in Newberg was his 533rd held somewhere in the state. Senator Wyden deserves credit for striving to keep his pledge.
These are different days for town halls. When the Senator asked how many present had never been to a town hall before, more than half of the estimated 360 in attendance raised a hand.
Thankfully, steps were taken to minimize disruptions and outbursts, both which were kept to a minimum. Newberg mayor Bob Andrews announced that questions would be taken using a raffle system. Each person wishing to ask a question was given a ticket. Mayor Andrews then called out two numbers at a time – one “at bat,” and another “on deck.” The system worked well.
There were none of the idiotic signs seen in less civilized locales, and disruptions were minimal.
Senator Wyden began his opening remarks by promising “for the next 90 minutes – pure, unfiltered democracy.” He then had an announcement the Senator was very proud to make.
Wyden announced a deal with Solar World to expand their manufacturing facility in Hillsboro, Oregon, enough to add 500 good-paying jobs to the growing green economy. Being on the Senate Finance Committee, Wyden was instrumental in securing the tax incentives the company wanted to expand.
When the question and answer portion began, the first question was right out of Tea Party 101. A woman demanded Wyden explain why children born in America to illegal aliens are given citizenship, and would he propose legislation to change that.
Wyden pointed out that such a provision wouldn’t pass a constitutional test. He also forcefully stated he would not support any idea or proposal that would penalize children, regardless of their parents’ status.
The Senator kept taking questions on everything from immigration to jobs and timber policy, but most were centered around health care reform.
Wyden referenced his Healthy Americans Act which he said several times was his favored version of health care reform. It is not part of current legislation being considered, although some elements did make it into amendments.
Senator Wyden also spoke several times about his tax proposal, the Fair Flat Tax Act. He gave a disappointing answer when asked about Oregon Measures 66 and 67. The tax measures are to be voted on January 26th, and an endorsement by Senator Wyden would have been appreciated. He spoke about the need for tax changes, but avoided taking a definitive position.
When a woman asked a good question on immigration – wanting to know how the Senator would handle real concerns like not breaking up families, the need for farm labor, and if he favored a path to citizenship, the Senator gave solid answers.
it was a letdown, however, to hear him so strongly state a need for English language provisions in immigration reform. When speaking about English there was loud applause, cheers and jeers from a portion of the crowd. I wonder, would they be so concerned if our farms were worked by illegal Belgians from Flanders, speaking Dutch?
Senator Wyden often referenced his ability to work across the aisle and his desire to find ways to include ideas from the other party.
Sadly, Senator Wyden is practicing wishful thinking from another time. Today’s Republican Party, and conservatives in general, are not at all interested in working together in any capacity. Senator Wyden needs to take a lesson from the Junior Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, and push a more progressive agenda.