Senator Ron Wyden Visits Lane County
On Sunday, Jan. 15, Senator Ron Wyden visited Lane County as part of his pledge to host town halls in every county in Oregon, every year he serves on the senate. He said this was his 1,035th townhall to date.
Wyden made that pledge almost 30 years ago when first began serving as a member of the United States Senate and said it’s an opportunity to “throw open the doors of government” and to make sure that “everybody can be heard.” These town halls are important to the senator and are something he feels is the “way the founding fathers wanted [the government] to work.”
Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis opened the town hall, welcoming and thanking Senator Wyden for his time and dedication to serving the public. Vinis said that Wyden is a senator who cares, listens to concerns of his constituents, and takes action. “He has the determination to get things done,” she said.
Joining Vinis in opening remarks was Lane County Commissioner Heather Buck. Buck echoed Vinis’s kind remarks for the senator and expressed her gratitude for his response to the needs of the community following the Holiday Farm Fire.
Before beginning the town hall’s main agenda, locally elected representatives and leaders present that afternoon were also acknowledged.
In attendance was former Oregon House Representative Phil Barnhart, current Oregon State Senator Floyd Prozanski, 4J School District Board Chair, Maya Rabasa, EWEB Board Commissioner Mindy Schlossberg, locally elected official Dr. Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, Lane County Commissioner Laurie Trieger, current 4J Superintendent Andy Dey, and Miles Pendleton who was present on behalf of Senator James Manning.
Senator Wyden took a brief moment to more thoroughly introduce Miss Oregon 2023 Manju Bangalore.
“We have a rising star in the whole debate about where this country is gonna go in our very own Miss Oregon and she really is the bionic woman because as far as I can tell, she’s got degrees in all kinds of things,” said Wyden. “She is a scientist, she is an inspiring actress, she is looking at space travel, I mean basically everything she touches turns out to be a message of public service.”
Miss Bangalore took a few seconds to thank Senator Wyden for the introduction and told the audience that she is focused on public service. She is currently working on issues surrounding body autonomy and she said she feels “really blessed to have senators who believe in that future for us.”
“I’m gen z, so I’m really fighting for a future where menstruation holds no one back and where none of these systems of oppression hold us back,” said Bangalore.
Following those introductions, Wyden then welcomed the audience and gave a brief overview of his work and inspiration for the town halls before turning the microphone over to the first question from the audience.
Roughly 200 people sat in attendance in the gymnasium at the Arts and Technology Academy located in Eugene to listen as the senator responded to questions posed by audience members.
For 90 minutes, the senator took questions from the audience ranging on topics from houselessness, health care, to election integrity, restoring democracy, and defeating fascism.
In response to the first question from the audience about removing fascism from our current government and restoring democracy, Senator Wyden said he is pushing for change. He plans to take the Oregon based vote by mail system national and he is supporting the bill to replace the electoral college with the popular vote.
Senator Wyden also remarked on his personal history as it relates to Nazi Germany. Wyden’s parents both escaped the tyranny and genocide that took place in Germany during the Hilter’s and the Nazi’s regime.
“My dad was a journalist. He taught himself English so he could drop propaganda pamphlets on the Nazis,” said Wyden. It was until later in life that Wyden learned his dad was part of the Ritchie Boys, a secret U.S. unit that helped the allies defeat the Nazis.
“So I’m all in with respect to fighting fascism and it’s one of the reasons why I’m such a strong supporter of the first amendment and journalists protection.”
Wyden further added that “the founding fathers actually argue that the first amendment was at least as important to government and maybe more important than government because of the right to speak and to speak freely.”
Wyden also answered questions about climate change, reducing the cost of public education, providing greater support to small businesses, and helping rural communities get better cell phone service and internet access.
It was an optimistic town hall and both the senator and those in the audience were focused on issues surrounding health care, increasing mental health and wellbeing, reducing the costs of medication, and fixing the broken health care system.
Wyden’s next town hall will be in Marion County at Chemeketa Community College on Jan.17.