Bonamici holds town hall meeting in Forest Grove
Over the last year and a half, two to three times as many people have contacted Oregon's First District Rep. Suzanne Bonamici with questions and concerns than have in previous years, she said.
During a time of confusion and disagreement among many citizens regarding national politics, Bonamici held several town hall meetings across northwestern Oregon to try and answer these questions and ease some of the concerns.
On Tuesday, March 27, at Pacific University, Bonamici addressed the community and answered questions from members of the audience about the Trump administration, gun violence prevention and net neutrality, to name a few.
Bonamici, who is heavily involved in education and currently serves as a leader on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, had much to say about the recent events in schools, most recently the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
"I share the concerns of these amazing student leaders who are speaking up and saying we need to do something to address gun violence in our schools and in our communities," she said, referring to shooting survivors who have organized to demand legislative action in the weeks since the Feb. 14 massacre that left 17 dead. "There are things we can do that will make our community safer, and we should be able to come together on a bipartisan basis."
Bonamici said issuing universal background checks is a good first step, but she argued that more needs to be done.
"It's going to take a multilayer approach that will involve more access to mental healthcare, counseling in schools, but also more gun safety measures," she said. "We have to have a conversation, find common ground about how we can address gun violence, because it's really hurting our communities."
Bonamici said there is bipartisan support for reinstating the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, and that she doesn't believe we would have seen this support before the Parkland shooting.
"If you think back to the time when the Constitution was written, the Founding Fathers did not envision that somebody could go into a store and buy basically a weapon of war and take it out and slaughter innocent people," she said. "I understand people wanting to go hunting and to have guns for their protection. We're not talking about addressing completely taking away people's guns. We are talking about gun safety."
After a question from the audience on the proposed decision to privatize public schools by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, Bonamici said she shares constituents' concerns over the idea but that no plans to implement it have moved forward.
Several community members also spoke up about the Trump administration's recent dismantling of "net neutrality," a doctrine established during the George W. Bush administration that prevented internet providers from throttling particular content or websites, and asked what can be done now.
"Unfortunately, the FCC has made this decision," Bonamici said, referring to the Federal Communications Commission, a Republican-controlled government agency that regulates telecommunications in the United States. "(But) I think people are really speaking up across the country and challenging that. ... Cybersecurity is an issue that we need to take more seriously."
Bonamici said she supports legislation that would "basically undo the decision by the FCC." But she is pessimistic on its prospects for passage, she added.
Bonamici also touched on concerns over healthcare, environmental issues, the investigation into Donald Trump's presidential campaign by special counsel Robert Mueller, and the opioid crisis and substance abuse. Though most of the discussion focused on people's worries and fears, the congresswoman made sure to mention personal updates she felt were assuring.
"Despite the challenges — and it has been a very challenging time — I'm proud of the accomplishments," she said, listing her committee assignments. She mentioned her lead role in helping to rewrite No Child Left Behind as well as a new bill she has been helping develop, which will offer on-the-job training at small businesses to give people the skills to get a job, she said.
The town hall meeting was the second to last for Bonamici this spring, who will hold her sixth and final meeting in Astoria on Thursday, March 29. She held a town hall in St. Helens Monday, March 26.
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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