Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
MEMBERS of Wy’east Middle School’s Pink Fluffy Unicorns (from left, Annika Trainer, Johanna Walker, Noah McElheran, Charlie Wilson, Bryn Heinemann and Titus Grimsley) are introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden during Saturday’s town hall at the school’s Performing Arts Center. The senator also gave the team a flag that had flown at the Capitol building. The Pink Fluffy Unicorns won the First Lego League state championship in January and are one of two Oregon teams headed to Houston for the World competition in April. The team has set up a Go Fund Me account to help pay for expenses at www.gofundme.com/wyeast-robotics-team-to-worlds.
As of Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Health care started things off, but youth took center stage in Sen. Ron Wyden’s town hall Saturday in Odell.
“This has got to be the time we talk about it,” Wyden said about school safety as the nation reels from the killing of 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last week.
“And we need to call these incidents what they are: school slaughter,” Wyden said, speaking from the stage at Wy’east Middle School’s Performing Arts Center.
He also said that arming teachers, proposed by President Donald Trump, “would be a big mistake we would live to regret,” adding that it will put children in greater danger.
In a wide-ranging talk attended by about 75 people, Wyden praised the recent work of Congress in renewing the Child Health Insurance Program, the Family First bill, and Medicare upgrade legislation coordinating care for chronic illness. Wyden pressed for the public to fight the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to eliminate Internet neutrality.
When asked by Parkdale resident Sam Murillo, “What are you going to do about immigration reform?” he said, “We’ve got to get this passed, folks.”
A student asked Wyden, “What are your next actions on DACA? What will you do with the rest of the Oregon delegation to show we care?”
“This is the time. It is not just a part of the budget,” Wyden said. “This is a fundamental question of justice. We need to see if we can get new allies in the fight,” he said, adding that Oregon employers have the most to gain. “Dreamers make such a huge difference in our economy. They are big economic contributors, with billions of dollars generated in Oregon,” said Wyden, who also spoke Saturday at Dufur High School as part of a four-town hall weekend swing through eastern Oregon. Wyden was introduced by County Commission Chair Ron Rivers, who is retiring from the post in December.
“I walked out of the last (immigration) vote because I was so furious,” Wyden said. “I said the president has offered a take it or leave it proposal, indicating more acceptance of harming young people who have grown up in this country, than helping them by creating jobs and growing the economy.
“The president has said people like me won’t compromise. I would say, respectfully, ‘that’s not true.’ I voted for the package that included the wall (along the Mexican border). Now, I detest the wall with every fiber of my being. I detest the wall and think the idea of $25 million for the wall defies common sense.”
Wyden also vaunted his pending legislation aimed at restoring Secure School Funding and allowing some increase in timber harvesting to create revenue for schools and local government.
“This is something that goes right to the heart of Oregon’s future,” he said. He cautioned, “Someone’s got to say, ‘Oregon’s not going to go back to the days when you harvest 4 or 5 million board feet a year,’ but my bill doubles the harvest. We’ve got to have both,” he said, of timber harvest revenue and federal revenue sharing through Secure Schools.
“Families First is a revolution in children’s health care,” Wyden said. The program expands parent training, substance abuse treatment and other measures that help create a middle ground between harmful home environments and the need to remove children to foster care.
“When there’s not a lot of fighting in D.C, it doesn’t get the attention of the tweeting and the name-calling, but these are three major pieces of legislation passed into law in the past months, at least two of them are on health care initiatives I’ve been dreaming of for years and years,” he said.
But he grew most impassioned when speaking of gun violence and its impacts on children in schools. He engaged in a 10-minute dialog with student Eva Jones on the topic.
“It’s becoming real, right now,” Jones told Wyden.