Senator Merkley Town Hall – Community Outreach Opportunity Covers Range of Topics

Tillamook County Pioneer

Senator Jeff Merkley was in Tillamook last Saturday April 6, for his 544th Town Hall since taking office in 2009. The “roots and boots” senator faced questions regarding Tillamook health care, mental health, housing, substance abuse, the air hangar/museum, rural area barriers to federal infrastructure funds and information was shared regarding the Salmonberry Trail development.

It is not lost on me than less than 100 persons attended the town hall. The opportunity to meet with our elected lawmakers is rare and yet we expect access when issues are important. The average senator holds 7 town halls per Congress (2 years). Senator Merkley has held, on average 72 town halls per term. Information from the Center for Effective Lawmaking states that while these town halls are time, labor and resource intensive – they are directly related to effectiveness at lawmaking. The staffers that make these town halls functional are the workhorses of any legislative office (Molly, Gustavo, Sophie, Stacey and others). But it was the level setting by Senator Merkley himself that was impressive.

He started the town hall by reminding us that that if “something was easy it would have already been done” and that community leadership (recognizing Jeff Blackford, CARE Executive Director) with mutual respect and listening is imperative to our public discourse.

As I listened to neighbors bring forth issues that are important to them and the communities they serve and live in – it was obvious that we have more in common than not.

Madeline from the city of Tillamook was looking for creative solutions to help access federal grant monies that require dollar matches; Reed was searching for support and recognition for health care workers that are facing an exodus; Sierra from the Port or Tillamook and Friends of the Air Museum were both looking for creative solutions regarding the hangar; Clara was interested in housing solutions and mental health provisions.

Senator Merkley offered a variety of federal level solutions to these issues: S. 3402 – the End Hedge Fund Control of American Homes bill; Prioritizing the negotiation of all prescription drug costs, working with the office of rural health to address shortage of health care providers and assess rural health differences (including dialysis center solutions). For those that had needs beyond the immediate answers, Gustavo, our local Field Rep from Merkley’s office, was handing out his card and connecting personally. I assume that there will be resolution and follow through.

The Senator was informed regarding the housing crisis and that solutions include addressing the cost of housing, mental health, economic drivers/jobs and the idea of social acceptance. As one of two senators to have visited Gaza, he was clear on the imperative to cease sending weaponry and increase humanitarian assistance.

Sometimes it is easy to wonder if D.C. is working for us. Did you know that Senators who hold the most town halls introduce the highest number of bills dealing with meaningful (non-commemorative) policy issues? Attending a town hall and using our voice allows our Senator to hear us. He and his staff are there to laud their accomplishments but the majority of their time was spent listening to the people in attendance. To connect with Senator Merkley, go to