Ron Wyden: Leaders in D.C. would do well to emulate the Oregon Way (Guest opinion)
By Ron Wyden
Nyssa. La Pine. Springfield. Astoria. Gold Beach. Southeast Portland.
These are all among the Oregon communities that hosted one of my 80 town hall meetings this year.
The town halls were in counties Donald Trump won by 20 points, Hillary Clinton won by 20 points, and everything in between. One constant in all of them during this tumultuous political year has been Oregonians’ unprecedented interest in fixing broken government policies.
Because of this interest, I decided Oregonians deserved unprecedented access to town halls. More than ever, I wanted to listen.
As you can imagine, what I heard was that Oregonians are frustrated with Washington, D.C.
For example, 2017 was supposed to be the year of the working person — when the forgotten middle class was forgotten no longer. Yet Oregonians filled town halls furious that a totally broken tax code isn’t just going unfixed, it will get worse.
The new tax law barreling toward passage leaves little for working families, and even less for Oregonians who bill supporters somehow believe have “too many children.” Yet faceless multinational corporations collect generous servings of permanent tax relief.
The story is similar for containing healthcare costs. Oregonians at town halls ask why won’t the federal government challenge the pharmaceutical monopolies and push them to hold down the cost of medicine. Similar questions arise for roads, bridges and rail. Namely, why can’t federal officials act like adults and repair the country’s scandalously outdated infrastructure?
All heartfelt and understandable questions.
How can I be encouraged when I hear what I just detailed? Because honoring my pledge to hold my annual town halls this year in each of our 36 counties re-affirmed how participatory democracy is alive and well in Oregon. I call this ethos the “Oregon Way.” Washington, D.C., would do well to emulate it.
I am happy to report that Oregonians have lifted the Oregon Way to new heights in each town hall. Oregonians overwhelmingly came seeking solutions, not senseless standoffs. They showed the key is to have civil conversations that generate the best ideas for creating good-paying jobs, ensuring fairness in the tax code, providing quality health care and protecting our natural treasures.
I am proud that at this year’s town halls – and at the 861 I’ve held as a senator – we had those conversations by insisting no topic is off-limits. Just as the Founding Fathers intended, citizens must always have every right to hold their elected representative responsible by asking them questions face to face.
At last Sunday’s 80th town hall this year, I was proud to accept the Town Hall Project’s MVP award for holding the most town halls this year of any U.S. senator. But that award really belongs to the tens of thousands of Oregonians who attended town halls this year in every part of our state.
It’s all of us as Oregonians who have given the entire nation this year a “people power” model to emulate. These town halls are more important than ever before because it is clearer than ever that political change doesn’t start in a government building and somehow trickle down. Political change starts in these town halls where people power comes out in full force.
That’s what happened at my 80 Oregon town halls in 2017.
And as Oregonians prepare for the holidays and the new year, I hope to see even more of you at my town halls in 2018. Let’s build on the “Oregon Way” momentum we achieved this year and keep it going in each of Oregon’s 36 counties in the days ahead.
Democrat Ron Wyden represents Oregon in the U.S. Senate. Find town hall schedules at http://bit.ly/2iLmkNF and on Twitter at @RonWyden.
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December 10, 2017 at 07:32AM