Wyden Visits LBCC: Senator Wyden holds town hall at Linn-Benton Community College
On any other quiet, rainy Saturday at Linn-Benton Community College, the parking lot would be empty, the halls eerily quiet and the only sound in the courtyard would be the sound the fountain makes as it hits the water. However, March 17 was not any other Saturday.
The western parking lot was busy as the Albany Police Department, assisted by LBCC’s Public Safety officers, formed a perimeter around the Activity Center, as Albany Residents filtered towards the gym, looking for a chance to ask United States Senator Ron Wyden their questions and fill him in on their concerns.
Before the town hall, LBCC Veterans Club members Steven Olson and Matt Weaver led the pledge of allegiance.
Afterward, the questions started.
An audience member who owns a furniture company in Corvallis that has been affected by tariffs on hardwood took the floor. The tariffs led to the prices of the hardwood he needs for his business increasing 30-to-100 percent.
According to him this increase on hardwood, and not furniture, has led to foreign companies flooding the market with cheaper furniture.
Wyden responded by introducing the idea of “Trade done right”. According to Wyden, China and Canada are subsidizing their industries, thus threatening Oregon’s economy. This, according to Wyden, allows other nations to undercut the market. Wyden expressed concern and expressed his desire to help industry in Oregon.
Susan Heath came to the town hall to express her concerns about the United States government allowing oil drilling off the Oregon Coast.
Wyden, who voted to confirm Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, said he was concerned about the potential for an earthquake off the Oregon Coast.
“He told me he was going to be a ‘Teddy Roosevelt Republican,’” Wyden said.
Teddy Roosevelt is remembered for his conservationist efforts and the creation of national parks.
According to Wyden, he voted to confirm Zinke to “extend an olive branch”
“Other than the President, the Interior Secretary most affects Oregon,” Wyden said.
However, after being confirmed, Zinke proceeded to plan to sell off government land in Oregon and eliminate the land and water conservation fund.
“If you sell off your public land, you don’t get it back,” Wyden said.
Eventually, Wyden went to a hearing on the subject, where he asked Zinke a very pointed question.
“If Teddy Roosevelt was sitting in your seat, would he be in favor of eliminating the Land and Water Conservation Fund?”
Wyden proclaimed his vote for Zinke to be the “biggest mistake of his career.”
Another audience member asked Wyden “Do you plan to put laws in place regarding bump stocks and military grade weapons?”
Wyden then responded a simple “yes,” leading to an applause.
“This almost seems normal,” Wyden said, “We can’t let this be normal….We are better than this.”
Wyden said that he was in favor of “Universal, loophole free, background checks,” and lifting of the “Dickey Amendment” which prevents the CDC from conducting research into gun violence.
Wyden was also concerned about the possibility the National Rifle Association was receiving money from the Russian Government.
“We cannot find a straight answer of if the NRA got money from the Russians,” Wyden said.
SLC Vice President Justin Noll, who is also the President of Active Minds, a club that raises awareness of mental health issues, had a question for Wyden.
“All we hear in the media is that ‘people with mental problems cause mass shootings’. What will you do to advocate for those with mental health issues?” Noll asked.
Wyden responded, mentioning that his brother had schizophrenia, and that mental health issues were personally close to him.
Eventually, Wyden said he supported a way for mental health issues to be paid for, however, the Graham Cassidy bill undermines Medicaid, making it harder to have a support system in place for those with mental health issues.
A member of the group “Moms Demand Action,” asked the Senator about HR 3668, also known as the “SHARE Act”, a bill that deregulates silencers for handguns.
Wyden, in his response, said he opposed this law, as well as a “Federally Mandated Concealed Carry” law. According to Wyden, this law would force states to respect the concealed carry permits issued by other states.
In response to another question, Wyden declared his support for Net Neutrality.
“It’s hard to imagine something more revolutionary than the internet,” Wyden said.
Wyden said he was concerned about the recent plans of the FCC, saying that a repeal in Net Neutrality rules could lead down a “road to digital serfdom.”
Wyden was also worried about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and concerns about the president, referring to his administration as “government by merry-go-round.”
Wyden also gave a statement regarding the dismissal of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“He was fired because they were trying to send a message of their opposition to the Muller Investigation,” Wyden said. “Every single member of congress needs to stand up for the independence of the special council. If the President fires Muller, there will be a full scale constitutional crisis in America.”
Wyden, citing concerns that remote access software was being installed by voting machines, said that it was his goal to have the 2020 elections be conducted on paper ballots.
After an hour-and-a-half of answering the questions of community members, Wyden ended the town hall saying that he was an optimist, and finished with a quote by Abba Eban.
“Americans always get it right, after they try everything else.”