Bonamici visits Newberg, gets honorary citzenship
Shuffling into the Chehalem Cultural Center, members of the Newberg City Club gathered Nov. 20 to listen to a special guest. First District Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici stopped by to give a speech on issues relevant to Yamhill County residents, answering a handful of questions from constituents as well.
Before Bonamici took the stage, Newberg Mayor Bob Andrews announced that she would be made an honorary citizen of Newberg, presenting her with a medal that she wore around her neck for the remainder of the event. Bonamici, a Democrat, received a warm welcome from the crowd after winning Yamhill County by more than four percentage points in the recent 2018 election. It was a first for her and highly unusual in the traditionally GOP-strong county.
Her speech began with a discussion about education — an issue Bonamici has made her cornerstone in Congress — and weaved into topics of immigration, agriculture, infrastructure and the environment. While she never said his name, Bonamici provided pointed critiques of President Donald Trump's administration.
Bonamici first focused on the country's escalating trade war with China, which she said negatively impacts farmers in Yamhill County. Hazelnut farmers face retaliatory tariffs of up to 65 percent, she said.
"We've been working on trying to get farmers relief from those tariffs," Bonamici said. "We grow really good things in Oregon — and people want them around the world — but being hit with those tariffs has been a problem. The administration doesn't seem to have much of a strategy. Twitter is not a strategy."
Commenting on the mid-term elections that gave Democrats control of the House of Representatives, Bonamici outlined three priorities for her party now that it has a majority in the chamber: Healthcare, infrastructure and oversight.
In line with many of her Democratic colleagues, Bonamici expressed a desire to protect Medicare and Medicaid from cuts, which she said would be a result of the deficit created by the GOP tax bill — signed in December 2017.
"Medicare and Social Security are earned benefits," she said. "Sometimes people call them 'entitlements,' like we're just giving them away, but they are earned. We pay into them. Medicare makes a significant difference to people in our communities."
Infrastructure took up a large portion of Bonamici's speech. She mentioned the future of the WestRock mill site as something she's been involved in and expressed her support for the Newberg-Dundee bypass project, which she said was a "high-priority project" in the last federal transportation bill.
"We know that making investments in transportation and infrastructure is good for the economy," she said. "It creates jobs, it drives commerce and it's a really good thing to do."
Oversight is an area that Democrats around the country have made a top priority once they enter office, and Bonamici agrees. She said the departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency all need to be examined in further detail in order to curb the "culture of corruption" in the Trump administration.
Bonamici said she was also "extremely concerned" about new Title IX sexual assault guidelines proposed by Education Secretary Betsy Devos. If enacted, the changes would aim to protect those accused of sexual assault and — critics say — make it more difficult for alleged victims to come forward.
"We know that campus sexual assault is a problem and we want it reported and we want it addressed," Bonamici said. "One of the changes (Devos is) proposing is to allow colleges to have a different standard of proof, so that's really problematic. We want to make sure that people are reporting and that there is a fair process."
In addition to Andrews, Mayor-elect Rick Rogers was among the faces in the crowd during Bonamici's speech. He said the congresswoman has done "great work" for Newberg and the surrounding area, and that Bonamici called him after the election to congratulate him on his victory.
"It's rare that someone in Congress would take the time to do that," Rogers said with a smile. "And it's great that she came and spoke to us today. Newberg citizens are informed, they do care, and I think City Club is a great venue for that. I'd encourage people to get as involved as they can."