Ron Wyden photo

Sen. Ron Wyden

On Saturday, Oct. 12, beginning at 1:30 p.m., Wallowa County will have an opportunity to listen to and talk with Oregon’s senior U.S. Senator, Ron Wyden, at a town hall meeting in the Senior Center at Community Connection in Enterprise. Wyden last visited the county in late May 2018. His principal concerns include natural resources, rural economies, and health care, especially for older Americans.

The opportunity to speak directly to our elected representatives is important. But, especially for U.S. senators, it is rare. We are fortunate that for the past two years, Senator Wyden has held more town halls than ANY other U.S. senator.

Wyden, elected to the Senate in 1996, is the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Finance (which oversees the subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure), the ranking member of the Joint Committee on Taxation, and serves on the Intelligence, Energy and Natural Resources, and Budget committees—all subjects of interest to Wallowa County.

Wyden’s work and legislation includes concern about drug prices, health care, and wildfires, including support for thinning and management projects in a bipartisan bill co-sponsored with senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both Idaho Republicans.

His most recent legislation is a bipartisan bill to improve financial stability and prosperity for rural counties. Co-sponsored with Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., the bill would reauthorize the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program for ten years. The proposed program provides critical resources to nearly 1,900 counties across 49 states. Counties have used these payments for more than 40 years to fund law enforcement, firefighting, emergency response and other essential county services. Wyden and his colleagues believe it is time to reinstate them.

Perhaps you think that Wyden is not “your” senator. Perhaps you think he is too liberal, or too conservative, or too urban for your views. Maybe you are trying really, really hard to avoid politics. But this opportunity to listen and to participate directly in government is what America is all about. This is what men and women have fought and died for: a democracy, where not only can we freely express our opinions, but also we may express them directly to our government and our elected representatives.

As President Dwight Eisenhower said, “Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.”

At every football game, every volleyball game, every rodeo, Rotary or Lions Club meeting we all stand, hats off, hands over hearts, and pledge allegiance to the flag. What we are really pledging allegiance to is the Constitution, and our revered history of participatory democracy that so many have fought and died for. If we stand up for the pledge, for liberty and justice for all, then we should participate in all that it stands for, including getting to know, and talking with, our U.S. senator, up front and personal. It’s an American privilege. And Saturday, at 1:30 at the Community Connection Senior Center, is a great place to exercise it.

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