Senator Wyden Holds Town Hall at LBCC

Not every state gets to have annual town hall meetings with one of it’s two Senators, and not every community college gets a chance to host such an event. LBCC is a fortunate exception.

This Saturday the 19th U.S. Senator Ron Wyden met with Oregonians of Linn and Benton counties in LBCC’s Russell Tripp theater. This was his 912th town hall meeting while in office. Albany’s Mayor Sharon Konopa called out two raffle tickets at a time, inviting randomly selected community members the chance to ask questions.

Shannen O’boyle spoke up and expressed the frustration felt by those with mental health conditions, “Care centers tell patients, ‘You’re fine, move along’,” she said, “then right away, they’re back in the system again because there’s no follow up or advocacy.”

“How might you remedy this?”

“There is going to be an effort to block Medicaid in this congress,” Ron replied, “I am going to fight that with everything I have. We ought to be strengthening protections for the vulnerable facing mental health challenges.”

The event continued in this fashion for about 90 minutes. The Senator gave no prepared speeches. The Senators goal was to listen to real Oregonians express real concerns, and to address those concerns to the best of his ability.

“That’s why we have these town hall meetings,” Ron said to the crowd, “So we can discuss what you care about, and not what Washington D.C. cares about.”

On top of healthcare, the topics of discussion ranged from border security, public transportation, military spending, Citizens United, women’s reproductive rights, climate change, and of course the current government shutdown.

“Trump’s priority is holding out for the wall,” Senator Wyden explained. “Our goal right now is to get the government reopened, and to have a quick and fair debate on the president’s priority.”

Brandon Calhoun of the LBCC Civil Discourse Club asked about the effectiveness of bipartisanship at the level of the Senate.

“The reason bipartisanship is important is because these issues are complicated, and require everybody’s participation,” Senator Wyden addressed the student president, “If the issues weren’t complicated, we would have them all worked out in 15 minutes.”

As the event came to a close, and community members closed in around the Senator with final questions and statements, he left the student body with a few important messages.

“I’m very much aware if you don’t find a way to directly engage and empower young people with real ways to get involved, they will feel disconnected. 40 house seats have changed hands, many of those to young people, because people want change.”

Story by Caleb Barber

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