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Oregon's senior U.S. senator touches on everything from gun control to public schools on Sunday

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden addresses a crowd gathered Sunday at Newberg High School.

Ron Wyden made his annual pilgrimage to Newberg Sunday afternoon for the 956th town hall meeting he has held in Oregon's 36 counties since becoming a U.S. senator in 1998. Gathered to greet him in Drea Ferguson Auditorium on the campus of Newberg High School were about 75 souls, some with probing questions and legitimate concerns about the state of the country.

"I don't know anymore who to trust," said one member of the audience. "Maybe you can give some guidelines on who can I trust these days."

Wyden: "I want you to (understand) that there's a real human being (at these town halls). I don't have all the answers, not by a long shot, but because I know people are so skeptical about government, I want to be in front of you so you can see me kind of face to face."

He continued that through town hall meetings, as well as paying attention to all kinds of media, he is better informed and better able to govern. "I want to get a good cross section of opinion so that I can feel as I try to look for a way to answer a question, that I've really done my homework," Wyden said.

NHS student Macy Showalter highlighted the Chehalem Valley Watershed Project and asked what help the federal government could lend. Wyden responded that there are federal grants for such projects, then added that he was more excited that Showalter and other youths were getting involved.

"I'll tell you the other things folks that is so exciting about Oregon's young people working on renewable resources and watersheds is our young people are the ones who are suing the government to be more aggressive in terms of fighting climate change and the issue is whether or not they have standing and I have joined as one of the co-petitioners to give them that standing because if ever there was a group in American that outta have standing to fight for more aggressive action on climate change its young people," Wyden said.

A retired principle spoke on the state of public education, specifically good teachers experiencing burnout, unsafe classrooms and overwhelmed classrooms. "How do we keep strong, talented teachers in the classroom?" he asked.

Wyden: "The federal government can really set out an agenda of priorities and to me when the Trump administration decides that the priority should be borrowing $1.5 trillion to give tax cuts to people at the top of the economic period, thereby creating a trillion dollar deficit that means that you have less money for the federal share that could go to low income folks and STEM and all of the areas where the federal government could set a tone for stronger support and stronger advocacy."

As has been the norm for town hall meetings for the past decade, one attendee broached the subject of gun violence Sunday. What is to be done to finally put to a stop to these shootings, she asked.

"We cannot just accept that this is the way it's going to be as a matter of course, that you have shootings and have violence and we watch for a few minutes and then we just kind of go back because that's just the way it is. That can't be the way it is!" Wyden said. "We've got to pass background checks, we got to pass storage requirements, we got to have mental health provisions, we can have gun violence research again. We just can't do business as usual."

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