I spent last week back in Oregon and it felt good to get back to my favorite part of my job: speaking with Oregonians and learning about their ideas and concerns. There’s no doubt that the most important people I meet with each day are the working families I represent in the U.S. Senate. Much of the time when I meet with constituents, we’ll discuss community projects or local accomplishments. But lately, most of the conversations I’ve had have been about the serious economic challenges we’re facing including looming home foreclosures, the threat of unemployment, and rising health care costs.
As a state and as a nation, we are facing some extraordinary challenges. This is why I feel it is more important than ever to be aware of the issues communities and families are dealing with in Oregon. To stay connected, I have pledged to hold a public forum in every county in the state at least once a year.
Last Tuesday, over 100 people attended my inaugural town hall meeting in Roseburg. It was outstanding to see so many people coming out to share their views in the town where I grew up.
Several folks brought up concerns about rising health care costs and rising unemployment in Oregon, two issues that are touching families across the state and across the country. I spoke about the 44,000 jobs that will be created in Oregon as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and how this legislation will provide vital funding for the sustainable thinning of our second-growth forests. We’re investing millions of dollars to put people to work reducing the risk of wildfire and improving the health of our forests.
Later in the week, I held a Mortgage and Foreclosure Solutions Summit in Portland with national housing experts, and community leaders, and families facing foreclosure. I spoke with families who have recently lost their homes and heard stories about how difficult it is to track down the owners of loans that have been bought and sold multiple times. Even if they manage to find the right company, the current system makes it almost impossible to modify the terms of the loan. I also heard from national housing and financial experts about their ideas to assist families facing foreclosure. I came away from the meeting with valuable stories and information that I’ll use in Washington as I work with the Obama Administration to work through the housing crisis.
Over the last few days, I have joined community leaders for meetings in Southern Oregon, Pendleton, and The Dalles and met with representatives of Oregon’s Native American tribes in Portland. It’s through community events like these that I hope we can continue the discourse that began during my tour of over 100 Oregon towns last year.
Government only works when citizens actively participate and make their voices heard. I hope that you’ll share your opinions at town hall meetings and through correspondence with my office. I’m looking forward to continuing the discussion that will move us forward through these trying times and create a better America.
It’s my opinion that an effective government is one that values transparency and responds to the citizens it serves. It is in this spirit that Senator Wyden and I have implemented a new appropriations process that will allow all Oregonians a chance to review each and every appropriations request from the state. Appropriations are grants or loans from the Federal Treasury for specific projects in each state. Information from all requests will be published on my website, as well as Senator Wyden’s, and Oregonians will be invited to offer their comments and thoughts about each request.
Last Tuesday, over 100 people attended my inaugural town hall meeting in Roseburg. It was outstanding to see so many people in the town where I grew up. On Wednesday, I hosted a Mortgage and Foreclosure Solutions Summit in Portland with national housing experts and community leaders to discuss solutions to the escalating mortgage crisis facing millions of American families. Throughout the week, I joined community leaders for meetings in Southern Oregon, Pendleton, and The Dalles and met with representatives of Oregon’s Native American tribes in Portland.
To me, staying connected means that Oregonians can communicate their ideas and concerns with my office and stay informed about the work I’m doing in Washington. In the coming months, my office will launch an interactive web site that provides resources, shares details on upcoming town hall meetings and events, and offers Oregonians an opportunity to provide me with their feedback on what is working and what is not in their communities. The site will offer updates about legislation I’m working on, my positions on important issues, and most importantly, ways for Oregonians to contact my office and add their voice to the decision-making process. Visitors to the site will be able to sign up for a weekly e-mail newsletter containing updates on current issues, legislation, and upcoming events in Oregon.
Right now, my team has offices open in Portland, Eugene, and Pendleton. In the next few weeks, we’ll also be opening additional offices in Medford, Bend, and Salem. Each office has constituent services staff available to assist Oregonians. If you’re visiting Washington D.C. any time soon, please stop by my office on Capitol Hill to say hello and get information about tours and monuments in the nation’s capital. Information about these offices and how to contact them is available on my web site at www.merkley.senate.gov.