As of Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Greg Walden was in Washington Saturday: not D.C. — Washington state.
Oregon’s U.S. House Dist. 2 representative went to Skyline Hospital in White Salmon to observe the National Drug Take-Back Day, done in partnership with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.
On Friday afternoon, Walden’s office invited us to cover the event, as it was the designated drop spot for Hood River and Wasco counties as well.
The irony of going out of state to have a face-to-face with our Oregon House Dist. 2 representative was an extension, of sorts, of efforts by this newspaper to have some sort of direct contact with Walden and to get him to commit to scheduling a public town hall.
“We will let you know when we have scheduled it,” is the mantra his aides have repeated when contacted in recent weeks, and as my conversation with Walden proceeded, it became clear that was the elected representative’s mantra, too.
I went to White Salmon to learn about the Drug Take Back Day (see photo, page A2, and a follow-up in our Weekend edition), but also because here was that opportunity to ask Walden about a town hall directly, rather than through an intermediary.
Walden and his aide, Nick Strader, spent close to an hour talking with Washington law enforcement and Skyline staff about the event, which Walden has a clear interest (and he is working on a variety of legislation aimed to dealing with the nation’s opioid addiction crisis).
After Walden had some time with the Take Back Day folks, I asked him about the matter of a Hood River County town hall.
He replied, ‘’We do town halls. We will,” adding “we did one up in Condon the other day.”
“No, I meant Hood River,” I countered.
Walden said, “Well actually I’m going to be at two other events in Oregon later today in Hood River.”
He listed a funeral and a paid-admission fundraising event for an area recreation non-profit.
“There’ll be people there just like anything else. We do town halls, Kirby.
“We do town halls throughout the district all year. We’ll announce them when they’re scheduled.”
Then Walden said, ”I’m going to be all over the district all next week,” citing what he called “public, private” events, but asked to name them, he said, “We’ll let you know. No, I don’t have them off the top of my head.”
When I turned to Strader to ask if he knew, Walden interjected, “I did 34 events all over the district in the prior, two weeks ago. Kirby, I’m all over the district — public, private. Representing this district is not just a town hall. I do town halls. I have done 147 town halls, Kirby. I did one last year. I’m going to do one this year. I haven’t scheduled it yet,” adding, “Because we’ve had other things that are more important now. We’ll do one in Hood River — County."
I asked, “Given that you made a pledge to do one a year and it’s been more than a year, and you aren’t even scheduling yet — "
“These are calendar years, Kirby. They’re calendar years.”
So what we know at this point is that Walden will hold a town hall sometime in 2018. The voters should insist that he do so before ballots go out in mid-October.