Residents air their concerns at Bonamici town hall meeting
By Mollisande Williams
Newberg Graphic Intern
Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici held the third town hall meeting of her fall series at Portland Community College in Newberg on Thursday, touching on several issues of concern, some which pertained specifically to Newberg and surrounding communities.
Participants were offered the chance to ask questions about the 1st District representative's progress in Congress. About 125 residents and staff filled the seats in the classroom, eager to hear updates and developments.
The meeting commenced with Newberg Mayor Bob Andrews introducing Bonamici, who in turn read a heartfelt statement about Andrews' upcoming retirement. He was presented with a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol and a plaque with a personal letter.
Bonamici gave a general overview of issues that surfaced at other town hall meetings, ranging from healthcare and immigrant family separations, to the environment, Social Security, Medicare and the Trump administration.
Bonamici began by explaining her view on healthcare, a topic she said many are worried about. "I'm interested in strengthening access to health care, not taking it away," she said. "We need to work together to find a way to make sure that people have access to health care."
She added that many people have contacted her and her staff with concerns about the Trump administration. One matter affecting this area in particular is the tariffs the president has levied on other countries, particularly China, and his policies on trade. The Pacific Northwest being a trade-dependent area, Bonamici said she was especially concerned about the area hazelnut industry being negatively affected.
"The tariffs are really hitting a lot of our Oregon businesses. I'm committed to continue working on that," she said.
Questions from the crowd were then welcomed and chosen by calling out ticket numbers. A total of 14 questions were asked and answered by the 90-minute session. The topics ranged from federal government overspending to online petitions and their effectiveness.
One questioner asked about the separation of migrant children and families at the border, to which many participants expressed similar concern.
"It's unacceptable," Bonamici said. "It's not what we stand for as a country and we need to do everything we can, and I continue to speak out against it and work with organizations that are trying to reunite the children with their families."
A desire to maintain the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville was raised during the town hall, to which Bonamici replied: "We can certainly look for places where there may be federal grant opportunities and try to explore ways that we can reach out and be helpful to doing what we can to save that important part of Yamhill County."
Addressed consistently throughout the meeting were the concerns for veterans' access to healthcare; three participants brought up this issue.
Newberg citizens vocalized their wish for local services or clinics specifically for veterans or accessible transportation to the nearest one, which is 12 miles away. Veteran and Newberg resident Wayne Frost says they've been trying for two years to get local services. Frost has attended the veteran-focused meetings Bonamici has held in the past and continues to push for enhanced services.
"I'm committed to not letting it get swept under the rug," Bonamici said after Frost expressed frustration. She also urged veterans to ask specific questions and share their stories with her staff, as it has the potential to help make the case for making better transportation and services a reality.