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Town hall event topics include government shutdown, health care, global warming, among other topics

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - Sen. Ron Wyden speaks during a town hall event in St. Helens on Sunday, Jan. 6. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden hosted a town hall in St. Helens on Sunday, Jan. 6, which drew a crowd of about 60 people.

Wyden, a Democrat from Portland, hosted town halls in various locations throughout the state over the weekend, and his visit to Columbia County was the sixth public town hall he held since Friday, Jan. 4.

During the hour-and-a-half event, Columbia County Commissioner Margaret Magruder moderated, drawing tickets that corresponded with audience members who had requested to ask a question. Visitors discussed a variety of topics ranging from Medicare and health care to global warming and environmental concerns, cannabis regulation and banking.

While some visitors asked specific questions, others stated their concern about a specific issue. On several occasions, Wyden instructed staff to follow up with individuals after the meeting. Some topics included the deportation of military veterans and the possible impact of a recent Global Partners LP expansion at Port Westward.

While topics of conversation varied throughout the town hall, one seemed to weave its way throughout the evening — the ongoing federal government shutdown.

Some attendees asked how the situation could be remedied, while others probed ways to make sure similar shutdowns could be avoided in the future.

Wyden noted multiple times that his takeaway from Oregonians he has heard from over the weekend was that the government needs to reopen to address the immediate concerns of citizens.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - Sen. Ron Wyden speaks during a town hall event in St. Helens on Sunday, Jan. 6.As an example, Wyden noted residents in Astoria, where he hosted a town hall on Sunday, voiced concerns about Coast Guard employees not being paid and the effect on public safety.

"The key is to listen to the public, and the public wants the government back open," Wyden said.

At another point in the town hall, Wyden made other similar remarks and references to the governmental shutdown and the competing priorities of political parties and key stakeholders.

President Donald Trump has said he would not sign a government spending bill that does not include $5.7 billion for a wall on the nation's southern border, a campaign promise of Trump's and part of his administration's strategy to halt illegal immigration. Congressional Democrats, now in a majority in the House of Representatives, have balked at the proposal, however, and have attempted to advance government funding legislation absent border wall funding.

"People said, get the government open first. That's our priority," Wyden said. "Then, talk about your priority, which we all know is the wall."

The town hall was the sixth public event the senator has held in Oregon over the past three days. It marks his 919th town hall during his tenure as an elected official.

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