City & Government

Senator Merkley visits Lane County

Senator Jeff Merkley visited Lane County on Jan. 3 at Hamlin Middle School in Springfield as part of his town hall tour.
“In our ‘We the People’ democracy, town hall meetings are an essential tool for me to hear from Oregonians and represent their interests back in D.C.,” Merkley said in a press release. “I invite everyone in these counties to come and discuss what we need to do to strengthen our state and our nation.”
During the span of Jan. 2 through 4, Merkley held town halls in the counties of Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Linn, Lane, Benton, Jefferson, Deschutes and Crook.
The town hall opened with Merkley recognizing the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) program. The group provides mobile crisis intervention 24 hours a day in the Eugene-Springfield metro area. The group received an American flag that was flown over the state capital building as a symbol of Merkley’s appreciation, because CAHOOTS is a model that that is being looked to throughout the country.
Then, Merkley updated his constituents on his work in Washington D.C. He said the three issues that he has been focusing on has been stopping the corruption of the “We the People” democracy; the neglect of the Foundation of Thriving Families and the failure of investment in education and healthcare; and carbon-based pollution.
Merkley said he wants Oregon to be the leader of change in the U.S.
After his speech, Merkley opened the floor to questions. Each attendee received a raffle ticket, and questions were asked as the numbers were called. Questions ranged from climate change to affordable living to ending the government shutdown.
One social worker asked about health care plans, and what could be done to lower the deductibles. Merkley said his response was to support the bill: Expanding Access to Low Cost Generic Drugs Act and to advocate for universal healthcare.
Another asked about what Merkley could do to stop voter suppression, and Merkley said the Senate recently struck down a judge nominee because he was participating in voter suppression. He said they must insist on having a paper trail, enabling felons to vote again once they’re out of jail and, ultimately, seeing other states adopt Oregon’s vote by mail.
The town hall also shined a spotlight on two Hamlin Middle School students, who asked about Merkley’s decision to come to Springfield, as well as what he wanted his legacy to be. Merkley said he never thinks about legacy in those terms, and focuses instead on if what he is doing is the most effective way of utilizing his privilege.
As for choosing Springfield, he said simply: “Well, Springfield’s a marvelous city, isn’t it?” Eliciting cheers from the crowd.
The town hall took an emotional turn when a young, disabled veteran shared his story of returning to the U.S. after serving, and being unable to find a job. Along with suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), he was incarcerated twice and had his identity stolen. He asked what Merkley can do to save other veterans, and how to help him get the help he deserves.
Merkley said that the man “had guts to share a personal story,” and connected him with someone from his team to follow up on what they can do to get him help.
One of the final questions of the town hall asked Merkley if he was planning on running in 2020 election. He said that he was exploring whether it would be more effective to run for President or if he should continue his focus on the senate; at the moment, he is is still considering.
Merkley closed the town hall by saying that, “We have seen a very dark period with the presidency,” and he implored that every time he acts as a divider, that the response should be as a uniter.



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